Reflections On Censorship Of Queer Art in London
Today I have asked gay male artist Jason Woodson and queer designer and lesbian Jan Morley for their reaction to the censorship of their queer artworks at GFEST 2010 visual arts exhibition at InterChange Studios, Hampstead Town Hall in London.
‘I take some solace in the fact that even the lofty Smithsonian removed a Wojnarowicz piece from their recent Hide/Seek exhibition as my particular piece is based on an earlier work by the same artist, called Untitled (This Kid). I am still flummoxed by the venue’s decision on my piece however. If their intent was not to offend parents with children of three or four, I cannot see what they were concerned about in my piece. It consists of a 400 word essay that would be beyond the reading level of any preschool aged child. And if it wasn’t the text, then what was so offensive about a rainbow coloured boy? I can only assume that it was not about protecting small impressionable children, but some kind of knee-jerk reaction in the venue’s board of management and the child protection officer who decided which works were suitable to be seen by the public. It is very hard not to classify this as an act of homophobia, as the venue thought it necessary to have a child protection officer involved in the process of post selection. It reinforces the idea that all LGBT people are somehow innately dangerous.
We are living in climate where our young people are killing themselves rather continue living in a world that seems to neither tolerate them or accept them. We had a chance with this exhibition to address that audience and instead of telling them that it gets better, we were handed a gag and willingly put it in our mouths’.
Photo above right: Untitled (ThisKid) by Jason Woodson.
Photo below: Jan Morley and her mug at the GFEST 2010 queer art exhibition
‘Partly I wonder if some of it is due to censorship of nudity – I have this said to me a lot at Gay Pride events by Gay parents – that my artwork is not acceptable for their children and certainly the C word is not acceptable anywhere.
I find I get this sort of reaction a lot – especially around naked bodies. It seems to me that if people were more open about appreciating nakedness and having discussions about it then we would not get this kind of knee-jerk response. I am absolutely horrified that Jason’s piece was also covered up – what was offensive about it? My mug has different words for Vagina on it – including the word cunt – which is the whole point of the work in that I am trying to reclaim a perfectly good word that for some reason ( I have my suspicions why) is so offensive that it can’t be said on the BBC! Computer games are widely sold to youngsters depicting horrific violence and killing but show images of a naked body or images celebrating a LGBT theme and they are censored!
I fail to see what anyone could find offensive about any of the art and covering it in paper and masking tape is pathetic and sad and sends out a very strong message to any young people seeing it. Is it because it is LGBT art that it is so morally corrupting? Is it because there were naked bodies on display? Is it because there was the word cunt on a mug? We need answers’.
The Hampstead Town Hall will not answer any questions concerning the cencorship/ covering. Niranjan Karmatkar, GFEST, says: ‘We still do not know why it was thought necessary to cover for (their) sensitive audience members and their board has not responded despite our reminders’.