Lars Vilks is a controversial Swedish artist that I featured way back in August, in an article called Outsider Architecture. The article focused on Vilks’ massive beach structure called Nimis, which he secretly (and illegally) built in the Swedish wilderness over a period of two years. It is remarkable not just because of its size – it’s nine stories tall and made out of 70 tons of driftwood and nails! – but also because of the micronation of Ladonia that Vilks has rallied around his creation.
Back when I first wrote about Vilks, it was solely with regard to this structure. As it turns out, he is also a prominent Swedish artist and cartoonist who has drawn significant media attention over a series of drawings he did in 2007 depicting the prophet Muhammad’s head on a dog’s body. The cartoons were meant to be shown in a small, Swedish art gallery, but the gallery owners refused to display them due to the international controversy caused a year earlier when 12 Danish newspapers published another cartoon depicting Muhammad.
Shortly thereafter, a Swedish newspaper published the cartoons in an editorial defending freedom of expression. Vilks soon began receiving death threats, and was put under state security when al-Qaida placed a $100,000 bounty on his head. He was catapulted back into the news yesterday when 7 people were arrested in Ireland for conspiring to assassinate him, one of whom was an American woman styling herself as “Jihad Jane.”
Today, Sweden’s top three newspapers all published the cartoon in order to highlight the importance of freedom of expression, guaranteed to Swedes under constitutional law.
Vilks now keeps an axe next to his bed, and has installed a safe-room in his house, as well as a barbed wire “sculpture” wired to electrocute intruders. Despite his caution, Vilks remains unapologetic: “I’m actually not interested in offending the prophet. The point is actually to show that you can. There is nothing so holy you can’t offend it.” You can view one of the cartoons on Vilks’ Swedish language website.
More information: Associated Press.