ARTFUX! - THE EXECUTION OF JESSE HELMS!

By: Joseph P. Cunningham


There have always been artists who strive to create works which, while powerful, stand clearly outside the boundaries of taste. However, their aim is not to offend. They are struggling to widen the landscape of ideas and stretch the oppressive confines which surround it. It is art which flies in the face of the Establishment, questioning its validity in the name of individuality and human freedom. The DADAS did this in the 20's, as do Ori Hofmekler and Robbie Conal today. The art is confrontational and in-your-face. Guerilla art.

Jersey City, New Jersey, may seem like an unlikely place to find the Zietgiest (or Spirit of the Age), but it burns bright and strong in the six-chambered heart of the ARTFUX. The ARTFUX team of artists are Orlando Cuevas, Jeorge Rodriguez, Ramon R. Arcadio, Michael Lewison, Mirta C. Del Valle, and John Santerineross.

The most famous of their many exploits was "The Trial of Sen. Jesse Helms," which took place at a free speech rally on the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. in March of 1990.

"We are the ARTFUX!" Cuevas announced into a bullhorn, getting the crowd's attention. "And this is the trial of Sen. Jesse Helms." Beside him stood a shrouded statue.

After Rodriguez read an opening statement and the defendant was ordered to stand and be sworn in, the shroud was removed to reveal him: an almost life-sized, flabby, under-endowed, ceramic nude statue of Helms. It was brilliantly rendered and, therefore, intensely ugly.

Do you swear to tell the truth...so help you your dangerously misguided, fascist version of God?" No answer from Helms. Cuevas continued.

"Sir, the charges against you stem from your entire horrendous career of disservice to the American people."

"You have voted against the integration of schools!"

"You have tried to force your fascist-fundamentalist beliefs through school prayer which supports YOUR version of religion!"

"You have attacked religious freedom by trying to take away tax exemptions from those who believe different from YOU!"

"You have voted to take away social services which are used to feed CHILDREN!"

"And now you sir, are conspiring to take away the people's First Amendment right to free speech and expression!" Cuevas then leveled the bullhorn at the effigy's sneering face.

"YOU SIR, CAN NO LONGER BE TOLERATED!!!" He turned to the cheering crowd. "Jury, how do you find the defendant?!?"

"Guilty!!" they roared. He turned to Rodriguez, who had painstakingly sculpted the statue. Rodriguez was wearing the mask of the Jolly Roger symbol that is their trademark and calling card, and high in one hand he held a hammer.

"EXECUTIONER! CARRY OUT THE SENTENCE!!" Cuevas ordered, stepping clear.

"DIE!!!!!" cried Rodriguez, and the hammer fell. As the statue broke and toppled, shattering on the Capitol Building steps, the crowd learned that it, much like Helms himself, was full of shit.

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