New elections in Germany ‘worst scenario’, says Dutch foreign minister


Dutch foreign minister Halbe Zijlstra said the prospect of new elections in Germany following the breakdown of coalition talks is ‘the worst possible scenario’.


The Free Democratic party (FDP) walked out of the negotiations shortly before midnight on Sunday, and its leader Christian Lindner told reporters there is no ‘common basis of trust’ between the FDP, chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and the Greens.

The rift is, commentators say, the most serious risk to Merkel’s position since she became chancellor 12 years ago.

News of the breakdown is extremely regrettable, Zijlstra is quoted as saying by RTLZ. ‘Germany is a very important country within Europe and it will be difficult to take decisions in Brussels.’

The Dutch foreign minister went on to urge the four parties to think again.‘They have only had one round of talks,’ Zijlstra said. ‘It took us in the Netherlands seven months, so I’d say they have five months to go.’

‘So I would say, think it over again and perhaps try talking again, rather than hold new elections.’

Zijlstra was speaking in Brussels ahead of Monday night’s vote on the location of two European agencies which will move from London after Brexit. Amsterdam is hoping to host the European medicines agency EMA.


Prime minister Mark Rutte’s Monday visit to German chancellor Angela Merkel was  cancelled following the breakdown of talks on forming a new coalition.

The cancellation is due to Merkel’s ‘domestic obligations’, officials said. A new date has not yet been set.

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Amsterdam wins race to host the European Medicines Agency

The EMA’s headquarters will be in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. Photo:

Amsterdam has succeeded in its bid to host the European Medicines Agency when the organisation leaves London following Brexit.

European ministers in Brussels backed the Dutch offer after three rounds of voting on Monday evening. Both Amsterdam and Milan were level pegging with 13 votes each in the final round, leaving the EU’s current president Estonia to ‘toss a coin’ to decide the winner.

The Netherlands had lobbied hard to win the agency, but former finance minister Wouter Bos, who led the Dutch bid, had rated the Dutch chances of winning as ‘small’.

Foreign affairs minister Halbe Zijlstra, who was in Brussels for the voting, described the news as ‘fantastic in a Twitter message.

‘It is great for the Netherlands and great for Dutch citizens who can continue to count on good medicines and good control of those medicines,’ he said. ‘It shows that we can deal decisively with the effects of Brexit.’

New offices

A survey of agency staff in October showed that up to 70% would leave if the EMA went to an unpopular choice among the 19 cities competing to host the organisation.  Amsterdam, Barcelona and Vienna reportedly topped the list.

Amsterdam’s pitch to persuade the EMA to relocate to the Dutch capital included the promise of a new purpose-built office building in the city’s Zuidas business district.

The Dutch government said it would finance a €250m to €300m building for the EMA, which would then pay the market rate for the space. The Dutch government also offered an €18m sweetener and a full relocation package for the agency’s 900 staff.

The Netherlands already hosts two European institutions – Europol and Eurojust.

900 staff

The EMA is a decentralised agency of the EU, which began operations in 1995 and is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU.

The agency has a workforce of some 900 people, mainly highly skilled, from all over Europe. Lille, Brussels, Copenhagen Stockholm, Dublin, Barcelona and Milan were among the other cities hoping to attract the EMA.

The Dutch promo film supporting the bid included mention of queen Maxima’s wardrobe, fish and chips and children saying hello in English.

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‘Lost’ masterpiece by Spanish artist found hanging in Welsh castle | Art and design

The 17th-century portrait of an austere-looking Spanish writer had hung in Penrhyn Castle for nearly 150 years, unvisited by art experts and assumed by the National Trust, which owns the castle, to be of no great value.

That was until a recent visit by Dr Benito Navarrete Prieto, a distinguished art scholar who made the journey from Seville to north Wales on a hunch that a painting assumed to be a copy might just be the real thing. Now Prieto has established that the artwork was indeed a lost masterpiece by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, one of the great Spanish painters.

