Now, they got 190 entries in the contest. (I disapprove of the "Draw Mohammed" day, you should know.) I would love to see what the whole pile of drawings looked like. How many were stick figures or crude scratchings on the level of the "Draw Me" pirate? How many were loaded with embarrassingly violent or racial fantasy? I wish someone had had the foresight to film a documentary of these Reason guys cooking up their contest and then opening the various envelopes? I wonder if there was a point — one particular drawing? — when they felt bad about what they were doing. And then something pushed them in the direction of getting super-elitist intellectual about picking the winners.
In coming to a consensus, we discussed standard concerns such as originality of vision, playfulness, a sense of proportion (both in terms of craftmanship and message), and relevance to the goals of the contest.See? Read between the lines! What were they looking at when they reached that consensus? How many pieces of paper went into the discard pile over "craftsmanship"? How much did they laugh as they did a first cut over craftsmanship, and what did they say as they tossed these things aside? I would love to have been a fly on the wall... or a vole in the corner. "Sense of proportion"... what were the drawings that made them frame that standard? "Originality"? What percent of the artists drew Muhammad as a dog or as a guy with a turban-bomb? "Playfulness"... throw all the gruesome, gory things over there. "Relevance to the goals of the contest"... ha ha... so many of you scribblers did not get it. You thought it was about telling Muslims their prophet is evil, and not that free expression is precious. You fools! Did you think Nick Gillespie went to grad school for this?!
Okay, I'm picturing approximately 90% of the drawings eliminated over these standards.
So Gillespie reveals the true test of a proper "Draw Mohammed" drawing.
The single most important element...It's one thing.
.... and the thing that ties these selections together–is that each image forces the viewer to do two things.I mean... it's 2 things!
First, they consciously call into question the nature of representation, no small matter in fights over whether it is allowed under Islamic law to depict Mohammed (for the historical record, there is no question that the idea that is always wrong is only of recent vintage; there is a long history of sacred and superficial images of the Prophet). The homage to Rene Magritte below states "This is not a pipe. This is Muhammed"...He's translating the French for us. (And respelling "Muhammad" as "Muhammed," splitting the difference between the contest-name spelling — "Mohammed"— and the artist's use of the presumably politically correct spelling — "Muhammad.")
... playing with the surrealist's famous statement about the necessary disjuncture between a picture and the thing it seeks to represent.An insight that somehow fascinated people who studied post-modernism circa 1990. (Gillespie received his English PhD in 1996. I'd love to know more about what he studied. Can we see his dissertation?)
Just as the drawing is not a pipe (it's a drawing of a pipe), it cannot be Mohammed even as it insists it is. Even more, it is plainly not even a drawing of Mohammed or of any human figure.I like the way the winner — with a connect-the-dots puzzle — avoided drawing Muhammad altogether. Man, if I entered a "draw Mohammed" contest and the winner didn't even draw Mohammed, I'd be kind of pissed... and reading Gillespie's revelation of the highly intellectual but previously secret standards would not calm me down. "Reason"?! Bah!
Similarly, the invocation of the popular Where's Waldo? series forces the viewer to ask Where's Mohammed?, and to begin a hunt for a figure in the midst of an overstuffed scene. One assumes the black-robed character in the upper right-hand quadrant of the image is our quarry, but then what does it mean to confer on a small dot any significance whatsoever?
Second, each of the images forces the viewer to actively participate not simply in the creation of meaning but of actually constructing the image itself. This is clearest in our grand prize winner, the image below, which pushes iman and infidel alike to do the work that would condemn them to death under the most extreme reading of injunctions against representing Mohammed.