News and More from the Art Alumni Group University of California, Berkeley


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Censorship in the Arts:
A Trend or Just a Passing Fad
Panel Discussion

Saturday, February 26, 2:30pm

at the Performance Art Institute

Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.

Saturday, February 26, 2011, 2:30 p.m.
Performance Art Institute
575 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

A program of two sessions, two moderators and seven panelists.

The Performance Art Institute in partnership with the First Amendment Project is proud to present Censorship in the Arts: A Trend or Just a Passing Fad, a public forum. Please join our panelists in a discussion about the rise of censorship and the renewed threats to abolish funding to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

The urgency to engage the public in a debate about censorship started in earnest with the controversy surrounding the removal of the video, A Fire in My Belly from the Smithsonian's Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The interest in freedom of speech and expression has spread and intensified beyond our shores in the wake of WikiLeaks, the house arrest and studio demolition of the Ai Wei Wei, and the spread of revolutionary fever sweeping the Middle East.

The forum sponsored by PAI and FAP is designed to delve into these concerns, inform the public about the recent censoring activities and address the threats that call for the termination of the NEA. Late January, 165 conservative members of Congress representing the Republican Study Committee called for termination of the NEA. When a similar battle was fought, the NEA's budget was cut by 39% and led to the end of awarding grants to individual artists.

The moderators will steer the debates in their respective sessions towards an exploration of issues that stem from the Smithsonian caving in to political pressure and discuss questions such as "What is the underlying objection to A Fire in my Belly? "Are we on the verge of seeing the comeback of culture wars in this country? Are museums appropriate forums for engaging in civic debates? Do curators and artists have an obligation to test the limits of fundamental civil liberties? What effects does self-censorship have on museum integrity? Is self-censorship ever justified? How resilient is the First Amendment? How did the First Amendment fare in the past? What encouragement do we draw from past landmark cases involving the First Amendment (Ulysses, Tropic of Cancer, Howl and more)? How real are the threats of eliminating the NEA, NEH, and PBS? What lessons can we draw from the Robert Mapplethorpe controversy and the uproar over NEA funding in 1989? And what about censorship in China? Why should we be concerned?

These are serious questions and disturbing trends that have a chilling effect throughout the art community in the Bay Area and beyond and; thus, require our engagement. This event is free and open to the public.

The slate of the two panels includes:

Ray Beldner, conceptual artist

Allan deSouza, artist and Associate Professor, Chair of New Genres at San Francisco Art Institute, who co-created an installation with Yong Song Min for the 2008 Guangzhou Triennale, which was subsequently censored by the museum with no explanation given.

Kenneth Foster, Executive Director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

David Greene, Executive Director of the First Amendment Project and professor of constitutional law at University of San Francisco

Art Hazelwood, artist, impresario and instigator, who integrates his art practice with curating and political activism

Justin Hoover, Curator and Gallery Director, SOMArts Cultural Center

Dr. Paul Karlstrom, former director of the American Archives of the Smithsonian on the West Coast and art historian

Jeff Kelley, Moderator of Session Two is the former curator of contemporary art of the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

Laura Sydell, NPR correspondent who reports frequently on currents events in China

Jan Wurm, Moderator of Session One is a practicing artist and art educator

Participating and sponsoring organizations are:
Arc Gallery and Studios
California Exhibition Resources Alliance (CERA) is the sponsoring organization of the traveling show, Banned and Recovered: Artists Intervention
Di Rosa, Napa, CA
Intersection for the Arts
SOMArts Cultural Center
The First Amendment Project
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Contact Information for this event:

Hanna Regev (Tel: 415-566-7515)

Heather Smith (Tel: 415-501-0575