Last week, the art world marvelled as Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year-old depiction of Christ sold at auction for a record £341m. The restored Salvator Mundi had long been considered a copy but was reclassified as authentic. The discovery of a Murillo in Penrhyn Castle, near Bangor in north Wales, is not quite on the same scale. But , it is a major event for European art: there are barely a dozen known portraits by the artist and those few that do exist are worth millions.

“It is an absolute masterpiece,” Prieto said. “Magnetic.”

Transported from Penrhyn, the portrait is the centrepiece of a major exhibition on the artist at the Frick Collection in New York, before transferring to the National Gallery in London in February.

One of the US exhibition’s curators, Xavier F Salomon, said the discovery was hugely exciting, and that he regretted relying on previous judgments by other art historians. “Most scholars have written that there are two versions [of the portrait], both copies after a lost original. One copy was in Seville, which I’ve seen and is clearly a copy,” he said.

The rediscovered Murillo painting in full

The rediscovered Murillo painting in full. Photograph: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Painted around 1751, the copy is thought to have been commissioned by the sitter’s family when the original Murillo was sold. Now attributed to the 18th-century Sevillian painter Domingo Martínez, it hangs in Seville town hall.

When it came to the Welsh example, Salomon said the literature featured “terrible old black and white photos”. He requested a colour image for his exhibition catalogue and featured it as a “copy”, even though he recalled his first impression was that “this looks really good”.

“I thought ‘people have always said it’s a copy, it’s got to be a copy’. Which is, of course, a mistake art historians should never make. Go with your gut feeling and you should follow up. I didn’t.

“Benito went to Wales and realised how great the painting was and that everyone had been wrong in calling it a copy. The mistake – myself included – is just that no one bothered to go there, and everyone kept repeating that it was a copy. It was hidden in plain sight. It’s not coming out of a location that’s unknown. The house was open to the public.”

The painting was among old masters collected in the mid- to late-19th century by Baron Penrhyn for his neo-gothic pile. Today, the castle’s collection includes paintings, furniture and books. The Murillo was attributed to the artist when it was acquired in the 1870s, but by 1901 it had been downgraded.

Describing it as exceptional, Salomon said: “It’s difficult to add a painting to an exhibition that’s already opened but I literally found out about this painting on the Friday and the exhibition was opening on the Monday. There was an insane weekend – I started calling everyone in Wales and Spain to find out more. I hadn’t seen it and I wanted to be sure it was absolutely right … The picture arrived here and we hung it. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Murillo worked primarily in Seville until his death in 1682, aged 64. Among his masterpieces are paintings for the city’s convent of San Francisco and for the church of the Caridad, including Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, now in the National Gallery. Such was Murillo’s prestige that, at one point, the king of Spain refused to allow them to be exported. In July, Sotheby’s in London sold his Ecce Homo – a painting of Christ wearing the crown of thorns – for £2.75m.

James Macdonald, the senior director of old master paintings at the auction house, said he had sold works by the artist privately for substantially more. He described the rediscovered painting as striking and added: “The emergence of this fine portrait of one of the most important cultural figures in Seville represents an important addition to the artist’s oeuvre.”

Murillo is admired for his ability to bring out the character of his sitters. The rediscovered portrait depicts Don Diego Ortiz de Zúñiga, who wrote a history of Seville. Dressed in black with the insignia of the Order of Santiago, he is set within a stone cartouche supported by two cherubs. The oil on canvas measures 113cm by 94cm. Its qualities were concealed beneath a layer of discoloured varnish that has been removed.

The exhibition at the Frick runs until 4 February 2018 and will then transfer to the National Gallery in London.

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‘More girls, fewer skinheads’: Poland’s far right wrestles with changing image | World news

The presence of Islamophobic, homophobic, antisemitic and white supremacist chants and banners at last weekend’s March of Independence in Warsaw raised fears about the rise of the far right in Poland.

