Cake art controversy at Swedish museum: Pissed off art students and press office respond! (2012)

Kathryn Weneca
Art Design Publicity at ADC | 28 April 2012

The following is the email I sent to a few art students in the United States...

" wants to publish an article incorporating quotes of art / art history students in response to a controversial art [performance on] video posted on the web earlier this month. These quotes will be completely anonymous— neither your name or the name of the school you attend will be released. I am asking you to watch the video, write a 50-75 word response to it and then email it back to me."

"I want to warn you now, the video is a little disturbing, it involves the issue of female circumcision in Africa depicted on a cake. The cake in the video was put on display at the Museum of Modern Art / Moderna Museet in Stockholm to celebrate World Art Appreciation Day. This story has been picked up by major news organizations such as CNN."

"The video shows Afro-Swedish artist Makode Linde wearing dark makeup and screaming as the cake is cut."

"Pictures of Swedish Culture Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth smiling and feeding Makode Linde his metaphorical vagina have also been released, leading to widespread demand for Liljeroth’s resignation."

"What we are really trying to do with this article is to compile completely anonymous student opinions about the cake. Please feel free to express your true views. If you have any questions, let me know."

Here’s what the art students had to say:

Anonymous art student #1: "That cake is disgusting. I’m assuming that it’s supposed to be a statement about the problem of female circumcision in Africa, but it’s actually incredibly misogynistic.

It reduces the woman it tries to portray into an object that everyone can take advantage of, i.e. eat and enjoy and deem through her destruction. I guess that’s supposed to be the point of it in order to reflect female circumcision but it doesn’t take itself seriously.

First off, it’s a f*cking cake, made to be eaten and destroyed, and it’s shaped into a highly stylized version of a female body. It looks more a caricature of hundreds of very diverse African tribes for the purpose of some gross edible artwork."

Anonymous art student #2: “I think this demonstration has an almost humorous impact. Although grotesque, it’s pretty funny that the artist is pretending to be the cake. The behavior of the guests is equally amusing, as one woman apologetically cuts into the mock African woman for some dessert. I feel the act was a little too ridiculous to give the right kind of attention to the victims of female circumcision and the artist made a poor decision."

Anonymous art student #3: "I’m sorry, I can’t watch the video.

I tend to be a bit squeamish about these sorts of things and it seems very disturbing to me.

I apologize, but good luck with your article."

Six other art students did not respond to the email. Thanks guys!

Now Compare / Contrast with the official museum response

Below is the text of the press release from Museum of Modern Art (Moderna Museet) in Stockholm three days after the cake incident...

Press Release

Clarification concerning Moderna Museet vis-a-vis World Art Day

18 April, 2012

The theme of World Art Day, organised by the Swedish Artists’ National Organisation (KRO), was the fight against censorship and for freedom of expression, and artists from Sweden and abroad contributed with important aspects. Modena Museet sympathises entirely with this cause. Moderna Museet accepted the invitation to take part in the World Art Day, since the Museum is a forum where freedom of speech, censorship and the freedom of art should be discussed.

Moderna Museet understands and respects that people find the pictures and video clips from World Art Day upsetting, especially when they are shown out of context. The intention of KRO and Makode Linde was to draw attention to and discuss today’s racism, not to reinforce it. Moderna Museet is naturally against any form of racism.

Moderna Museet wants to continue to be the most obvious place for debates where art and artists focus on critical issues in contemporary society.

On Sunday, 15 April, World Art Day was organised by the International Association of Art (IAA), and the Swedish Artists’ National Organisation (KRO). Moderna Museet’s contribution was to provide a venue for a seminar and for KRO’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. KRO had invited a number of Swedish artists to bake cakes for the anniversary party. As part of the World Art Day activities, a panel discussion was also organised on the topic of “The fight against censorship, and the freedom of art".

Lastly, a rather strange and not necessarily connected musical intervention by Art Design Publicity mag editorial for your contemplation...

Dead or Alive. (I gotta have my) Cake and eat it (too).