Saturday, March 13, 2010

Causing Trouble in New Jersey

Earlier this year I entered the members show at the Print Council of New Jersey, a wonderful group of artists and programs for printmakers. I entered a show and was accepted last year and so I thought I would join them this year. My piece Contesting Cyprus was chosen for their annual show entitled "Where have we been" or something along those lines.

The other day I received an email from the director saying that one of the venues for the show had deemed my work as "inappropriate," had been removed, and I was expected to make arrangements to come pick up the work. The County of Somerset Cultural & Heritage Commission sent us both letters notifying us of their decision. Hers got their faster since PCNJ is 10 minutes down the road while the time to get the letter to North Dakota took a little longer.

Ive attached a picture of the letter. I've gone back and forth with my emotions between thinking its funny and then being angry, and yet understanding. I don't deny that the piece is controversial. Its meant to be. I understand that the piece taken literally might be offensive...hey its got the F bomb in it. I understand that it might not be appropriate for all venues. I get that. But its what the letter insinuates about me and what that suggests about their utter failure to understand the piece that makes me angry.

"The [SCCHC] will not permit the C&H Gallery to participate as a platform for individual's political protests, promote hate speech or allow the display of obscenities. Your artwork has been removed as inappropriate for this venue."

It is the misguided assumption that these are my particular views rather than my effort to document graffiti as a sign of the many political, religious, and ideological contests marked upon place.

Along with the entry, I was asked to write a small statement on the work. This is what accompanied this particular print.

"The print takes two urban landscape images; first, of the Turkish North and one of the Greek South and placed them next to each other as in a diptych. I then used Photoshop to cut and paste the copious amounts of graffiti that covered most city blocks in both the North and South. The graffiti represents literal plurality of contests marked upon the landscape."

Now, I dont know if this statement was hung with the work or not. If it did not accompany the work, it makes their decision perhaps less offensive to me. Perhaps my current location within the safety of a university has heightened my idealism and I've forgotten to think about the impact that the literal words and statements might have upon and individual or community.

Oh well...Im still putting it on my C.V.