An unbanned reading list for Turkey

Turkey is unbanning nearly 2,000 previously blacklisted publications next month, including 453 books. Susanne Gusten looks at what Turks have been missing out on:

Among the works to be legalized by the move are several books by Turkey’s greatest 20th-century poet, Nazim Hikmet, including an edition of his “Collected Works,” banned by an Ankara court in 1968, as well as a book by the country’s most influential theologian, Said Nursi.

The list also includes the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx; a 1987 edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World, banned by the government itself for designating Kurdistan and Armenia; a collection of folk songs from the rebellious province of Dersim; a 1996 human rights report by the Turkish Human Rights Association, banned by a state security court; and the Italian comic book Captain Miki, outlawed in 1961 for “leading children astray.”

Ankara has been sending mixed signals on freedom of expression in recent years, with recent legislation increasing the government's ability to filter online content. In a move last week that the heroic Captain Miki would surely not appreciate, the government fined a TV network for airing an allgedly blasphemous episode of the Simpsons

Passport

Warhol's Mao won't be headed to China

Bloomberg is reporting (via the Beijing Cream blog) that Andy Warhol's famous Mao prints won't be on display during the Beijing stop of a traveling retrospective of the artist's work: 

“They said the Maos won’t work,” Eric Shiner, director of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said in an interview in Hong Kong. “This is disappointing because his imagery is so mainstream in Chinese contemporary art.”

A person familiar with the show, who asked not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, confirmed the Mao works had been rejected by the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions seeking comment today.

Chinese art lovers still have until march to make the trip to Hong Kong, where the exhibit -- including the Maos -- is currently on display. 

Warhol was not a particularly political artist and was more interested in Mao's status as a cultural icon than his actions or ideas. But some of China's more daring contemporary artists have obviously been inspired by him. Ai Weiwei's painting of a Coca-Cola logo on a Han dynasty vase is an obvious Warhol homage. There's also pop art influence the work of the Gao brothers, whose most famous works depict Chairman Mao in a variety of compromising positions, including "as a kneeling penitent, with giant breasts, a detachable head, and in one of their most famous works, as a firing squad of clones about to execute Jesus Christ. "

China's not the only place where artists have used pop art for political means. The North Korean propaganda painter-turned-satirist Song Byeok, who I had the chance to speak to earlier this year, has incorporated a variety of Warholian imagery into his mocking portraits of Kim Jong Il, including Marilyn Monroe and Campbell's Soup Cans.

So while Warhol may never have intended his prints as a criticism of the Chairman, the authorities may not want any more subversive artists getting ideas.