July 31, 2009

Not At This Address Preview

Artists at the show






Pat Flyn & Andrew McDonald

Paulette Brien from International 3 & Alison Erika Forde

Ben Gwilliam & Matt Wand - sound artists who will be performing as part of the sound event of Not At This Address (titled "If Not This") on 4 September


Sarah Sanders (sorry I didnt get shots of everyone in the show)

Poetry Dog Preview

The world's most famous poetry dog, Barney, had a sneak preview of the "Not At This Address" Exhibition, today - pictured with works by Alison Erika Forde.

Report on the human preview to follow...



July 29, 2009

Not At This Address Opening

The next exhibition at Bury Art Gallery opens on Friday at 7.00pm, and is on until 7 November.
The artists featured are Jesse Ash, Brass Art, Maurice Carlin, Alison Erika Forde, Pat Flynn (pictured), Rachel Goodyear, Andrew McDonald, Amy Pennington, Magnus Quaife, Rachel Elwell, Sarah Sanders and Anne Charnock.

July 27, 2009

Rupert Bear returned

Is this where my interest in sculpture came from?

http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/Rupert-Bear-returned--thanks.5331220.jp


Story a few months late, but a family amusement...

July 26, 2009

Helsinki

A couple of days now in Helsinki. Sue and I went to Kiasma http://www.kiasma.fi/index.php?L=1&id=2028&FL=1 – certainly unusual spaces featuring a couple of shows: Tracing Tracks and (Un)Naturally. The former sounded uncannily serendipitous given my interests and was worth seeing in the main though overall a little variable. The Smudge and Barcode sections of the show were strongest; in the first, Riiko Sakkinen’s wall of politically charged cartoon-advertisement was a good piece, though the simplest element a framed sheet paper with a hand-written list of “My Favourite Banks” was the most powerful. http://www.riikosakkinen.com/. In the Barcode section, Juha Van Ingen’s ‘ecuador’ http://www.juhavaningen.com/pages/ecuador.html dominated the space. The Imprint section was curatorially a little bit muddy. Three great slashed canvases by Lucio Fontana stood out and a short video work called ‘Foam’ by Adel Abidin from Iraq http://www.adelabidin.com/

The (Un)Naturally show investigated male representations and the ambiguities about maleness – not much noteworthy in it, except for one piece, which although relatively innocent, featured a pre-pubescent girl with a puppy so raised the question as to whether the show would have been previewed by the Police in the UK.

We found Helsinki market the highpoint of the city, http://www.wanhakauppahalli.com/index.html
the quality of being there and the subsequent food purchases demanding lots of picnicking. Other than that, while I know friends who eulogise about it, the most I can say about the City is I don’t hate it.

July 25, 2009

Saari

Back in Helsinki from Saari. Unfortunately I forgot the camera lead so I can’t up load any photos, but Geof Huth has been blogging extensively what it is like. I arrived on Thursday and went virtually straight into my talk. I mainly surveyed the last two Text Festivals and compared text works that I had seen at the Basel Art Fair shows and the disappointing ICA show. I also responded to the question that has been bouncing around the workshop (according to the blogs) which is “What is the difference between a vispo and a graphic designer?” it seems to me that this is the wrong question, instead I asked “What is the difference between a vispo and a visual artist?” Generally it was felt that the answer to both questions is the same – poets don’t get paid. Christian Bök’s line was most interesting - that the reason why poetry can’t compete in artistic status is economic – the price of failure in poetry is so low as opposed to the 'capital investment' of say visual arts. In addition, unlike most other artforms, it isn’t possible for poetry to support the infrastructure of auxiliary business, ie there isn’t enough money in it to allow agents, gallerists, publishers, etc, to make profit from its re-sale. However, the distinction between the two questions is actually one of self-esteem. There are obvious stylistic and technical similarities between some vispo and some graphic design practice but implicit in the relation to graphics is the lack of connection between vispo and visual art. This is the vispo problem.

