July 01, 2009

"Presumed Innocents", the trial: 10 years later

(news via e-flux)
Bordeaux Judge Reopens Decade-Old Child-Porn Charge Against Curators Marie-Laure Bernadac, Henry-Claude Cousseau, and Stéphanie Moisdon.

Indicted at the end of 2006 , after six years of investigations, long period during which no element was produced that could have fed the prosecution (the specialized unit for minors and the rectorship gave a favourable opinion) and after the attorney general of Bordeaux called for a not guilty decision in march 2008 the trial judge Jean-Louis Crozier has just decided to refer before the magistrate's court Marie-Laure Bernadac, Henry-Claude Cousseau, and Stéphanie Moisdon, for having, within the exhibition entitled "presumed innocent- contemporary art and childhood " organized 2000 in the CAPC contemporary museum of art in Bordeaux exposed " violent and pornographic art works "*.

With this decision—which, in an extremely unusual move, disregards the conclusions of a Parquet investigation—the entire national and international artistic and professional community, together with the cultural image of France, have come under attack and stand accused, offended.

For the first time in France, two museum directors and a curator are to be tried in a criminal court for exhibiting works of art that have already been shown throughout the world or put on view since the Bordeaux exhibition in art shows that have not elicited the least unfavorable reaction from the public. The thinking that went into preparing the incriminated exhibition, focused on a major subject of art history, was developed collectively and was shared by the relevant state oversight authorities.

This court case from an earlier century, fiercely, relentlessly prosecuted by a single judge in contempt of artistic creation and individuals' right to accede freely to all forms of art, is indicative of a dangerous obscurantist attitude. The trial will take place in Bordeaux under pressure from a local child protection association named La Mouette, in turn supported by an extremist press that has already been found guilty of libel against one of the accused.

How is it possible that what is considered viewable and acceptable everywhere else should not be so in Bordeaux? What will be put on trial in the Bordeaux magistrates' court a few months from now is the work and personal and professional conviction of three figures of the world of art and culture unanimously recognized for their commitment to that world. They have already received thousands of messages of support from all horizons.

This attempt to "criminalize" artists and other actors for their creative work, together with the cultural sites that diffuse that work, requires us to be extremely vigilant about censorship of this kind, whose perpetrators are ever ready to use noble causes such as child protection to authoritarian, liberticidal ends.

including works by Christian Boltanski, Gary Gross, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elke Krystufek, Carsten Höller, Annette Messager, Ugo Rondinone…..

(Marlene Dumas, included in the exhibition,with one of her "obscenities." Photograph: Martin Godwin.)

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