July 29, 2011

Chief Wahoo in Germany

Chief Wahoo Decorates Building in Germany, But Why?

By Vince GrzegorekThe Wall Street Journal reports it's the work of Cyprien Gaillard, an artist who took a 12-meter neon Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo sign and placed it on top of a "derelict East German office building, ominously called the "House of Statistics."

And what is the viewer supposed to take away from the combination of Wahoo and Germany?

Supposedly this: "The project, which combines a symbol of the American Rust Belt with a souvenir of Communist town planning, is meant to reflect on the broader subject of urban decline. And it would only be possible in Berlin, says the artist. 'You would never find an abandoned building in the middle of Paris.'"
Comment:  The writer theorizes that Chief Wahoo symbolizes Cleveland and Cleveland symbolizes urban decline. Thus the use of an Indian symbol is just a coincidence.

That's one theory. Another theory is that the Indian symbol is quite intentional. An Indian supposedly symbolizes primitiveness or savagery--i.e., a lack of civilization. It's uncivilized to let a city decline into a mass of derelict buildings. So Chief Wahoo = urban decay.

Then there's the whole German love of Indians as seen in the hobbyist movement. How can you use an Indian symbol in Germany without taking that into account? Maybe Chief Wahoo is an ironic statement: Germans cherish their vision of a primitive pastoral past while ignoring the grim reality in front of their faces. Chief Wahoo is smirking at them as if he gets the point but they don't.

I think you have to stretch to say the artist wanted to make a statement about Cleveland and just happened to use Chief Wahoo. More likely it's the other way around: the artist wanted to make a statement about Indians and just happened to use a Cleveland symbol.

For more on Chief Wahoo, see Turbaned Indian Offensive, Chief Wahoo Okay and A Mascot for White People.


Shadow Wolf said...

Wow, talk about an irrelevent comparison. When you have a boat load of various rabid White Supremacist publications/networks within the U.S. disparaging Blacks as the least most civilized in the modern civilized world. In fact, Blacks make up higher populations in the White man's "Urban" areas as opposed to that of Native population, which is something like less 3%. I fail to see how Natives are the fault of "Urban decline".

Besides, Natives in Germany is almost non-existent. They do, however are dealing with a rapidly growing Muslim population there.

Anonymous said...

Germany? That's all I need to know. Europeans have, ah, "special" ideas about Indians.

none said...

I, uh, am failing to see the connection.

Anonymous said...

Well, "special" in this case means like a special child, who because he's so special has an accident that causes a head injury in his friend so now they're both special.

Europeans started the lost tribes of Israel myth. It started with Bartolomé de las Casas. José de Acosta discredited it because Indians didn't practice circumcision, and (remember, this is 16th-century Christianity) Indians were too generous and self-sacrificing to be Jews. (Yes, the guy who dedicated his life to a Jew who supposedly died for everyone's sins says Jews are cowards. Again, Christian antisemitism makes no sense.) Eventually, it was mostly Europeans who had never visited America who believed it.

On the other end of the equation, Göbbels declared the Sioux to be Aryan. Didn't work so well. Tell Crazy Horse "How would you like to be part of the master race? Kill anyone that isn't just like you?" and he'd likely start with you.

And then there are people like Erich von Däniken and Thor Heyerdahl.

As I said, Europeans have "special" ideas about Indians.