After my talk, Leevi Lehto talked (see Geof’s blog) and we had a dinner of fabulous Finnish smoked salmon with potatos, vegetables and a salad expertly dressed by Mr. Bök. The rest of the evening was great conversation and beer. All being well, Christian will be doing a project in the next Text Festival.

http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bok/

July 21, 2009

Helsinki and beyond

Off to Helsinki, then on to the Saari residency http://www.koneensaatio.fi/en/manor/

Geof Huth is already there, and has been blogging the goings on all week. See
http://dbqp.blogspot.com/ Presumably, I will be able to blog it too.

July 20, 2009

A Brief Conversation on Curating

With words from Hans Ulrich Obrist (Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery), Pontus Hultén (Museum Director), Johannes Cladders (Director, Abteiberg Museum), Jean Leering (Director, Van Abbemuseum), Werner Hofmann (Director, Hamburger Kunsthalle), Harald Szeeman (Maker of Exhibitions), Seth Siegelaub (art dealer, publisher & exhibition organiser), Anne D’harnoncourt (Director, Philadelphia Museum of Art), Lucy Lippard (Art Critic/Theorist)

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: I was wondering what acted as triggers for you, who were your role models in terms of curatorial pioneers, what were the influences for you when you started?

TONY TREHY: My strongest influence was actually the spatial thinking of Mikhail Tal, the Latvian Chess genius. I used to play competitively – and to study Tal’s games is to enter a world of staggering multi-dimensionality. For this reason, it surprises me that the artworld doesn’t make more of Duchamp’s Chess games. It is really significant that he gave up art for ten years to play chess. L'Opposition et les cases conjuguees sont reconciliees is a major conceptual work. The biggest influence on my curating was an artist: Ulrich Rückriem. I started working with him in 1997, commissioning a massive outdoor installation in Radcliffe, but over time I travelled to various galleries to visit him and saw works in his studio – it’s no coincidence I think that many of his installations are based on solutions to the Queen’s Problem in Chess/Mathematics. As well as his fine-grained insight about spatial relationships, I learned vital things about how to handle details and also his rejection of interpretation.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: Can you tell me which are your favourite museums?

ANNE D’HARNONCOURT: I think Menil is certainly one of them, it has a very beautiful building that reflects not only, obviously, the talent of Renzo Piano, but also what Dominique de Menil really wanted which was to give people contemplation of space.

TONY TREHY: For me too, it’s how the space works rather than necessarily programmes or collections; I really like the Schaulager in Basel; I have a fondness for the Bonnkunstmuseum – but that might be because the first time I saw it was through a fabulous installation, again by Rückriem. I also like K21 spaces in Düsseldorf.

ANNE D’HARNONCOURT: Speaking of architecture, there’s the Sir John Soane’s museum in London, to go into the past a bit.

TONY TREHY: Yes, I have only recently been introduced to the Soane by the poet Carol Watts. As well as the sense that the museum is his labyrinthine mind, there is also a subtle thing that happens before you go in – because it’s quite a tight space, they have limited number of visitors inside at any one time, so you have to wait in line on the pavement outside – completely different than say the cattle queuing to get in the Louvre. This gives you the sense of anticipation of a special experience.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: Interestingly I think that it happens more in smaller models of museums. I think that in some ways museums risk becoming too successful and have entered a vicious circle, always wanting to attract larger audiences. They have become victims of their own success. Sometimes I wish that there would be small houses again, models like Johannes Cladders’ project before he founded the Städtisches Museum in Mönchengladbach. And I think that Cladders was more interesting there than in a big museum. Somehow he himself realised this, resigning as soon as the big museum was built.

TONY TREHY: Marianne Eigenheer and I are developing ideas at the moment around the very question of how small European museums can function in the current situation.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: Alexander Dorner, director of the Landesmuseum, Hannover, from 1921-1936, said that museums should be Kraftwerke, dynamic powerhouses, capable of spontaneous change.

PONTUS HULTÉN: A museum director’s task is to create a public – not just to do great shows, but to create an audience that trusts the institution. People don’t come just because it’s Robert Rauschenberg, but because what’s in the museum is usually interesting. But you can’t fool around with quality. If you do things for the sake of convenience, or because you’re forced to do something you don’t agree with, you’ve got to make the public believe in you over again. You can show something weak once in a while, but not often…

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: The problem is that increasingly art institutions are detached from the artists.

