Anti-Semitic Jaume Plensa Spillover II Sculpture in Milwaukee Has Been Removed
It took 5 days from the time my article, “How I Discovered Hate in Plain Sight on a Popular Sculpture” posted until, Jaume Plensa, had his Spillover II sculpture removed for “repair”. I had observed that there was an ethnic slur, “Cheap Jew” in plain sight, made from letters of the sculpture. The Internet buzzed, my article went viral and it quickly forced a meeting between the artist and the local community. After I did four TV interviews and four newspaper interviews the story was all over Milwaukee and the country.
The sculpture in question is located in Atwater Park, Shorewood, just north of Milwaukee. Local officials, Jewish leaders, and press headed to the site to verify what I saw. After observing for themselves and speaking with Jaume Plensa and his representatives they came to agreement that the sculpture needed to come down and the offensive remarks needed to be taken out. The power of The Good Men Project and what we do here has made the world a better place.
So that’s the end of the story and all is well.
What was disappointing to me was how so many people tried to make me the villain. I was an observer and reported what I saw. The sculpture was taken down because the people of Shorewood, local religious leaders and the press went to see it and saw for themselves that what I reported was correct.
My blog, MSweetwood.com (as well as the GMP Article) received tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments. The comments were divided somewhat evenly for and against the removal of the statue. 99% of the comments came from people who had never visited the sculpture. Many of the negative comments were hateful and directed personal attacks at me.
Three of my favorite comments were:
“Oh my God, I pray for you, Mr. Sweetwood. The world is not out to get you and in fact, could probably care less if you’re a Jew, a Pole or whatever you may be. Be a person. A MATURE person, if you dare. What a baby. I’d be ashamed to be Jewish, if you represent the faith. Nice job”
“You are just another person, proud to be a troll and start fights that never existed. Hopefully, at the least, the art will keep crazy extremists like you out of Milwaukee”
“Die Jew. I like it, and it’s quite fitting for the surrounding area. I may go buy some more of this guy’s work.”
Most of the comments made no logical argument why my observation was wrong or provided visual proof otherwise. They engaged in attacks with the intention of marginalizing me and inflicting hurt. This seems to be the way we conduct discourse in our society today. If you disagree with someone, even if they have been potentially victimized, post something vile about them, anonymously, and run away. In fact, many people claimed they were offended that I was offended.
The artist, Jaume Plensa also took that strategy. To quote his gallery’s press release “Plensa is deeply saddened that his sculpture has been so egregiously misinterpreted.” This shows he has no real interest in healing any wounds he may have caused intentionally or unintentionally nor is he willing to take responsibility for what he has done. Then again, if he took responsibility, he might have trouble selling more $1,000,000+ sculptures. Plensa made himself the victim.
This is the response I hoped Plensa would have given: “I am deeply saddened that my work may have offended anyone. I assure you that it wasn’t intentional and I am not anti-semitic in anyway. I will gladly remove any offensive phrases in Spillover II and in fact I will check all of my other sculptures around the world to make sure this hasn’t happened there too.”
He couldn’t bring himself to say the right thing. Maybe he hasn’t really “dedicated his career to creating work that brings people from all cultures together through artwork that asserts our similarities are more important and powerful than our differences”
Maybe we need to examine his other letter-work sculptures more carefully to see what messages can found in in them too?
Categories: News, Ethics & Culture