But interviews with nationalist and far-right leaders and their opponents reveal a more nuanced picture of a relatively marginal movement wrestling with its public image while hoping to seize the opportunities afforded to it by the success of the ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) and popular opposition to immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

Far-right insiders described a movement that has changed substantially in recent years – “more girls, fewer skinheads,” said one – with a marked increase in middle-aged and highly educated recruits. “A decade ago if you saw us in a bar you would know we were from the far right, but if you saw us now you would have no idea,” said one insider.

One factor in this change, they noted, was the influence on Polish society of young people returning from working in countries such as Britain. “So many young people travelled to work in western countries, and then came back and told their friends and families what was going on in western Europe,” said Krzysztof Bosak, of the ultra-nationalist organisation National Movement.

“They told them about the process of exchange of population, by which people of European origin are replaced by people from Africa and Asia, and about Islamisation.”

Aleks Szczerbiak, a professor of politics at the University of Sussex, said: “It was long assumed that young Poles would come to the west and become more secular, multicultural and liberal, and that they would re-export those things back to Poland. But instead their experience of the west seems to have reinforced their social conservatism and traditionalism in many ways.”

The march’s organisers included the National-Radical Camp (ONR), the successor to a pre-war Polish fascist movement; All-Polish Youth, a far-right youth organisation that has run social media campaigns condemned as racist; and the National Movement.

Despite their involvement, and the participation in the march of even more hardline white supremacist groups such as the National-Socialist Congress and the so-called Szturmowcy (Stormtroopers), the march also attracted thousands of people with little to no affiliation to nationalist or far-right groups.

To the march’s defenders, including the Polish National Foundation, a body with strong ties to Law and Justice that was set up by the government last year to “promote Poland abroad”, the international media’s focus on racist slogans and banners amounted to “slandering the good name of Poland and an insult to the Polish people”.

“Waving the white-red national flags, the supporters of Poland’s independence, veterans, Warsaw’s inhabitants and visiting guests all marched together. As in the past, a large percentage of the 60,000-strong crowd were families with children,” read a statement from the foundation, which described some of the media coverage as a “defamation”.

Critics argued that the presence of people with a range of political views at last weekend’s march was precisely the problem, because it amounted to a tacit acceptance of far-right extremism. “They may not all identify as nationalists, but they are being united by the language of nationalism” said Rafał Pankowski, a professor at Collegium Civitas in Warsaw and director of the Never Again association, an anti-racism campaign group.

“The fact there were families with children there doesn’t mean the march was OK, it means there is something wrong when people think there’s no problem with bringing their children to a far-right rally.”

Speaking to the Guardian, nationalist and far-right leaders distanced themselves from charges of racism, insisting their movements were dedicated to the preservation of Polish-Catholic culture and moral values, and not white supremacy.

“Faith is very important to us, the Catholic religion is part of Polish national identity,” said Bosak, who served as an MP between 2005 and 2007. “We want Catholic morality and the social teachings of the church to be the base for the state policy, for the law, for a new constitution.”

Tomasz Kalinowski, a spokesman for the ONR, said: “We have much more in common with Cardinal Robert Sarah, an African conservative traditionalist Catholic from Guinea, than we do with a pro-EU, liberal, secular politician like Emmanuel Macron or a Polish Bolshevik like Feliks Dzerzhinsky.”

Observers argue it is hostility towards perceived western models of multiculturalism that binds the far right to the anti-immigrant populism represented by the ruling Law and Justice party – an alliance consummated each year by the March for Independence.

“The problem is not that there is a huge amount of support for far-right movements, the problem is that there is a lack of distinction between the conservative right and the far right, and that is very dangerous in a democratic society,” said Pankowski.

Seen this way, the March for Independence signals not a surge in support for far-right movements but the seeping of far-right ideas into Polish mainstream discourse. The far right is not leading from the front but being left behind.

“The far right is not able to build a party, an institution, that can get even 2% of public support, said Sławomir Sierakowski, of Krytyka Polityczna, a left-leaning thinktank. “The march is a sign of frustration, an alibi for their weakness, their opportunity to get some attention once a year. Without the media, they would be nothing.”

