Review: “Protected: The Smiling Terrorist: A Reflection?”

Via Melanie

part one: description

Using Gerhard Richter’s photorealistic images of (a smiling) Ulrike Meinhof as a springboard, Melanie’s “Protected: The Smiling Terrorist: A Reflection?” examines fear as a bi-product of terrorism—specifically citing Jared Lee Loughner, Anders Behring Breivik, and the al Qaeda cell behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

She writes, “Richter could have painted his images to resemble sharper photographs, but he blurred the paintings, as if he had sympathy for these people, the terrorists he depicted, as if they hadn’t deserved to die—even if they had committed suicide. The blur of moral uncertainty is clear.”

Indeed, Melanie questions this moral uncertainty: how do we process characters like Meinhof and Loughner? Both mass murderers, both of whom have been photographed grinning in the face of their sentencing?

We get more serious, she argues. We become gripped by their destruction; “helpless,” as Don DeLillo (2002) explains (p. 80).

“Terrorism makes us lose ourselves within ourselves,” writes Melanie. “It makes terrorists’ smiles all the more conspiratorial.”

part two: addendum

An interesting passage:

“He looks crazed—but is mass murder ever a tool of the sane?” she asks. “I’ve never understood how society could consider anyone who perpetrates a crime on this level, sane. Do we convince ourselves that they are sane because we can’t deal with the shared responsibility we may bear for these crimes or accept the existence of pure evil?”

Talk about hypertext; amidst her discussion weaving together art, helplessness, and a loss of innocence, she makes mention of our visceral discomfort with insanity and “pure evil.”

Perhaps Melanie could unpack this thinking. Why is it, does she suppose, that people feel a “shared responsibility” for insane terrorist acts?

This could accordingly be a place for her to expound on issues surrounding contemporary psychiatric medicine.


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