JOHANNES CLADDERS: So it is. Institutions have become disconnected from artists. They celebrate themselves and their patrons…

TONY TREHY: and State control…

JOHANNES CLADDERS: …Their prime function, transforming a work into a work of art, has become obsolete. The institution confirms its own identity as an institution, and thus the question of the number of visitors plays an increasingly important role.

TONY TREHY: The accountancy nonsense of performance indicators…

JOHANNES CLADDERS: What is this all about? The quality of a work cannot be measured by the quantity of people that visit an institution. I want works that most visitors would not consider works of art, in an architectural context that makes people discuss them culturally – even if one possible result is that such works do not satisfy every individual need.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: This would be the primary function of a museum?

JOHANNES CLADDERS: Yes, the primary idea of a museum, but supported by the elements of its construction. The museum is a non-verbal mediating system. The question of points of view or the democratization (meaning: the viewer has to decide for him/herself), all belong to this mediation system.

TONY TREHY: and there in lays a problem – increasingly in the UK at least, the mediating system is being overlaid with verbal imperatives that very specifically decide for the viewer.

SETH SIEGELAUB: But isn’t this one of the more important functions of museums, to kill things, to finish them off, to give them the authority, and thus distance them from people by taking them out of their real everyday context? Even over and above the will of the actors involved within any given museum, I think the structure of museums tend toward this kind of activity: historicisation. It is sort of cemetery for art – I think I must have heard this somewhere – the heaven for dead useless objects.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: Both Sandberg and Dorner defended the idea of the museum as a laboratory. Johannes Cladders also insisted on this idea of the museum as a space in which one should take risks, a space that should be used as a means to build bridges between various disciplines. Do you also find this idea of the museum as relevant?

TONY TREHY: more than relevant: it has to be immanent. It seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of historic moment is that ideas are interchanging between artforms; artists, musicians, poets, philosophers are talking to each other. I think that this influencing is important to you too, Hans. The Text Festival concept is an attempt to draw out the connections and dialogues between innovative poetics and language in the conceptual tradition used in contemporary art.

JOHANNES CLADDERS: I have always believed that it is the artist who creates a work, but a society that turns it into a work of art, an idea that is already in Duchamp and a lot of other places. In most cases, museums have failed to see the consequences of this notion. I have always considered myself to be a ‘co-producer’ of art... in the sense of participating as a museum – as a mediating institution – in the process that transforms a work into a work of art. So it was always clear to me that I did not need to do anything for works already declared art by common consent. Instead, I was interested in those that had not found that consent and so that were still works, not works of art.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: How do you understand the notion of the museum now? How do you see the future of the museum? Are you optimistic?

JEAN LEERING: The future is a big question mark. Things have regressed since the mid-1970s.

JOHANNES CLADDERS: Nowadays, museums go to enormous lengths to get publicity, something that just was not necessary in the past. Scandal went with every new exhibition, which is inconceivable today. Today, many people are trying to profit from these early successes by saying, “We have to do this, too.” So now – and here I am exaggerating – we have a museum of contemporary art in every town and village. The available material gets quickly used up unless you want exhibit every local artist. Whoever is of interest at the moment will be approached by 25 institutions. Previously, the same artist would have been simultaneously asked by three, at best.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: Despite the current increase in information about art via the Internet and other media, knowledge still depends a lot on meeting people. I see exhibitions as a result of dialogues, where the curator functions in the ideal case as a catalyst.

HARALD SZEEMAN: The problem is that information can be retrieved via the internet, but you have to go to the site in question in order to see if there is something behind it, whether the material has enough presence to survive. The best work is always the least reproducible. So you speed from one studio to the next, from one original to another, hoping that some day it will all come together in an organism called an exhibition.

TONY TREHY: It may be more than the ‘problem’ of a contemporary art museum in very town and the “25 institutions” chasing whoever is of interest at the moment. In the poetry world for instance Ron Silliman has demonstrated that the massive increase in living poets as compared to past times creates a ‘background noise’ which covers up whoever is actually of interest. The “25 institutions” phenomenon is one of herding. There is a strange dichotomy whereby the arts are always interested in the ‘new’, the latest fine young thing, but much of such work is paper-thin. In a way Johannes’ comment about the time when there were only 3 galleries taking the risks, programming what was actually important, is still possible.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: As Marcel Broodthaers said, “Every exhibition is one possibility surrounded by many other possibilities which are worth being explored.”