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The Netherlands must prepare for a hard Brexit, senior MPs say

The Dutch government should make serious plans to deal with a hard Brexit, which could well become a reality now talks are running into problems, senior MPs warn in a new report.

The report, produced by parliament’s European affairs committee, states that a no-deal Brexit must be considered a real option. This would be a ‘chaotic scenario’ with no exit deal or transition period, the MPs said.

‘This means that the government must be prepared,’ the report’s authors stated in a list of 10 conclusions and recommendations, urging Dutch industry – from agriculture and fisheries to logistics – to begin preparing for a no-deal result.

The Netherlands is one of Britain’s main trading partners and  the country’s third largest export market, according to the CBS statistics office. An estimated €50bn in goods and services flow between the two countries every year.

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Chester Zoo successfully breeds rare Catalan newt | Environment

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have successfully bred one of the world’s rarest amphibians – the Catalan newt – in an attempt to save it from extinction.

The zoo is the first organisation outside Catalonia to become involved in the breeding project for the newt, the rarest amphibian in Europe.

The critically endangered species, also known as the wild Montseny newt, is from the Montseny mountain range in north-eastern Catalonia, about 60 miles (100km) north of Barcelona.

The recovery plan is a joint effort between Chester Zoo, the Barcelona provincial council, the Catalan government and Barcelona Zoo.

As part of the plan, 12 Montseny newts have hatched at Chester Zoo, where a team of experts are working to ensure their continued survival before they are released into the wild.

Experts at Chester have created a purpose-built breeding facility for the newts, away from all other amphibians housed at the zoo to ensure their bio-security.

In parallel with the breeding programme, conservation efforts are also being made to improve the newts’ natural habitat in preparation for their reintroduction – including improving the water quality and ecological flow of the streams they live in.

The Montseny newts are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

The Montseny newts are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Photograph: Chester Zoo

Dr Gerardo Garcia, the zoo’s curator of lower vertebrates and invertebrates, said: “The newts are adapted to cold mountain streams and require pristine habitat but, sadly, they are affected by problems linked to climate change, such as rising temperatures and decreasing water resources, and human activities like deforestation.”

The Montseny newts are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Recent estimates indicate that no more than 1,500 remain in an area of less than 3 sq miles (8 sq km).

Frances Carbonell Buira, a Catalonian government biologist, said the recovery plan had had a positive impact. “Over the 10 years it has been up and running, more than 2,000 Montseny newts have been raised and four new populations created,” he said.

“Now Chester Zoo is on board, given its enormous experience in breeding threatened amphibian species, we hope the programme will go from strength to strength, and that we can create a much brighter outlook for these wonderful animals.”

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Belgian court defers ruling on Carles Puidgemont extradition | World news

A Belgian court has deferred a decision on Spain’s extradition request for the exiled Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and four members of his former government to next month.

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Paul Bekaert, said no decision had been taken during Friday’s short hearing and the case would resume on 4 December.

The timing of the hearing is potentially incendiary as it will take place 24 hours before the start of Catalonia’s regional election campaign.


The aim of the European Arrest Warrant system is to do away with political interference in controversial extradition cases. Countries cannot refuse an extradition request on the grounds that the suspect has claimed political asylum.

However, the EAW does allow a country to refuse to hand over a suspect on the grounds that he or she is being sought on the basis of nationality or political opinions – factors that could apply to Puigdemont.

“The key questions for the Belgian extradition court are likely to be whether the criminal allegations are politically motivated and whether the Spanish authorities are acting abusively,” says Andrew Smith, an extradition specialist at the law firm Corker Binning.

Any decision by a lower tribunal in Belgium can be appealed up through the higher courts. Given an inventive legal team, Puigdemont could technically slow the process this way.

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Spain issued a European arrest warrant for Puigdemont and his team earlier this month, seeking their extradition to face charges of sedition and misuse of state funds.

