San Rafael artist riled after nude painting removed from Marin Civic Center galleryPosted: 04/12/2011 07:19:16 AM PDTUpdated: 04/12/2011 11:30:05 AM PDT
San Rafael artist Silvia Cossich Goodman is up in arms because her painting of a nude was ejected from a Civic Center art exhibition because it offended a county employee.
“Apparently one person working at the Civic Center is so upset about my nude painting that she went straight to human resources and made a big stir to have my painting removed,” Goodman said, decrying “censorship at the Civic Center.”
Mona Miyasato, chief assistant county administrator, noting that art is in the eye of the beholder, said an employee who was offended complained after the exhibit went up last week “about being accosted by the painting every day in the work environment” because her office was near the first-floor gallery.
Because “employees must not feel we’ve created a hostile work environment,” the artist was asked to pick up the painting, Miyasato said.
In The Life Presents: Censoring Wojnarowicz
In The Life Media looks at the controversy surrounding the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video installation, “A Fire in My Belly,” from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek show at the Smithsonian. The video, which represents the artist’s anger as he faced death from AIDS ignited outrage among conservative lawmakers and religious leaders.
It’s Freedom to Read Week in Canada, an annual event organized by the Freedom of Expression Committee of the Book and Periodical Council, “that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Leslie Cooper Mahaffey
Abstract:The common understanding of the First Amendment is that its purpose is primarily libertarian, serving to protect private citizens’ expression from government censorship. In the modern era, however, the government’s pervasive presence—especially in the role of funder of private activity—has blurred the lines between governmental and private speech. Further, the relatively new, increasingly influential government speech doctrine—which dictates that the government will not be subjected to First Amendment scrutiny when it is engaging in communication—has been the Supreme Court’s guidepost of late when the Court has been confronted with a case involving expression with both private and public elements.
This is an important article addressing the legal issues in my post on Cearta on whether galleries and museums should display offensive art and my two follow-up posterous posts here and here. The wonderful blog, Despatches from the Frontline of Popular Culture, has an excellent post on the
news of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington pulling an exhibit from the Hide/Seek exhibition. Over 18s can watch the video in question, A Fire in my Belly, here. It’s an interesting piece created by the artist David Wojnarowicz in 1987 to mark the death of his lover Peter Hujar, but was removed from the exhibition following pressure from the Catholic League. Religion and sex in art, and especially the ‘same sex’ variety, are often targets for moral outrage and attempts to prohibit. What is particularly interesting here is that it marks another attempt to censor work not by using more traditional avenues such as criminal law, but by the threat of withdrawing funding.
The National Portrait Gallery in Washington is part of the Smithsonian Institution, and, during the week, we learned that the Smithsonian’s governing board called for changes in how potentially objectionable exhibits are handled, while also standing behind the museum head accused of censorship for withdrawing the Wojnarowicz. The Board said it must be prepared to handle museum disputes and guard the freedom of curators against political pressure from Congress or other groups.
The top official of the Smithsonian, G. Wayne Clough, who has been sharply criticized for his decision late last year to remove a video from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, defended that decision in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. He said it was in the interest of protecting the exhibition as a whole, as well as protecting the Smithsonian’s larger educational mission and its ability to make a strong case to Congress for federal support.
He called the decision “painful” and acknowledged that he wished he had taken more time and consulted with more art museum directors within the Smithsonian. But “in the interest of that exhibition and this institution and its legacy and maintaining it in the strongest possible position, I think I made the right decision — in that context,” he said. “I’ll let the art world debate it in another context.”
This is a follow-up to my blogpost Should galleries and museums display offensive art?
Whitewashing the Art World: What’s Behind the Climate of Censorship
The New York Observer’s Alexandra Peers tackles the issues of censorship and silencing that seems to be pervasive in her article, Whitewashing the Art World: What’s Behind the Climate of Censorship.
The art world has a reputation as free-thinking and tolerant, if not overly so. But in recent weeks, there have been several instances, far more than usual, of alleged censorship involving some of the bigger names in the field. What’s going on?
What is going on?
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
By Mark Twain
In 1885, the Concord Public Library in Massachusetts banned the year-old book for its “coarse language” — critics deemed Mark Twain’s use of common vernacular (slang) as demeaning and damaging. A reviewer dubbed it “the veriest trash … more suited to the slums than to intelligent, respectable people.” Little Women author Louisa May Alcott lashed out publicly at Twain, saying, “If Mr. Clemens [Twain’s original name] cannot think of something better to tell our pure-minded lads and lasses he had best stop writing for them.” (That the N word appears more than 200 times throughout the book did not initially cause much controversy.) In 1905, the Brooklyn Public Library in New York followed Concord’s lead, banishing the book from the building’s juvenile section with this explanation: “Huck not only itched but scratched, and that he said sweat when he should have said perspiration.” Twain enthusiastically fired back, and once said of his detractors: “Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.” Luckily for him, the book’s fans would eventually outnumber its critics. “It’s the best book we’ve had,” Ernest Hemingway proclaimed. “All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
The full list of Time’s top 10 censored books is
* The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
* The Catcher in the Rye
* Harry Potter Series
* The Anarchist Cookbook
* I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
* The Satanic Verses
* Brave New World
Robert A. Kahn on “Tragedy, Farce or Legal Mobilization? The Danish Cartoons in Court in France and Canada”
Robert A. Kahn (University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)) has posted “Tragedy, Farce or Legal Mobilization? The Danish Cartoons in Court in France and Canada” on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:
Why would anyone prosecute the Danish Cartoons? Even as North Americans and Europeans debated whether the cartoons should have been commissioned by the Jyllands Posten or republished elsewhere, most agreed that prosecutions were totally out of line in a liberal Western state. And, yet, there were prosecutions in both France and Canada. While each prosecution ultimately failed from a legal perspective, both cases also operated on the level of symbolic politics. Here the results were mixed. While the Muslim groups that sued Charlie Hebdo won a partial victory when a French court conceded that the turban cartoon was, standing alone, offensive to Muslims, the Canadian Human Rights prosecution against Ezra Levant ended with the entire system of human rights proceedings on trial. This paper tells the story of these two cases.