Saturday, April 21, 2007

Viva Che, the comandante of capitalism

One photo has rewritten the legend of a revolutionary, writes David Segal.

JUST look at what they have done to Che. The glowering visage of the Cuban comandante pops up everywhere - in art, on magazine covers and, more blasphemously, on lighters, wallets, coasters, T-shirts, hoodies, key chains, tissue packs, nesting dolls and something called Red Cream Soda.

It's always the same shot - the one in which the man born Ernesto Guevara stares into the middle distance with fiery resolve, military beret perched on his head, leather jacket zipped up to his neck, hair rakishly blown by the wind. Rifle-wielding freedom fighters around the world have revered this image the way Christians revere saints.

But entrepreneurs love it, too. One US company slapped the likeness on an ice-cream treat called Cherry Guevara.

"The revolutionary struggle of the cherries was squashed as they were trapped between two layers of chocolate," reads the copy on the wrapper. "May their memory live on in your mouth."

Cherry Guevara and other examples of what could be called Che abuse are on display at the International Centre of Photography in Manhattan for an exhibition this month titled Che! Revolution and Commerce. It's the story of a photograph and its journey from contact sheet to international ubiquity and into commercial kitsch. Shot by a one-time fashion photographer, Alberto Korda, it might be, say the show's curators, the most reproduced photo in history.

The exhibit works, too, as a lesson in the power of market economies, which can absorb and commodify anything, even their bitter enemies. Today, dozens of websites sell things featuring Korda's Che shot. The likes of and target young people who, one assumes, aren't gearing up for armed insurrection. .....


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This kind of casual posting of soft core pornography on blogs is sexist in the same kind of casual racist and sexist way Don Imus was condemned for. Why is this acceptable and going without comment here and on Politika Erotika? I feel like I've been poked in the eyes.