The Pirates of The Kattegat: A glimpse into Peter Cohen’s political fantasy world

The Swedish film director Peter Cohen has written a smear towards the late artist Lars Vilks, who died in a tragic car accident on October 3rd. This is a reply to that text.

The fate of Lars Vilks, being under heavy security protection for 14 years, was a constant embarassment to Sweden. The country is one of the most advanced in the world and portrays itself as a “humanitarian superpower”. Yet a bunch of fanatical lunatics managed to boss around with Sweden over a simple drawing. The country had no idea what to put up with this enemy, and still doesn’t. In forseeable future it will be difficult to treat the legacy of Vilks with normal scientific practice in Sweden due to the security issues.

The head of Sweden’s most prominent museum, Gitte Ørskou, denounced Vilks’ most famous work only a few days after the death of the artist. It is not hard to see that the accusation that the drawing is “based on hateful iconography” is an excuse covering up the real issue, which is security.

Peter Cohen is on a twofold mission. On the one side he wants to divert attention away from these complex problems. On the other he wants to smear the Polish government.

For this purpose he has to invent a complete parallel reality. The Polish government, he claims, has ordered an exhibition from Laesoe Art Hall. This accusation is pointing to the exhibition “Political Art” at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warzaw. 18 works of Vilks are presented there. Why, you might think, would the Polish government purchase the services of the perhaps smallest art institution in the world? According to Peter Cohen beceause the art hall is the base for a right wing extremist network. As something quite unusual, at least historically speaking, this network is engaged in the production of contemporary art.

Alas, the right wing Polish government has found a partner in crime.

In the process of making this story up the film director starts portraying Lars Vilks as a kind of Don Quixote. The satirical figure is, however, also the center of the former mentioned “right wing cult” which has come into existence on Laesoe. Cohen seems to disagree with himself as to the status of Vilks; whether he is comical or dangerous. Unable to make the choice Cohen goes with both at the same time.

Five days before his piece was published Peter Cohen called me. He did not present himself, so I had no idea who I was talking to. He had only two questions: 1) Did the Polish government order the exhibition? 2) “Do you have Facetime on your phone?”

I immediatly thought I was talking to some slightly confused fellow citizen, and answered politely, making sure he had understood what I said.

1) No, the government of that huge Central European country did not order an exhibition from Laesoe Art Hall.

2) Learning that I did have Facetime on my phone Cohen said he would call me back another day and talk about the exhibition.

He never did so. Instead he produced what could serve as the plot for a Scandinavian version of Pirates of the Caribbean. Which is a bit funny, since I actually always thought of the art hall as a pirate ship, a privateer, in that the Art Hall is not funded by the government. Being “hired” by foreign governments makes that story even more entertaining, as the historical pirates were also used by governments in shady operations.

Jon Eirik Lundberg