Puigdemont handed himself in to Belgium’s judicial police two weeks ago, and Friday afternoon’s hearing at the Palace of Justice in Brussels was the first time he and his ministers had appeared before judges.

After the hearing, Bekaert said the prosecution had “asked for the execution of the extradition request” but that Puigdemont’s defence team was free to offer written evidence before the next court hearing. “So nothing has been decided today,” he said.

Lawyers for the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont speak outside the Palace of Justice in Brussels.

Lawyers for the Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont speak outside the Palace of Justice in Brussels. Photograph: Aurore Belot/AFP/Getty Images

Spain has supplied the Belgian federal prosecutor with information it had sought about the conditions that Puigdemont would face in jail should the arrest warrant be executed.

Spain’s interior ministry said on Friday it had sent a document answering 14 prosecution questions about cell conditions, security guarantees, recreation, hygiene and food at the relevant jails.

Spain explained that Puigdemont would be sent to the modern Estremera prison outside Madrid and would have a cell of his own with a shower and toilet, or he could share it with one of his ex-ministers.

The ministry said the ousted Catalan government members, who are being sought for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, would have access to their lawyers.

Spain’s interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said earlier in the week that all the information requested had been sent but pointed out that “Spain is a state of law for many years”. He added: “Nobody in Europe is going to give us lessons.”

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Yes, we can halt the rise of the international far right | Timothy Garton Ash | Opinion

Every journalism school should show its students the video clip of the moment on Saturday when a chirpy Polish state television reporter asked a man decked out in red and white national colours what it meant to him to participate in a march celebrating Poland’s independence day. “It means,” replied the man, “to remove from power … Jewry!”

Since Poland is governed by the rightwing populist-nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS), the obvious next question is: who exactly do you have in mind as Jewry’s current representative in power? The PiS party leader, Jarosław Kaczyński? The prime minister, Beata Szydło, perhaps? Or do you mean someone who is in power elsewhere: Donald Trump or Theresa May, or the Jews on Mars?

Throwing away this rare journalistic opportunity to interview an antisemite ready to speak openly to camera, the flustered reporter turned to a nearby woman, asking what it meant to be a patriot taking part in the march. When she agreed with the previous speaker, and said she was proud to be there as a Pole among Poles, the reporter turned back to camera saying cheerily: “This is pride, pride that one may be a Pole, pride that one is a Pole!”

Call yourself a journalist? Actually, he’s a hack working for the public TV channel TVP Info, now degraded into a PiS propaganda conduit, and he was desperately sticking to the party line that this is just one great, warm, patriotic pride parade. The clip is a brilliant 58-second lesson in how not to be a journalist.

I’ve turned my lens on the journalist rather than the antisemite because, faced with a global mainstreaming of far-right ideas and slogans from Charlottesville to Moscow, the crucial question is: how should we respond?

First, we have to understand what’s going on. In every case, there’s a combination of unique local and generic transnational features. This 11 November “independence march”, which has been an annual event in Warsaw for some years, is organised by homegrown rightwing groups, and has steadily grown in strength.

Within the larger demonstration, which this year adopted the motto “We Want God”, there has been for some time a “black bloc” of radical right and fascist extremists. On Saturday they wielded a giant banner reading “White Europe of Brotherly Nations” and depicting a Celtic cross, a symbol rarely seen in Poland but used elsewhere by white supremacists. Far-right leaders from countries such as Italy, Britain, Hungary and Slovakia participated in the march.

What we see here is something new. Whereas nationalists in the past tended to be, well, national, there is now an international network of far-right xenophobic activists. These thoroughly modern reactionaries make skilful use of social media to spread their insidious messages. A new report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue shows that some of the most popular trending hashtags favouring the populist-nationalist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the German election in September – including the seemingly benign #traudichdeutschland (“Trust yourself, Germany”) – were heavily and successfully promoted by far-right activists.

