Studio Talk; Censorship of Art
My guest this evening is Charles close instructor of art at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. We will be discussing with Charles post the difficulties which he has had with an exhibition out there recently on the panel this evening. Our nine top producer of arts and drama teachers for radio and Dennis being a painter and instructor at the Massachusetts College of Art here in Boston. Charles close you recently found yourself right in the middle of a country very city. How did this whole thing get started. While I was asked by the art department to assemble an exhibition of my recent work work it was completed in the last two years and to hang it in the student union which happens to be our only exhibition space on campus unfortunately and I found much to my horror and dismay that I have offended some people. I'm presenting my work to
have you think. Well I've been told that the townspeople and family of students and thousands of them have been complaining although the art department I understand is only received two complaints one from a faculty member and one from an I identified girl but apparently they've been hounding the administration. But this does not get through to the art department. Well neither the art department nor the student union has gotten much in the way of compliance as far as I know. Have you seen any of the complaints have been issued to no I have not. The are the complaints the our department were not in writing and I have seen nothing else. In fact I've gotten absolutely no written communication from anyone on any aspect of the show. Whatever What are the nature of the complaints as you understand it. Well generally they find the work
ranging from either completely smot to mild obscenity or perhaps dealing with things inappropriate for the nature of the exhibition area or what. Well what does that mean what is the nature of the x Well we have a hallway which is not exactly the ideal space to hang anything in fact I would say that probably my show is inappropriate for the area but I think any show would be inappropriate for them. If you're just just wondering what you meant by inappropriate while I don't find anything that I deal with in the nature of the subject matter at least something which should arouse any kind of violent emotions from anyone since has been dealt with for years. I think perhaps. That it may be a stylistic consideration in that other people in the area happen to be dealing with similar subject matter but perhaps you don't use pain quite the way I do and therefore my work seems to read differently to the public but I think the problem in the area in the Pioneer
Valley out there in foreclosure is one of a lack of exposure generally to what's going on. If if these people were to read even Time magazine which is a rather conservative journal I'm sure they would find that their works being done by other people in other areas which certainly are a little more risque. If we want to deal with that sort of thing in mine I'd feel. Would you say that this exhibition of yours Charles causes was more pornographic more or more of erotica then the show that was held in Sydney Janice west as the man in the erotic art show there and. Well no I mean I I think that that idea rather openly and maybe frankly with with. Nudity I do have both on quiet male and female figures but I don't deal with any kind of body
contact or I haven't suggested intercourse or any kind of perversion except perhaps in two drawing studies which are taken directly from True Romance as magazine and these include words which are lifted Am I the only virgin ones in our school and 14 in my mother's lover once me and these are lifted directly from these magazines and the images come from that as source material. And these were intended to be a comment on that particular aspect of sex. But otherwise all my figures are single single figures placed in some kind of interior space and this may be perhaps one of the areas of a problem since one of the interior spaces I have that I've used has been the bathroom and I've had some people suggest that this may be one of my problems. I think that there's absolutely nothing wrong with a bathroom I think it's a great room it's the only the only room where a
person can come to be along. It's a one person room and is meant for a family or groups and it offers me a particular kind of interior space that I'm interested in. It has furniture which is meant for one person which is a geometric foil perhaps for the organic figure. All this wonderful pattern that I love the active piles and floor tiles and wallpaper. It's not pierced it doesn't open out of the landscape the windows a guy would. Your mirrors and also has interesting things to deal with. And that and when I portrayed a figure as simply walking into the room or standing in the room I don't have them. Doing anything active ask questions. His view on the question given up on doing something active. I just as an innocent foreigner I still don't quite understand why erotica shouldn't initially be a vice in itself. Well I don't have the feel it is but since I'm being challenged on
the basis of what I have done not on what I could potentially do I would say that I am not at this moment concerned with it. I could foresee a time when I might be and that I would not care to be challenged either but I don't think there's anything that can't be dealt with that with seriousness and with some. Well the kind of adult attitude about what what's happening and how to be a meaningful statement. Surely the idea that nudity and bathrooms of which things are rather out of fashion and should anyway. Well yes and they cherish them too I would say I feel that way very definitely in this sort of thing they went up to I would have thought except perhaps in certain areas or perhaps Massachusetts. Again speaking well I would tend to agree I suppose. Another question that arises from it might sort of put it to you in connection with this business of the erotic or with even the pornographic with our own