SETH SIEGELAUB: True enough. That is the one way I look upon my way of organising exhibitions projects – so many different ways, different possibilities, different aspects, of investigating the production of exhibitions. You have to try to understand all of these decisions that create the context of the art experience, both for looking at it, but also making it, as the ‘consumers’ are also the ‘producers’.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: And how would you then define the role of the curator? John Cage said that curating should be ‘a utility’; then when I spoke to Walter Hoops be was quoting Duchamp – a curator shouldn’t stand in the way. Félix Fénéon said the curator should be a pedestrian bridge. What would be your definition of the curator?

ANNE D’HARNONCOURT: I think the curator is someone who makes connections between art and the public. I see curators as enablers, if you will, as people who are crazy about art and they want to share their being crazy about art with other people. But I think they also have to be very careful not to impose their own reactions too much, their own prejudices, on other people. And that’s hard because on the other hand you can only be yourself: you can only see the work that you see with the eyes that you have. I think of curators as opening people’s eyes to the pleasure of art, to the strength of art, to the subversiveness of art, whatever it is.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: That’s a great definition…

TONY TREHY: No it’s not; it’s a form of curatorial liberalism. My definition is that curators are Glass Bead Game players (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_Bead_Game) - this is why Chess resonates so directly with art. Duchamp wrote: “One intriguing aspect of the game that does imply artistic connotations is the geometrical patterns and variations of the actual set up of the pieces in the combinative, tactical, strategical and positional sense. It is a sad means of expression though - somewhat like religious art- it is not very gay. If anything, it is a struggle.” He was talking about Chess but it interchanges to curating. Curators are a composite: part scientist, part architect, part music composer – maybe part poet.

HANS ULRICH OBRIST: What is interesting in relation to that is for me also the question of display feature. In a long interview I carried out with Richard Hamilton last year, he went as far as to say that only exhibitions which invented a display feature would actually be remembered – the display feature obviously being very related to Duchamp’s inventions. I was wondering what role the display feature would play for you, and how you see that whole idea in relation to architecture.

ANNE D’HARNONCOURT: I think we remember art in many ways; one we certainly remember is individual encounters with works of art that are like a thunderclap. We suddenly find ourselves in front of something, whatever it is, and we are mesmerized and can’t forget it. And it is not an issue of the display feature, usually, that you are talking about. It is an encounter and that can happen anywhere; it can happen in an exhibition that is so badly installed, or in a museum in a dusty corners.

TONY TREHY: In a sense though, that is a statement of the obvious – the power of an artwork is the work of the artist. As you say, a great work can shine through even an insensitive installation; I am with Richard Hamilton on this one. I think it is the curator’s challenge for each show to invent what he calls the display feature.


http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hans-Ulrich-Obrist-Curating-Documents/dp/390582955X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1248116307&sr=8-1

July 18, 2009

Annual Check Up


The Barnster is such a happy chap that his tail continues to wag as the vet injects him.

July 14, 2009

The Poetry Trap

When a flagship piece of architecture opens a little test of aesthetic integrity is to look at the back stairs. It's around there that any flaw in design integrity is obvious (if it isn't already clear because it is a crap building). One of Buckminster Fuller's criticisms of the Bauhaus was that its designers never looked at looked at plumbing or drainage.
There is an analogy for the uses and abuses of poetry in visual arts contexts. I will talk more about this in future blogs and it is one of the issues I will be considering at the Saari Residency in Finland next week. Basically, it is a generally observable phenomenon that when curators and museum directors open there fabulous new buildings or refurbishments; after they have thought of the wine and cheese, the next accessory on the list is a poet, an opening poem, a poem read. But the overwhelming evidence suggests that their knowledge of this other field, of contemporary poetry is non-existent. So they cast around and choose either someone they have heard of or someone local. In the UK at least they means a bad poet. This is the logic that trots Simon Armitage out at every opportunity at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It is the logic that has Manchester International Festival add the poetry after-thought of Lemn Sissay and Jackie Kay as the featured poets.
http://www.mif.co.uk/events/true-faith/
The way to look at the way poetry features in the visual arts is this: Imagine that contemporary art was the peripheral artform and Poetry was the cultural driver with massive Tate Modern style palaces of consumption and inflated markets for the each emerging poetic talent. And the poetry directors then decide it would be nice to have an artist to 'do something' at one of their openings. In this analogy, they would be choosing the equivalent of watercolourists.
Continuing this dismal feeling, today I had the desperate experience of looking for a poetry book for Phil Davenport's birthday present. You could lose your will to live in the poetry section of Waterstones. To make this even worse, I then strolled into the Manchester Book Fair http://www.literaturenorthwest.co.uk/news/160 - I had seen an email announcement that the event featured some of the North West's leading poets, which was intriguing as I had not heard of any of them.

