In the late 1980's and early 1990's my partner Franco Palazzolo and I edited and published HYPE Magazine in New Yorks East Village
. A money losing labour of love, we are now putting all of the articles from issues one to twelve nto the public domain. This interview was originally published in HYPE NYC
, issue number one, April 1990.
Ever since I moved to the Ghetto, I've tried to be polically correct. But I'd found most critics of the system to be a bunch of self righteous, intolerant assholes who had nothing better to do with their lives. Shawn Eichman is different.
By Harry Druzud, Painter
H: You're an artist. I'm wondering if you'd tell me something about your work?
S: Most of my work is political, and it incorporates the viewer, something that you can go up to and play with; you know, interactive. Right now I'm working on a series of dart boards with portraits of international oppressors, people who'd you'd like want to throw darts at, that will fill up an entire wall. Two of the people I've included are the guy from the Camel Cigarette ads and Margaret Thatcher.
H: Was it through the political nature of your art work that you became involved with the Emergency Committee?
S: Actually, it was through curating shows. One of which was centered around the flag and celebrated the victory in Texas vs. Johnson. We had all kinds of flag art, and this eventually led to a flag art portion of the Helms Degenerate Art Show, which had to close down the night that the flag protection act went into effect.
H: Why was that?
S: We received a lot of death threats and protest threats from Neo-Nazi skin heads and a veterans group. The gallery and staff lacked insurance, so we had no choice.
H: You celebrated your court victory at Thompkins Square Park, were there any counter demonstrations?
S: Yeah, a few Neo-Nazi's came out. Its ironic the role they've played in this battle. In Seattle, at The Festival of Defiance, skin heads came out to protest. It was such an obvious contradiction that the only people who support the new law are Neo-Nazi skin heads, veterans, and the government of The United States. Its all about fascism and national redemption.
H: What's at stake?
S: Events that have happened in the past year have really exposed What's at stake. I don't think we have any freedom of expression. Look at what they can get away with under the guise of protecting families and the innocent - 2 LIVE CREW arrested under obscenity laws, and the banning of all work that involves homosexuality. Right after the decision was announced in Texas vs. Johnson (making flag burning legal), the Webster decision was announced restricting women's reproductive rights and allowing the states to make these decisions. Louisiana just passed the most stringent restrictions through their state legislature.
H: One that doesn't allow abortions unless the woman's life is in danger?
S: Right. Its amazing that they can force a woman to have a child regardless of whether or not the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. That a quantitative leap, to pass a law that's so obviously anti-woman. Its similar to the situation in Guam; I think its interesting that they tested this new law out in the colonies. Have you seen the new movie THE HANDMAIDS TALE?
S: Everything that was shown in the movie is in its fetal form today. It exposed What's at stake not only in terms of reproductive rights but also blind patriotism and the rise of religious right, or organizations like AFA (American Family Association) are dictating the moral norms for this country and anything that is incongruent with their beliefs is censored. As interesting thing is how these people have tried to marginalize us when in fact there are numerous organizations that have come out against the flag protection act, including the American Bar Assoication.
H: How did your case come before the Supreme Court?
S: Well, I made a maternity bra out of an American flag, and the reason I fashioned it out of a flag was because Bush had just vetoed a bill allowing the poor and women of color to have federally funded abortions. I had originally intended to stand on a flag as I burned the bra, but while I was on the steps of the capitol building police came and confiscated the maternity bra and took me to a jail that's underneath the capitol...
H: A dungeon!
S: A dungeon. They said they were going to use the bra as evidence against me, but of course they never have. A bomb squad was sent to clear the area creating all kinds of chaos with their fire barricades and fire extinguishers.
H: What did they charge you with?
S: In jail the police were trying to decide what to charge me with, they had even discussed charging me with arson, but they ended up charging me with disorderly conduct and demonstrating without a permit.
H: Sandra Day O'Connor was one of the dissenting votes. How did you feel about that?
S: I'm not surprised at all. She's had a history of being conservative, to put it nicely. She's done some of the major ground work for most of these new abortion laws. It would have been very ironic had one of them changed their vote because it was basically the same case as Texas vs. Johnson. Had they gone the other way, it would have discredited them.
H: Is flag burning a political act?
S: Well, I think its used quite a bit in artistic expression and performance art, but it is undeniably a political act. It's hard to see a flag burning and ignore the message it puts out. And, its not just an American thing, flag burning is an internationally recognized form of protest.