I first heard about the Parks Department closing down of the Plan B show of Brooklyn College MFA students from bloggy. I desperately searched for the email address of Julius Spiegel, the Brooklyn Borough Parks Commissioner (to no avail) so that I could send an email about how shockingly disappointing (paraphrase) this action is. I have since been following the goings on at the blog by the students involved, Plan C(ensored). Turns out I should have just gone straight to the top and written an email to Mayor Bloomberg.
This whole debacle has been shameful. The exhibit was closed due to some criticism regarding the display of some sexually explicit artwork in a public forum. What puritanism. This reminds me a little too much of the debate regarding the Drawing Center as part of the new WTC complex. It was argued that they shouldn't be a part of the complex because they hosted politically challenging and controversial shows. All of this stinks of the belief that those who question their government are not patriotic. It is all the culture of keeping quiet about everything, don't question those in power, and let's not talk openly about politics, gender, race and sexuality. This is the beginning of the downfall of culture.
Turns out that now the very people who should be protecting the student's freedom of speech (the administration) have been sleazy and sneaky - removing the work without notice and canceling a meeting with the provost, thereby silencing them. The good news is that the faculty council just voted to support the student's right to freedom of expression. I don't know if they can get the work back into the War Memorial at this point, and there's no turning this thing around, but I hope that people start to realize how important our civil liberties are.
Here's my email to Bloomie:
During a national crises of erosion of civil liberties, it is shocking that New York city - a world cultural center - should take part in squashing freedom of expression. In a move similar to the removal of the Drawing Center from the WTC complex, you have chosen once again to side with those who would rather not open their eyes and ears to conflicting or controversial ideas. I am ashamed to think that the Mayor of such a proud and diverse city would take a stand against artists wishing to explore the various facets of our modern culture - including politics, sexuality, race and gender. Please reconsider your decisions and remember that a patriot, one who really loves their country, is one who is willing to stand up to those in power and question them, and the power of the intellect is in being able to question that which is taken as a common belief or knowledge. How can we learn if we don't ask questions, spark discussions or provide a catalyst for controversy.
This has been a true example of trickle down politics... the good news is, remember how the attempts to close down 'Sensation' at the Brooklyn Museum by Giuliani increased interest in the show massively - they do say any press is good press.
And what is going to happen to the scheduled talk for the show:
Brooklyn College MFA Presents Thesis Exhibition 'Plan B' Panel Discussion: Questions Role of MFA in Today's Hyper Market-Driven Art World will feature such notable speakers as Walter Robinson, Editor-in-Chief of Artnet Magazine, Irena Popiashvili, Newman Popiashvili Gallery, and more at The Brooklyn College Art Gallery, located near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge in downtown Brooklyn, 195 Cadman Plaza West, located betw Clark & Middagh StreetsAnd why have some of those speakers not spoken out?
UPDATE: As some of you may or may not know I tend to be quick to react to things, without neccessarily fully thinking that out. Edward_ Winkleman is exactly the opposite. He has a studied and carefully thought through reaction to the fiasco. Only I don't entirely agree with it. I do agree that the bulk of the blame has to rest squarely on the shoulders of those at the school who agreed to the rules about showing in this space (only showing family friendly works), and then not following up on these with the students or managing things well before and after the fact. BUT, I have a really big problem with there being rules on what can and cannot be shown to begin with. This is a show coming out of a university, the most sacred place of questioning and controversial thought. These rules should not have been put there (by the Park & Rec department), and the Bloomberg administration should not be standing behind them.
UPDATE: James Wagner has posted a wonderful editorial from the Riverdale Press regarding the ongoing BC events.
Other blogs and stories on the Plan B show: James Wagner, Barry Hogard, Newsday, NY Times, Crains, SeeArtMarket, NY Arts, NYC IndyMedia, Eyebeam, Metro, Edward_ Winkleman