With the AfD set to be the second-largest opposition party in the Bundestag, Germany is another example of a dangerous blurring of the line between conservative nationalism and far-right extremism. We also see this in Trump’s America. And a recent tweet from the official account of Leave EU described the 15 Tory MPs opposed to enshrining the Brexit date in UK law as “the cancer within their party and traitors to their country”.

‘The cancer within their party and traitors to their country’ – a recent tweet from Leave EU

‘The cancer within their party and traitors to their country’ – a recent tweet from Leave EU

In the popular front that needs to be formed against this mainstreaming of far-right language and ideas, three things are especially important: online platforms, public figures and everyday neighbours. What we need from the platforms is more transparency. Twitter, Facebook and others need to understand more quickly how their own platforms are being abused by Russian and other actors to influence the Brexit referendum or national elections, and then share the essentials of what they find more fully with us. What we then do about it is a more difficult question, but the first imperative is to see what is going on.

Public figures need to speak up whenever the outer boundary of legitimate political debate is crossed. The Polish government has just spectacularly failed to do this: minister after minister talking dismissively of minor “incidents” or “provocations” in an otherwise “beautiful march”. (Poland’s honour was saved only by some clear words from its president, Andrzej Duda.)

In another astonishing failure, Mike Pence, the US vice-president, defends every indefensible Trump remark with his fixed sanctimonious smile, as if he were doing the Lord’s work. All honourable Brexiteers should distance themselves from the poisonous language of cancer and treason.

But it’s not just up to the politicians. In Poland, the failure of the leaders of the Catholic church to speak out, if only to defend the words “We Want God” against such gross political abuse, is truly shameful. Originally the refrain of a traditional hymn which became an unofficial anthem of Poland’s struggles for independence from foreign domination, “We Want God” was famously quoted by Pope John Paul II when he visited a Poland still under communist rule. Then there are journalists, whose job is certainly not to give sermons on political correctness, but to report, question and expose. Teachers, footballers, television actors and film stars also have voices that will be heard.

And then there’s you and me. For nowadays we are all neighbours of people susceptible to such extreme views – if not physical neighbours, then certainly virtual ones. We shouldn’t just leave it to the platforms, the politicians and the clerics. Every time we hear such views expressed, whether in the pub or the cafe, at the football ground or on Facebook, we need to speak up.

It doesn’t have to be angry polemic. It can also be ridicule. Humour is a great antidote to fanaticism. In that spirit, I would like to propose a new prize for bad journalism. It should be named after that so-called journalist from TVP Info.

Timothy Garton Ash is a Guardian columnist

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Chapman brothers reunite with Goya’s art 16 years after defacing it | Art and design

The sleep of reason produces monsters and, if you are Jake and Dinos Chapman at least, an enduring obsession with the works of Francisco de Goya.

Sixteen years after the brothers famously took their pens to 83 prints of the Spanish artist’s bleak and ultraviolent series The Disasters of War, the trio are to be reunited in an exhibition at the Goya museum in Zaragoza.

Goya’s etchings, created between 1810 and 1820, show the horror, squalor and extreme cruelty that marked the Napoleonic occupation of Spain and its aftermath.

His depictions of torture, rape, starvation and execution have long fascinated the British artists, informing their work and eventually leading them to inform his.

The idea, according to the exhibition’s curator, Lola Durán, is to illustrate just how profoundly Goya has influenced artists from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí to the Chapmans.

The brothers’ 2001 work, The Disasters of War IV, is being shown alongside pieces from the museum’s collection, which include the original sketch for the Charge of the Mamelukes.

“It occurred to us that the Chapmans are the artists who have best captured and reflected the artistic and ethical criticisms contained in Goya’s prints,” Lola Durán.

“They’ve taken Goya’s message – that war can’t be justified, that violence can’t be justified – and transformed it and built on it.”

A cartoon face drawn by Jake and Dinos Chapman entitled Insult to Injury, which is drawn over etchings by Francisco de Goya.

