On Saturday 1 June Victoria Police removed parts of a larger installation by Paul Yore titled EVERYTHING IS FUCKED exhibited in the Like Mike exhibition at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts. The action followed a complaint made to police. Paul was questioned by Victoria Police on Monday 3 June and subsequently released without charge on summons. The exhibition at Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts remains closed; a decision made by the Linden board of directors.
We sought the following comments:
Tamara Winikoff, executive director, National Association for the Visual Arts:
As a long-standing defender of artists’ freedom of expression, the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) has been vociferous in its condemnation of the latest raid by police, who seized the work of young artist Paul Yore from his exhibition at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in Melbourne. NAVA asserts that within the law, Australian citizens have the democratic right to make judgements about what they want to see and respond to according to their own understandings and value systems.
In my forthcoming artsHub article I comment that, ‘Art pyromaniacs are people who ignite a cultural controversy and hide on the margins watching it burn. Pillorying artists is an irresistible sport for people with political motives or who are seeking the opportunity to stamp their brand on public morality. But human imagination is the fluid that leaks through the cracks in tired rules and outmoded ideas. It is not easy to quell the subversive power of parody and interrogative probing’.
In a series of forums around the country in 2013, NAVA will be asserting that Australian cultural expression must be protected against the personal ideological crusades and political point-scoring exercises of particular interest groups.
Mikala Dwyer, artist:
The work Paul has created is from images and objects readily available everywhere. They are complex two-dimensional and three-dimensional collages that are made from many many hours, days and years of thoughtful intelligent speculation on the nature of the world we live in. They are in no way pornographic any more than the world is.
It is sad that the Linden Gallery shows so little faith in what it exhibits but even sadder and more perplexing that the police are called in to waste their time following bogus complaints and were even compelled to vandalise these extraordinary and beautiful artworks. Police time could be much better used following real dangers to the community.
But perhaps even more unbelievable is the extent this farce has travelled. It’s time it just simply stopped.
Robert Nelson, Monash University and The Age:
Antiscandal. At first, I was angry. The persecution of Paul Yore is another regrettable episode that confirms the widespread backwardness of recent cultural history. The police may be obliged to investigate allegations but seizing artworks from an exhibition—which is clearly trying to hide nothing—is an absurdity that could only be justified on the basis that the exhibition puts somebody at risk. With what evidence did they make that judgement?
But have we as an art community done everything that we can to dispel the misconceptions held by the authorities and so many members of the public who abhor our liberality. When these perturbations arise, they are messy and invite unsympathetic and undesirable reactions. We prefer not to attract attention and hope for it all to blow over. We communicate poorly and take few steps to prevent another episode.
My own efforts on the topic propose a checklist of necessary criteria for invoking censorship. Further, I have made a submission (CI 235) to the Australian Law Reform Commission, where I detail the basis on which scholars and artists may legitimately consult material that might otherwise be incriminating.
Geoff Newton, director, Neon Parc, and curator, Like Mike:
Galleries work in collaboration with artists not unilaterally. The conduct of Linden reflects poorly on that organisation as an artistic institution and in my view it will ultimately affect their ability to attract the sort of artist necessary to sustain a vibrant audience base.
Until this time we have trusted and been patient with the board but its continued lack of support and non-communication leave us no alternative but to take the following action. We will stage a peaceful protest tomorrow, Saturday 8 June at 10 am, at Linden Gallery against censorship in the arts.
Alexie Glass-Kantor, director, Gertrude Contemporary:
Paul Yore is an early career artist dealing with images that emerge from a media environment that daily produces a deluge of mixed messages. The work is about the artist’s own identity and the work is intensely personal, it is not about pornography nor is it pornography. Often an image circulates but it can easily be taken out of context. Yore’s images have been circulating now for a few years, they are sexual and political but not about exploitation or pornography. They instead rely on the amplification of sexuality, chaos, and neuroses, underscored by complicated personal boundaries and trespass.
Historically the work can be read or perceived in relation to the contemporary practices of artists such as Juan Davila, Richard Larter, Del Kathryn Barton, Jean Michel Basquiat and Paul McCarthy. Exhibited in dialogue with the early works of Mike Brown it is important to acknowledge that that generation of artists was hugely influential locally. The sub/pop/cultural images that were key in Brown’s work are absolutely present in Yore’s works.
It is important that artwork is seen in context and I do not believe that the artist’s intention is to vilify or exploit children. There are situations where children have to be protected and as institutions we have an ethical imperative to do due diligence and act responsibility. I think that sensationalism, vilification and kneejerk reactions are counter-productive to intelligent discussion and create the kind of distraction where the artist and artwork become fodder for another agenda.
Charles Nodrum, director, Charles Nodrum Gallery:
Quote: ‘the work contained collages such as a cardboard cut-out of a child with Justin Bieber’s head stuck on, urinating from a dildo into a sink’ (Pia Akerman, The Australian, 4 June 2013).
Questions: For the sexologist: 1) Since when has urination been classified as sexual? 2) How can anyone urinate from a dildo?(!)
For the judiciary, the legislators (and by extension, all of us citizens): a collage as described above can get the artist up to 10 years, yet paedophiles found guilty of multiple rape get less than that. Have we gone mad? And as for the above constituting child pornography, even the most pedantic logic-chopper would surely balk at that?
For the board of Linden: out of a large group show, small parts of one work were deemed to have possibly infringed the law—and were removed. Why close the whole exhibition? Why instruct staff to make no statements? Since when has locking up the venue and locking down debate ever resolved any issue? Since the offending material has gone, why not open the doors and let the public in?
Natalie Thomas, artist:
We don’t want any trouble mate, but they started it! These bloody artists! I don’t know who they think they are and that pile of rubbish is taxpayer funded too! The bloody nerve of them! It’s not even a painting!
Are Australian artists allowed to comment on celebrity these days? Treating Pop stars like Justin Bieber or Sports stars like Thorpie satirically, irreverently or with contempt, will get big media backlash and inflame Public Opinion. You can have ‘Your Say’ and write in that artists are a bunch of freeloading wankers. Few make the link that most Industries are Government subsidized in one form or another.
Paul Yore recently had his work confiscated, taken by Police from Linden Gallery (in sleazy St Kilda). His work is not pornographic. I think ‘playfully visceral’ is a more fitting description. The work makes a statement and with the artworks’ removal, I reckon Paul has had his Human Rights violated.
After talking to a friend about the unfolding drama, we discussed the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Australia signed up to it in 1948:
1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Jon banged on about Article 27: how it’s not ideal, but how it says just enough to dam this tide of reactionary hysterical censorship. This is Australian 21st Century Censorship. And the election will deliver what we expect. A Conservative, fiscally fixated landscape of church-goers with which to play.
Game on mole.