The Raft of George W. Bush (2006) Joel-Peter Witkin

There are many parallels to the Raft of the Medusa and the Presidency of George W. Bush. The Captain of the Medusa was an incompetent, a nobleman who owed his appointment to the ministerial favor and not seamanship. George W. Bush is also incompetent, a rich man's son who gained the presidency through favor and deceit, rather than statesmanship. As politician and president, he is a demagogue, a leader who make use of popular prejudices, false claims and promises in order to gain and hold power. Both these men, the captain of the Medusa, Hugnes de Chaumareges and George W. Bush are murderers. The making of the Raft of the Medusa was the result of the "the Captain and many of his senior officers who, caring only for their own safety, brutally commandeered the seaworthy life boats, leaving it to the lower ranks and the soldiers to try their luck on a raft." The abandoned people left on the ship built a raft sixty five feet in length and twenty-eight feet wide out of the masts and beams, crudely lashed together before the Medusa sank.

One hundred and fifty people, including one woman, were herded into the slippery beams. So closely were the people huddled together that it was impossible to move a single step. Mutiny, murder, cannibalism and madness followed. After fifteen days, only fifteen survived.

The people on the Medusa were victims of class struggle. The people on the Raft of George Bush-his party and regime-are the victims of their own rationale, their conservative elitism, their hunger for political and social power and their unilateral military ambitions. It took a very sick group of people to dream up a phony war from the tragedy of 9/11, against a country which had nothing to do with 9/11.

In my photograph, I want to show the leaders of this regime as royalty without clothes. As the fools they really are.

The president is seen wearing a McDonalds gold paper crown. His despair is the result of a mind distorted by extremism. By the lies, torture, pain and death he has caused. He is the Lear of all inept politicians. He holds the naked body of "Condi Rice". She is his ideal black woman. His brain-dead muse. Secretary of Defense "Rummy" lies face down nearby, holding his glasses, wrapped in a flag of the nation. Former Secretary of State Powell is pictured dressed only in military epaulets holding the "proof" he presented at the United Nations for justification for the war against Iraq. The vice-president and his wife are shown as an operatic star and diva straining to proselytize their doctrines in song. Barbara Bush is tied to a mast. She holds a
sun-reflector under her chin-representing her joy in basking in the sunlight of power yet always looking like "The Quaker Oats Man". Near her is a conservative minister trying to hang himself while a sailor performs fellatio on him. Finally, an African American waves the flag of his mother country as he sights the Medusa's survivors, a Chinese junk and a Space Ship.

Joel-Peter Witkin