Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

My life as a connoisseur

Passion for freedom‘ is now holding its fourth exhibition at the Unit 24 Gallery just behind Tate Modern. The show is a visible and occasionally dazzling manifestation of an often submerged movement in western liberalism that regards the liberal-left mainstream with something close to disgust.

They – we – find the indulgence of radical Islam as a betrayal of the best of the liberal tradition. We are equally repelled by multi-cultural orthodoxy, which puts the interest of a ‘community’ before the interests of the individual, particularly when the individual is a woman. The magnificent Maryam Namazie, One Law for All’s Spokesperson, and a woman you will rarely hear on the BBC, explained the show’s purpose. ‘Real change comes about by challenging and dissenting not by appeasement and silence. It comes about by breaking taboos and pushing aside that which is deemed sacred and art is such an important way of doing this. As Ai Wei Wei says, “if we don’t push, nothing changes”.’

As in previous years, the organisers tempted artists to submit by restating their core principles.

1. Create space for artists and writers who discuss subjects omitted in politically correct circles.
2. Invite people to open and uninhibited discussion. Nothing is more important than critically informed debate. That’s how society has advanced through the ages.
3. Gather like-minded people creating a network of actively engaged citizens who hold high the value of individual’s freedom

I have written at length on these themes, and subscribe to all of the above. I would certainly have gone along as a visitor. But this year, the organisers invited me to be one of the judges, and raised several difficulties as they did it.

I wondered by what right I judged artists. I am not an artist. Nor am I an art critic.

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