As I arrived there were a couple of Rapper's intoning a poem called "Same Old Shit" which primarily suggested that everything was the same old shit. It would be unseemly of me to say anything about this. Then a chap came on and read a poem with the immortal line "Conversation so dull it could bore the breasts off womankind". This and the same old shit seemed to sum it all up. A couple of others read but I was thankfully walking away, with a question in my mind that recurs on occasion. Maybe someone out there could help me: When honey bees sting their venom sac is fatally ripped out of their bodies. It has always struck me that this is horrifying metaphor that I must use in a poem one day, the notion of having your innards ripped out in sacrificial death. I thought there would be a scientific term for it, but can't find one. Does anyone know? As I walked away from the Book Fair, I imagined the sting being ripped out slowly.

July 12, 2009

Zombie Parade

An unexpected and very large procession of Zombies has just walked passed the flat. It was at least as entertaining as Deller's considerably more expensive International Festival Procession. A quick search reveals that this happens all over the world -

July 10, 2009

H1N1 v H5N1


This may seem off my usual topics but anyone who has any time trapped in a lift with me will know that my secret obsession is flu pandemic planning. This interest started surprisingly due to art history: as a youth studying, it was a source of fascination that the career of the Austrian Expressionist Painter Egon Schiele was cut short by the 1918 flu pandemic. William Carlos Williams talks about the experience of being a doctor at the time in his excellent autobiography. Anyway, at the time I was also studying history and it seemed bizarre that an event that had killed more people than the first world war was never mentioned. So over the years I have taken an interest in the story of the virus and the ongoing epidemiological research. Some years ago the science consensus was that another pandemic was inevitable - though not mentioned publicly, the UK government are planning for up to 600,000 deaths. In Scotland plans are in place for inflatable temporary morgues to be sited in parks to deal with the bodies. I bought my supply of Tamiflu a few years ago. The general expectation was that the next pandemic would be the Bird Flu H5N1 virus. (Flu is a relatively simple virus; the H and N are molecules on its outer shell with the numbers indicating the particular configuration of the mutation). So the Swine Flu outbreak was something of a surprise - though the World Health Organisation response was implementation of the plans put in place for the Bird Flu. The mortality figures are rising slowly but not in the apocalyptic way predicted. If this is the deadly hit, then it could be following the same pattern as 1918. The disease hits in a mild form in the spring then mutates over the summer to kill millions in the coming winter. If this is the case, there is a theory that while risky to certain groups it is advisable to catch it now so you are immune when it mutates. People who caught the first wave in 1918 were much more likely to survive the killer wave. While whatever happens we are in a much better position than they were in 1918, I incline towards the school of thought that it H5N1 will still prove to be more scary than H1N1. In the spirit of preparedness and maybe helping you stay alive, I'd recommend you keep an eye on http://crofsblogs.typepad.com/h5n1/ which is an excellent source of news on H1N1 and H5N1.

