David, Jiří / Usáma bin Ládin
colour photograph, paper, 1360 × 960 mm
purchased in 2019 with support from the Czech Republic Ministry of Culture
In his series of photographs entitled Without Sympathy, Jiří David manipulates pre-existing “portraits” of famous people – or rather accessible media images of them. He applies a unified strategy to all the photographs, using techniques of visual montage to make all 17 of the men appear to be weeping. The series is provocative in its blurring of the boundary between good and evil. In a single convolute with a neutral blue background, we see a row of figures weeping next to each other – including Osama bin Laden, Pope John Paul II, the Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin. Though these figures are interpreted through mass media filters as icons of stability and inner strength – as unshakeable leaders or even saviours – Jiří David humanizes them and places them on the same level. Through a simple process of montage and the use of tear-filled eyes, the artist subverts the demonization of these men and metaphorically brings them down to earth, to the level of simple people made of flesh and bone. He offers a critical reflection on the dangers of delegating responsibility to individuals, especially to politicians. The transformation of politicians (or leaders of the people) into heroes or icons is a general paradigm which history has proved to be a dangerous tool when used to accumulate and abuse power.