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What a Scream!
by Richard Oxman
August 24, 2004

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The two masked robbers who ran into Oslo's Munch Museum and threatened the staff with a handgun, forcing people to lie down as they secured Edvard Munch's “The Scream” and “Madonna”, may have done us all a favor.

Their taking the 1893 icon of existentialist angst, “The Scream,” gives me a chance to address all that is diseased and terrifying about modern life before my personal plans to transform into a hermetic Emily Dickinson materialize.  Before I actually travel the route of Rimbaud's to The Ogadeen.  And perhaps, now, worldwide newscasters will encourage us to put “The End of Civilization” on the table for discussion as a legitimate option for one and all.

Scream's waif-like figure (gender-free), placed against a blood-red sky, moves blinded by its own perceived horror, proceeding along a bridge that cannot end, that offers no relief.  It shakily sways toward us with what Brown University's Arnold Weinstein has called “terrible tidings.” Nightmarish notions, inklings of what we experience today, have ghouled out its eyes, feverishly fixing its sweat-dripping palms over its eardrums, trying to drown out painful pulsations within its own skull.

“I felt as though Nature were convulsed by a great unending scream,” are Munch's own words.  He was an octogenarian when he created the icon, and he had seen enough of what civilization had wrought by the time the 19th Century came to a close. The work is truly a shimmering sight of sickness without an antidote.

“Shimmering”, but with no more of a touch of soft tremulous light than what's allowed in the coffin of an art collector who may very well -- according to some experts -- have set up the robbery so as to carry some of Munch's genius into the grave for companionship, the potential for public display playing no part in the mastermind's plans.

What a metaphor for the times!  Sharing. Nah.  Securing the artwork better after its '04 theft?  Nah.  And they couldn't have taken the real (American) Madonna, could they?  There's so much more to comment on, but regarding the middle point:  The thing that absolutely jumps out at us in hearing a rundown of what came down is the fact that the precious piece of art was only hanging by a wire!  No precautions had been taken to what? ... wire the artwork to an alarm system. 

Does that or does that not remind you of the 9-11 Hearings?  Robbery in broad daylight and all.

What a scream, this civilization!

O'Xman (Richard Oxman) is an art critic and underground activist living in Los Gatos, California.  He can be reached at  

Other Articles by Richard Oxman

* On Kwame Ture's Birthday: No More "Waiting for Griot"
* Organics or . . .
* The Pitts: A 9/11 Burrow of the American Family
* Sons of Malkoviches: Who Begat H.R. 3077?
* A Cell's Job: Noam Made 'Em Do It
* Nader and His Two Black Marks Amidst America's Acne
* Steel Yourself To Steal Away
* The Coming Uncivil War: The Fire This Time
* Ah!: Arsonists for Haiti?
* Oscar's Obituary
* Mandatory Same-Sex Marriage
* What To Do? Violence Reconsidered
The Clint Stones: Oscar Honors Violence Part I with Sylvie Oxman
* God's Grandeur
* The Party’s Over Party
Leavitt and The Utahnization of America

* Michael Moore Apologists Are Not What We Need