July 06, 2009

Flailing Trees


Aside from Jeremy Deller's entertaining Procession on Sunday, Manchester International Festival's only effort at public art is Gustav Metzger's Flailing Trees.

http://www.mif.co.uk/events/flailing-trees/

According to the festival brochure "Walking or driving the same streets every day, many of us take our surroundings for granted." I wonder, does that mean anything? Anyway, Gustav Metzger "challenges this sense of security with Flailing Trees, an arresting and poignant new piece of public art that will stand in the Manchester Peace Garden for the duration of the Festival." I don't quite get this: usually taking things for granted is taken as a criticism of complacency, but apparently 'many of us' are guilty of a sense of security - I am not so sure that the absence of anxiety is a bad thing. As you can see from the picture, Flailing Trees comprises 21 willows inverted in a concrete block, "a subversion of the natural order that brings nature and the environment into sharp focus. With flourishing branches replaced by dying roots, the sculpture is both a plea for reflection and a plaintive cry for change, and is sure to provide a catalyst for debate." At the launch event, it was contextualised with the notion that cities are by definition brutal to the environmental and Manchester in particular is a city with few green open spaces and trees. So engaging with the debate: the piece is not arresting, as far as I observed no-one stopped to look at it. Although I have seen at least two other artworks featuring upside down trees so it is not particularly original, taking it on its own terms, even if I was a soft headed eco-romantic, any capacity to poignance is undermined by the clumsiness of the concrete plinth; it's dying roots are not a plea for reflection because they are dead; reflection is much more likely if the observer leaves this behind and sits in the Peace Garden itself; and aesthetically how is simplistic symbolism subversive?

July 04, 2009

Zaha Hadid, Piotr Anderszewski, JS Bach


Zaha Hadid: "The Aim: to create a near-perfect environment for the audience to experience some of the world's most beautiful chamber music." Putting the strangeness of aiming for near perfection rather than actual perfection down as clumsy copy in the publicity, this ambition was repeated by the Festival Director at the launch event; with such pronouncements, you make the claim you get measured by it. Comparing a real photograph with the image on the MIF website http://www.mif.co.uk/events/js-bach-zaha-hadid/ there is a bit of disconnect between computer generation and real construction. There is a lack of drama in entering the environment because you come in from the side and the views that are included in publicity are actually impossible because the construct is packed into a gallery space. The impression you get when you sit down is you are in a cross between sets from Star Trek Next Generation and the 1967 Casino Royale movie. Sue pointed out that there is a reason why it was called chamber music and why chambers tend to be carpeted with upholstered furniture is accoustics. The Hadid form doesn't soften the hollow accoustics of a gallery, and without enough height in the room the sound was oddly harsh and deadened at the same time. This was supplemented with a continuous hum from the air conditioning and ever un-muffled fidget of the audience. For the 'sweeping' form itself, the realities of construction made it more like kite or carnival modelling. With the best will in the world, the computer just couldn't make angles slide into curves, and some of the detailing is very clumsy (pictured).

When Bach was played in the space, an aesthetic problem reared up: "...carving out a spatial and visual response to the intricate relationships of Bach's musical harmonies": sadly not. Juxtaposed with the Baroque master, the environment makes you think that the structure is the visual response to something more superficially romantic, Elgar maybe.

Piotr Anderszewski: his interpretation and his playing of two Partitas and the English Suite were imbalanced. In interpretation, he seemed to be driven by musical detail so that larger ideas in the works drifted in and out, sometimes disappearing altogether. In his playing his right hand is much stronger than his left so it had the feel of a stereo where one of the speakers is losing power.

July 01, 2009

Currents of Time


A show well worth seeing in London is Currents of Time: Zineb Sedira’s 3 works at 2 Rivington Place. Rivington Place is worth a look being designed by David Adjaye. http://www.iniva.org/events/2007/david_adjaye

I managed to catch Hans Ulrich Obrist's conversation with her last week. He is really very impressive at getting an artist to relax and talk freely about their work in front of an andience. The high point of the installation is the newest part of the triptych, Floating Coffins, filmed on the coastline of Mauritania, where the world's shipping is beached and broken up. Although Sedira draws parallels through this with another of the region's characteristics - the harbour city of Nouadhibou, which has become a point of departure for African migrants trying to reach Europe, the complex arrangement of 14 screens with layered sound compiled by Mikhail Karikis, was remarkable artistically (the photo can't give you the effect obviously), and strongly reminiscent of the coast scenes in Alain Robbe-Grillet's novel "The Voyeur" in the way it made the moment of the experience of standing on the coast and at the same time in the gallery tangibly present.

"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.

MARIE-LAURE BERNADAC, HENRY-CLAUDE COUSSEAU, STEPHANIE MOISDON
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.)