Muslim art defaced at 1700% Project

Op-Ed by Fruzsina Eordogh

Some time between May 6th and May 11th, the hate-speech wall in Anida Yoeu Ali’s  “1700% Project” exhibit was defaced with a picture of a robot and a speech bubble[Editor’s note, the link to the ABC news featured incorrect information. The line “kill all Arabs” was a part of the original work and those words were written by the artist. The vandalism involves the circling of those words and additional images].  Muslims throughout Chicago and Anida Yoeu Ali are calling this a hate crime. Writes Anida Yoeu Ali on her site:

What would provoke someone to enact hate upon a work of art that addresses that very issue? I feel assaulted and violated. I feel strongly that this is not just an assault on me, but an attack on entire communities for which the work speaks. Even if the work has an emotionally charged quality, even if it’s a rant and voices accusations (in some people’s opinions), the work counters violence by addressing violence. The attack is an act of silencing. Someone doesn’t want to hear this work or see this work. Someone is bothered and angered by this work. But what bothers me more is the reaction to the defacement itself from my school, the authorities, and the public at-large. It has been alarming to hear the assumptions, the presumptions, and the lack of seriousness around the matter. I did not bring this upon myself. I do not enjoy the publicity from this. My installation has been thrown off its course and now I am forced to incorporate the mark of hate (aggressively created by someone else) into my work. The installation has been destroyed and all I can do is make the most of it.

Ali is referring to the internet trolls when she talks about all the publicity she has received from this defacement, and to be fair to her, if you read the FARK comments, they do insult the artistic merit of her work besides wondering if she did this herself to get publicity. The most common comment on the internet about this incident has dealt with the irony of the defacement ( “doing it for the lulz” explained here). The same people leaving these comments are the very same disrespectful teenage to twenty-something males that run around saying “Why So Serious” (even a Wall Street Journal blogger has used this phrase) or making those funny cat pictures everyone loves.   I hesitate to call this a “hate crime” because the drawing of robots and speech bubbles on a piece of art don’t fit the definition of a hate crime:

a criminal offense committed against a person or property that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, age or religion.

A robot does not strike me as anti-Muslim, in so much as “anti-human”. A robot is not a swastika or a white hooded “KKK” member. What if this wasn’t about hatred at all, but just some jerk move by another artist? What if the vandal wanted to contribute to the work by saying any one who says these things about Muslims is a Fox News robot? Calling this a hate crime without proof of intention reminds me of the “possible hate crime” story about a Jewish man that was mugged. He wasn’t mugged because he was Jewish, he was mugged because he was alone, old, and an easy target.  I buy my Fox News Robot theory over the supposed Hate Crime theory. The robots don’t seem like “marks of hate” but ones of arrogance and trolling. Was this troll bothered and angered by her hate wall? I think they were probably bored by its “seriousness” and felt like causing some drama/humor.

That said, even if this defacement was an act of trolling, it still ruined her art piece so her outrage is understandable.  Who knows how many hours, or days, weeks, months she spent working on this piece of art? Anida shouldn’t fret though, there is a very large silver lining to this defacement: her exhibit is now well-known throughout the city of Chicago. Next time around, when she does another installation, people will know who she is. Being a victim is easy, and if I were her, I’d be  thanking this “troll”, who ever he is (I say “he” because few female trolls exist in real life). Always look on the bright side of life, Anida!