Like the magnetic attraction of a schoolyard melee, we are drawn inexorably to the ongoing brawl on the Brac.

We refer, of course, to the long-standing and escalating battle between artist/sculptor Ronald Kynes (better known as “Foots”) and, well, nearly everyone else, including his neighbors, preachers and pastors, politicians, and, most recently, the police who arrested Mr. Kynes last week for the “obscene publication” of his artwork.

We are certain the Compass would be forgiven if we ignored this entire matter – let it be aired and argued at local watering holes which, we would wager, is exactly what is happening. Tempers no doubt get hotter than mid-July temperatures whenever the subject is Foots and his purposely provocative creations (which some have called offensive to the Creator himself).

Perhaps it is time for some deep breaths and cooler heads, since there are actually some important principles entangled in the current kerfuffle. So let’s try to sort them out:

On the most basic level, we are witnessing a collision between artistic expression and community standards. The former is buttressed by Cayman’s Constitution, the latter by an angry, even hyperbolic, populace.

For years, this confrontation has been in the making. Remember Mr. Kynes’s 15-foot-tall “Apocalypse Now” sculpture depicting a bloody crucifix, goat’s head and numbers 666? Or his follow up, “Mephistopheles Throne,” a 10-foot sculpture depicting a demon, painted in dark red stain, holding a pitchfork and skull?

In each of those instances, residents who were offended by the works – which they considered disrespectful to the Christian community – asked police to intervene. But in both, police declined.

(However, and troublingly, police appeared to take little interest in investigating vandalism and theft of Foots’s artwork, a serious abrogation of their responsibilities).

Now the police have become active (activist?) players in this ongoing drama. Whether they fully appreciate it or not, it is extremely rare (and rightly so) for law enforcement officers to exercise arrest powers to snuff out artistic expression.

And it is their actions which elevate this matter beyond a containable community dispute to a serious constitutional and potential international incident. In law, small cases involving democratic principles have a way of evolving into outsized precedents with unforeseeable consequences, and that is the position that the Brac police have now placed the country in.

As journalists, of course, we are advocates for freedom of expression, whether the medium is print, digital, verbal, paintings, sculpture or what have you.

At the same time, we suggest there is an obligation, albeit voluntary, on the part of the writer, the speaker, or the artist to work within the social and cultural norms of their communities.

We certainly do not subscribe to the popular nostrum that it is a worthwhile objective of an artist to create primarily in order to shock – and most artists, of course, do not. But Foots does.

Should he do so? Probably not.

Does he have a right to do so? Almost certainly he does.

And should the Brac police have used their blunt arrest powers to intervene in this delicate social dilemma? We think not.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Editor , was this art work professionally evaluated to say whether it is art or what it is ? I think that sometimes that art can be done to express a wrong message . I would say that the Police might have stepped out of boundaries , cause I don’t see where Foots breeched any Laws .

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  2. First of all, “offense” is a concept, mental constraint, that only exists in one’s mind and based on personal beliefs.

    Secondly, this editorial has wrong focus. Community based harassment against an individual should be the focus.

    This is how it is done in the UK.
    The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. An individual has a right to pursue a harassment charge and may be able to apply to the District Court for a restraining order against the harassing person. The court will hold a hearing and may issue a restraining order. It is a criminal offence to breach a restraining order without a reasonable excuse. The penalty is a prison term of up to six months or a fine of up to $5,000. The maximum prison term increases for repeated breaches. Penalty for a criminal harassment is a prison term of up to two years.

    There must be a formal police procedure to follow when an individual in the Cayman Islands files a harassment (or any) complaint. Police can’t arbitrarily ignore or dismiss complaints in a lawful society.

    So the Compass’ statement ‘Police should have no role in the ‘Brawl on the Brac’” is fundamentally WRONG. Labeling this conflict as a “Brawl” is also wrong.

    I will also repeat my question about sexually explicit behaviour exhibited by members of public during Batabano parade. Is it disrespectful to the Christian community? What Laws protect unsuspected visitors and their children? Shouldn’t DoT brochures come with warnings? How do you explain such behavior to a child?

    As for the art itself, it is certainly not for the Editorial board or community members to decide (or suggest) what the Artist should or shouldn’t do. If I don’t like what is on TV, I don’t watch it.

    I wanted to finish my comment with Mark Twain’s quote about sexuality and Christianity, but it won’t pass the Editor’ censoring, therefore I am finishing with another quote I like:
    “Organized Stalking/Community based harassment is a form of terrorism used against an individual in a malicious attempt to reduce the quality of a person’s life so they will: have a nervous break-down, become incarcerated, institutionalized, experience constant mental, emotional, or physical pain, become homeless, and/or commit suicide.” This is no laughing matter. And it is the Police business to intervene.

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