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LARS VILKS, AGENT PROVOCATEUR

According to Reuters, when Swedish artist Lars Vilks drew the Prophet Mohammad as a dog in 2007, the picture’s aim was to challenge political correctness in the art world. After the sketch sparked an uproar in the Islamic world, Vilks admitted that he had been naive to think its effect would be limited.

Vilks, 68, published his Muhammad dog a year after the 2006 Danish cartoon controversy, and has been a repeated target since then, appearing on death lists of Islamist extremists. He receives round-the-clock police security, has been attacked in his home and at a university lecture, and was the target of a murder plot by a Pennsylvania woman known as “Jihad Jane.”

The February 2015 seminar in Copenhagen, which Vilks organized at the cultural center, was meant to mark the 25th anniversary of an Iranian fatwa against British writer Salman Rushdie. During the fireworks, Vilks was whisked away to the safety of a cold storage room, and he has no doubt that he was the target.

“What other motive could there be [for the attack]?” he told Karl Ritter of the Associated Press.

Before 2007, Reuters said, “Vilks was a little known painter, sculptor and art theorist. That year, he drew three cartoons of Mohammad for an exhibition on dogs in art, to test whether the politically correct organizers would dare show them. They did not, citing security reasons.”

"In art, it is said there are no longer any boundaries to cross," Vilks wrote at the time. "The little drawings made it possible to show that boundaries undoubtedly exist."

Editoonist Daryl Cagle demured over Vilks’ profession, pointing out that Vilks is not a cartoonist: “Vilks is a ‘conceptual artist,”’ Cagle said, “who had been known for building towers made of sticks before he took up the Prophet Muhammad-dog theme. Vilks studied art history and didn’t train as an artist, as is clear to anyone who sees his terrible drawings. His most famous Muhammad dog drawing looks like he drew it in five seconds, on a napkin, with his eyes closed, and both hands behind his back. Unlike cartoonists who seek to have their work published, Vilks shopped around for galleries that were willing to hang his scribble on their wall – when one gallery agreed, the drawing made the news, and the art show was cancelled, but the news was enough to give Vilks new fame as the Prophet Muhammad dog ‘cartoonist.’”

At the time — a year after the brouhaha over the Danish cartoons — Vilks thought all of that was “water under the bridge.”

He continued as Reuters reported:

"What I expected was that my contribution would be a local event," he wrote. "But I was naive about this ... Wrong, the issue was very much on the agenda and remains so."

But while the controversy over his drawings has gained him fame in his native Sweden, he says his career has suffered due to the security concerns among galleries and art institutions about exhibiting even work unrelated to Islam.

"Just meeting me or learning I am going appear somewhere creates waves of fear," he told Reuters. "They think the whole world will come storming over there and blow it all sky high."

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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