Monday, March 28, 2011

"The Culture Wars Are Back"

"The Culture Wars Are Back": A Summit at the Corcoran Draws Lessons From the Smithsonian's Wojnarowicz Censorship Scandal

By Ben Davis

The National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibition may have closed, but the controversy around Smithsonian director G. Wayne Clough's decision to remove a work by David Wojnarowicz from that show simmers on. The Smithsonian has said that it will host a forum on lessons learned from the dispute in April — details have not been fleshed out — but this past weekend, the Corcoran Gallery of Art hosted an all-day symposium on the issues raised by the affair, titled "Culture Wars: Then and Now." The location, of course, is highly symbolic, since the Corcoran was ground zero for an earlier era of tussles between the religious right and the avant garde. And Saturday's key-note speaker was Yale art school dean Robert Storr, who declared that "the culture wars are back," according to the Washington Post.

The symposium drew some 100 attendees, and in addition to Storr included such '90s culture-war veterans as Dennis Barrie, the former director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Center who was charged with obscenity for showing Robert Mapplethorpe, and Jane Livingston, who quit her position as associate curator at the Corcoran over the Mappelthorpe scandal in 1989. It also brought together a range of figures from the trenches of the recent National Portrait Gallery protests, including Mike Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone, the activists who opened a temporary Museum of Censored Art to show Wojnarowicz's work outside the NPG, and Orameh Bagheri of the anti-censorship group L.A. Raw, which spearheaded some creative demonstrations against Clough when he appeared in L.A.

To read the full article click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



Free Program

Saturday, March 26 from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Pre-registration encouraged.
Presented in partnership by Transformer, The National Coalition Against Censorship, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design.
If you cannot join us in person, check back on Saturday morning for our live stream and discussion on twitter (#culturewars).

In light of recent censorship by the Smithsonian Institution and threats from some congressional leaders to pull arts funding from national arts institutions (including the National Endowment for the Arts), this day of panels and presentations examines the Culture Wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and how freedom of expression and public support for the arts are currently being debated. Panel discussions include: Censorship Examined; Culture Wars Redux; Give Me a Revolution: Artist Responses to Censorship; Free Speech and Arts Funding.

Censorship Examined
10–11 a.m.
In this presentation, Culture Wars: Then and Now keynote speaker, Robert Storr, Dean, Yale School of Art, will examine visual arts censorship within the context of American culture and history. (Screening of Linda Lewett’s video Perfect Moment at WPA prior to panel)
Culture Wars Redux – What did we (what do we) consider offensive?
11:30 a.m.–1 p.m.
Panelists include Philip Brookman, chief curator and head of research, Corcoran Gallery of Art and former curator of Washington Project for the Arts; Dennis Barrie, director of cultural and interpretive planning, Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement and former director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center; Jane Livingston, independent curator, author, and former associate director and chief curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; and H. Louis Sirkin, attorney and founding member of Sirkin Kinsley & Nazzarine, who represented Dennis Barrie and CAC in the obscenity trial provoked by the 1989 Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective, The Perfect Moment. The discussion
will be moderated by Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs at the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Give me a Revolution: Artists’ Responses to Censorship
Open with screening of Martha Wilson’s October 24, 2008 performance Barbara Bush: All Washed UP and Guerilla Girls’ HERSTORY and/or “animation” piece.
3:30 p.m.
Panelists include Mike Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone from the Museum of Censored Art; Orameh Bagheri from LA Raw; Bill Dobbs of Art+; and Marshall Reese of Ligorano/Reese Collaborations. The discussion will be moderated by Victoria Reis, executive and artistic director of Transformer.
Free Speech & Arts Funding
4–5:30 p.m.
Panelists include Nora Halpern, vice president of leadership alliances, Americans for the Arts; Michael Keegan, president, People for the American Way; Robert Atkins, art historian, activist, author, and co-editor of Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Freedom of Express; David A. Smith, senior lecturer in American History at Baylor University, Waco, TX and author of Money for Art: The Tangled Web of Art and Politics in American Democracy. The discussion will be moderated by Andy Grundberg, associate provost and dean of undergraduate studies, Corcoran College of Art + Design.