A cartoon face drawn by Jake and Dinos Chapman entitled Insult to Injury, which is drawn over etchings by Francisco de Goya. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP

The graphic images of rape and impalement, she added, were meant to fascinate and appal the viewer.

“These are really unpleasant scenes, which, like those of the Chapmans, are intended to hit us right in the conscience and make us realise the terrible consequences of war: disease; exile and abandonment,” said Durán.

“The message that the Chapmans have taken from Goya is that today we’re still living in the midst of violence – just turn on the TV news. It’s mean to make us think about the senselessness and confusion of war.”

Jake Chapman, who flew to Spain on Thursday to attend the opening of the exhibition, said he and his brother had been drawn to the tension between The Disasters of War and how the pictures have traditionally been viewed and interpreted.

“There’s a tug of war between how it is institutionally framed as a humanist work of art that is simply there to depict a moral outrage over man’s inhumanity to man – which is the most hackneyed statement always associated with the Disasters – and the degree to which this work undermines the morality that is been forcibly set to be iconic of,” he said.

Chapman said the “ferocious detail” with which Goya had shown the castrations and amputations made a moral reading rather paradoxical, adding that while he and his brother’s “obliteration” of the prints had been disrespectful it had been intended as a “kind of antagonistic catalyst” to the series.

Jake Chapman on themes behind ‘Hell’ and its successor

“[It’s] a way of gouging out something that has kind of been censored by a complacent notion of a moral reading.

“The thing we objected to was not so much Goya’s meaning – we’re actually trying to gouge them from this moralistic framework and maybe release its libidinal economy to show that these works are much more radically unhinged and unstable and they don’t deserve to be accumulated to some sort of post-Christian redemption.”

Asked whether he feared any kind of backlash in Spain, Chapman replied the controversy said to envelop the siblings’ work invariably had more to do with journalists than genuinely irate public hordes.

“In terms of the reformational violence of Isis, I think the last thing we’re scared of is a bunch of bourgeois art lovers coming and complaining about our slightly antagonistic, tantrumic attacks on fucking Goya,” he said.

“Controversy is one thing but I think the seriousness of the work will go unnoticed. That’s the thing. One of the things that’s never discussed is the seriousness of the work.”

Chapman said he hoped visitors would not be distracted by “personality antics” and would focus instead on what had brought him and Dinos to The Disasters of War in the first place – “but, having said that, of course it’s going to be amazing to see”.

And then, in words likely to chill the staff of the Goya museum, he added: “I’ve brought some felt tips with me, so … ”

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Causes of the disaffection fuelling rightwing extremism | Letters | World news

In his assessment of rightwing extremism in Europe, Paul Mason misses the central issue (Europe’s right is on the march – and it won’t go away without a fight, G2, 14 November). He states that Poland’s unemployment rate is 5.3%, but this low figure completely masks the fact that enormous numbers of young people have been forced to leave the country to find work in western Europe because of lack of employment in their home country. The same is true of all the eastern European nations, as well as in the territory of the former German Democratic Republic, Spain and, to a lesser extent, Italy and Portugal. This lack of perspective for a younger generation, an apparent abandonment of the aged population, coupled with alienation from the conservative political elites, has helped to produce the widespread disaffection that is fuelling rightwing extremism. In many ways a not dissimilar situation to that pertaining in pre-Hitler Germany.

Mason is also wrong to suggest that it is the headscarf and the Qur’an the fascists care about, not the economy. These are merely the scapegoat symbols on which anger can be focused, but the deeper underlying reasons are certainly economic. The only effective challenge to rightwing extremism is to offer a clear alternative to the bankrupt neoliberal economic policies still being pursued by most governments, including our own.
John Green

Paul Mason emphasises the differences between 1926 and 2017: I emphasise the similarities. At a time of economic uncertainty, the rich maintain their wealth by setting the poor to fight each other. Race, religion, nationality and inequality are just badges that identify kinship. It’s all about money: everything else is detail. How else do you explain the happy decade that ended in 2007? 
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

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