Monday, January 17, 2011

Bronson gives National Gallery until Jan. 17 to remove his artwork from the "compromising" "Hide/Seek" exhibition

Much has been written about the Smithsonian's decision to remove David Wojnarowicz' video "Fire in my Belly" from the exhibition "Hide/Seek" as it succumbed to pressure from two certain Republican lawmakers and the Catholic League (ironically drawing far greater attention to the piece as galleries and museums around the world played the video in protest and countless websites provided free access to the video). In the aftermath of this unfortunate act of censorship, many protested but few responded in any meaningful way. Among those few who did were the Warhol Foundation (pulling its funding of the NPG) and the Canadian artist AA Bronson (who demanded that his artwork displayed in the exhibition be removed). Bronson's lawyers argued that failing to remove the artwork would constitute a violation of his "moral rights" but, as I previously reported, certain commentators questioned the legal authority underlying such argument.

The Toronto Globe and Mail has covered the story and states that: "it appears Mr. Bronson is trying to test the so-called “moral right” associated with copyright by asserting that showing Felix, June 5, 1994 in Washington makes him an unwilling “accessory to censorship” and that his work has been “altered” by being presented in a compromised context." A problematic implication of this theory is that artists would be able to control the contents of exhibitions, thus inhibiting debate and the free exchange of ideas and beliefs. From a legal perspective, Donn Zaretsky points to a past post of his discussing a case (Costco v. Omega) that may well be relevant precedent. So maybe Bronson's claim is not so far fetched after all. Either way, he's given the NPG until January 17 to remove Felix, June 5, 1994 unless of course "Fire in my Belly" is reinstalled as part of "Hide/Seek."

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