literature raising the sexual appetites of an individual. Again I've never quite understood myself what is wrong with that. In fact I would've thought it was much worse to keep them down. Well I. Again I probably tend to agree with you I think that this idea of arousing prurient interest is certainly up for grabs as can be questioned. But I as far as my own work goes the only reactions I have observed or I've heard people I've had of my work have been anger and sometimes discussed but neither of those could be considered kind of prurient reaction to add to the work. No one seems to be sexually excited about them. It's not that I mean they're too big to take in your bedroom but sort of. Well I mean people people think that these are things that shouldn't be dealt with in the first place should not be shown where they were shown in the second place and are the product of some kind
of disturbed mind and they they are very angered at having to see them. Well flash why shouldn't they. I mean why should your bank read the product of a disturbed mind even allowed to disturb my interest there. Well where does this anger itself come from where does the anger of the prude or the prurient men come from. Well I think they have some some attitude about what should be shown and a ship and an educational institution. And my I dea what should be shown probably conflicts. I don't think we need protect our young people. I think our young people our biggest single hope for the future and I think anyone who kids himself into thinking that the kids of today don't know what's coming off should pull their head out of the sand and take one look around this is a it's a turned on the age we live in in more ways than one. And I find a much more relaxed attitude and I think my own opinion is a much healthier attitude about sex
right now today on our campus than I than I do in any other area of our population. Were any of the students complaining about your painting. I have not heard a complaint from a single student no one would one could expect that people are going to come up to me and say orgy like it's a shame your show came down I really love this stuff. But the person who wouldn't like it is not liable to come up and say Gee I'm glad they took it down because it was rotten filthy stuff. How long was the show up before it was taken. It went up on the 8th it came down on Friday the 13th so I'm not sure whether that's meaningful. The opening was on Sunday the 8th. And it surprised me that that this reaction came up at all but I was even more surprised in the way it came down. How long was it originally scheduled for until the thirty first of the month. In theory.
It's fairly swift action isn't it. Well yes. I wonder why. If it really offended them it didn't come down earlier or I'll stay up longer if it's going to offend somebody it certainly will offend them in five days. The whole question of why I came down I think is an interesting one. The university has stated that it came down for three reasons. Those are namely because of the theft of a work. When I heard the words one drawing with stone it happened to be a woman scrubbing a floor so I don't think anyone took it home to think about it for the reasons they were interested primarily in the artistic quality as well so there's been no pattern in the thefts of the past. That is you can't say that the work has been of any single nature any rate because this after that one work and because of supposin threats to the safety of other works people were supposedly going to come in and slash them or something.
And thirdly because of the inappropriateness of the nature of the work I would say that in terms of the theft. First of all that in almost every show that we've had in the Student Union at least one work has been stolen if not more in one show alone three works. Now no one has felt. Obligated to take down a show before for that reason. All those shows have come down early. Second day shows have been done or yes this is the second of three shows this year to come down early. The first one had a wessel in print which showed pubic care which probably as someone said rub the administration wrong way. So then this really comes down to a matter of censorship on the part of the university. Yes all I think that's the only way it can be interpreted. I'd like I would like to say though that the that and terms of that there are there are three reasons that first of all there have been other thefts I don't think that can be really a reason for coming down. Secondly since there has
been a sense the university has initiated a policy of student guards for this area. To my knowledge we have laws we have not lost a single piece. Now my one piece was stolen between the time of the opening and the time the guards were on duty. Nothing was taken after the guards came on duty and I doubt whether anybody would come roaring in knife in hand and start slashing a painting while the guard was sitting there. So I don't think we have to worry too much about the safety of the works. They didn't worry too much about the safety of the works when they took the paintings down without me being there without my knowledge. And the third lady as far as the inappropriateness of the workers to the area it was being shown and I think it was perhaps inappropriate but it's the only area we have all work would be inappropriate is one side and and unless we're given some other place to hang the work I think the art department has the obligation to hand that word which they think they should hang.
