The Swastika in Art and the World
Papeschi, whose work is titled "NaziSexyMouse," assured people he's not promoting Nazism (obviously), but instead pointing out that the symbol of Mickey and the symbol Nazis stole are about one in the same now. It also is a commentary on the lifestyles of Americans, which he calls a "horror."
The Poles want the poster banned. No discussion of capitalism and its ties to fascism. No discussion over how symbols affect people. They just want it to go away because it shocks them.
Subverting symbols is a valid use of art. (And, hey, since we're on the subject, you know how scary Nazis were. Imagine, if you will, how creepy and scary it would have been if Nazis were dressed as they normally were, but all wore Mickey Mouse masks. Creepy!) Using art to shock people -- intentionally or not -- is also valid. Not only is it valid, it is often necessary. This is a good case in point.
Crispin Glover's movie What is It? also uses Nazi imagery with a beloved child star. This movie poster obviously invokes all kinds of feelings in someone who remembers Shirley Temple. It is designed to stop you in your tracks, and it does that through the juxtaposition of Nazi culture and child star.
On the flipside of that, sometimes the general public needs something as obvious as this to react. It is unable to comprehend the subtle due to the onslaught of images that comes at it everyday in the form of advertising and who knows what else. It's all the difference between poison and a nuclear bomb. Both kill, but do so in wildly different ways. I prefer the poison because it's more direct and there is more art to be maintained that way, but the nuclear option does wonders for getting one's point across.
When this photo of a female hockey team was taken (1916), the swastika didn't mean what it does today. Obviously, it's hard to imagine a sports team doing something so bold (though Native Americans will feel differently), but can you imagine the reaction if they did? What kind of fear would it inspire in its opponents? This Edmonton team doesn't inspire too much fear, even with us having the meaning of the swastika changed (it could be the sweaters), but if the Colts suddenly changed their name and logo, I think the NFL would be a wildly different place.
It is doubtful that the swastika will ever regain the meaning it originally had. It's hard to undo a history as powerful as the Nazis'. When artists continue to use the symbol to invoke shock, it just continues the tradition (not that I'm saying they shouldn't use it -- they should -- I just don't find it very subtle). There will never be another serious sports team with a swastika logo, and it's doubtful there will ever be another comic book cover that uses it in such a benign way (it has been used as a tool of fear and shock, though). We have come too far to ever go back. It has been subverted by some evil people, and I'm not so sure that is a bad thing. It has more power this way. It is rare when symbols can change so drastically. In fact, I can't think of another instance where this has happened. The crucifix is close, but I don't think it has the power to enrage as much as the swastika does. Its use as a shock value in art isn't universal, either.
The swastika, and its use by cultures long since forgotten by history and those that will never be forgotten, may ultimately end up being humanity's symbol. (Telling that in some instances it is used for some of the Black Sun symbols.) When aliens discover the hollowed remains of our world, which would have been destroyed through disease, war or some asteroid, they will find the one symbol that was there throughout history. The one that started off as an innocent ward of good fortune, then was used as a calling card for fascism, and then became a wake-up call to complacency. Will it evolve again? Perhaps. What it will evolve into, however, is anyone's guess. As long as people want it banned from public viewing, though, it is safe bet to say that its power will continue to be that of a reminder of something people want to forget ... and that is the worst thing you can do when it comes to this symbol. Because when you forget and when you ignore, that is when it comes back. Maybe not in the same form, but it will appear.