I mean they have an educational responsibility they shouldn't have to hang some kind of tasteful bland on a decorative wall hangings that would merely kind of brighten the hallway but you know that you wouldn't notice were there and I think this is what people have in mind. It's me. But Charles I have in front of me the copy of the collegian the newspaper from the campus in Massachusetts and it's a very interesting photograph here Titian versus close Michelangelo versus close. Cetera. Showing the UN clad female and male bodies etc.. I think the reason for this is that it's showing that this has been a time honored custom one that has been very much accepted now is it a matter of style in your work that you think is cause the problem here I mean do they feel that your work is blatant or well I'll what I have a hard time speaking for what they feel speaking for them speaking for their feelings because I
question on any level I understand their feelings. I can only conjecture that perhaps the fact that the paint is a little more loosely applied than than Titian was sprayed on or that I have a triumph T-shirt on a male figure and Michelangelo's David is perhaps a little more classically poor portrayed but I think it does. Come down to the two at least to a certain extent to a stylistic difference in handling possibly a time lapse in our understanding or their understanding in what they're willing and able to go out. I think it's a I think it's just a problem of exposure and I don't mean that. And they way of uncovering figures but of the exposure of the people who are the viewers these these people have apparently no idea what's happening in Iraq. I don't think that in any way my show I watch I think my show is in many respects a rather tame show. I
mean I don't find it. I hope that it's exciting on some levels but not on the levels that they want me to. You know they suggest it is and it's a little difficult to talk always about the day. But I'm forced to do that because no one will commit themselves. No one no one will commit himself no one will will give me his name his name to use. The administration is communicated to me and to the department but never in writing. And I get suggestions as to why the show came down but I haven't received a letter or anything yet experienced other latest experience I have of. And so called erotic art share being diners in Toronto in Canada. When the police moved in and approached the pizzeria owner opted to taste bitter. And I bet when you consider I almost understand this sort of type of issues but what I can't understand is how I
so called intelligent universe and well get it thinking this is the so called intelligent University fraternity apparently and I am not absolutely positive on this but I've been told that the police were the ones who actually physically took a dump. The campus police. Yes this was right there was taken down after the university student union closed at 11 o'clock on Thursday and I have been told it was somewhere in the night sure 3:30 a.m. Friday morning when the campus was dark and no one was around. The campus police came in and took down my pants I was very upset about that as a matter of fact that is still University action is afoot as opposed to. Government. Yes right. But the there is one thing no see. I know some of my words can be handled only in a certain way and when I had the works I've trucked from Northampton
Amherst I went with the movers and instructed them as to how to handle them and when these words were taken down and stored I of course was not there I had no knowledge of the fact that they were being taken down and for a day and a half I had no idea where they were. I asked many people. I get many strange answers. I never did find out until the last minute in just a few minutes before they were again to be trucked to my studio where they in fact were. Whatever you're feeling at the workers country skated well I can There was you know I think that's what it was. Well then it's what connection does the university union have with the university. Well the sense of exhibition one of the reasons why I think the students were incensed and I think rightly so by the action of the university is that they have the feeling that they're being protected by some other university.
Now the student union where the exhibition was held is a student supported building the staff and facilities are supported through a student tax and they have stated to me that they feel it is the student union not the administrations union not the faculty union not the Boy Scouts of America union work and other organizations that have conventions there. It's their union and and they feel they have the right to say what should be there and what shouldn't. And the actual hanging of the shows is an collaboration between the art department and the student union officials and the administration when it does step in and make some decisions as to what is appropriate and what isn't is in essence going over the heads of both the Earth apartment and the student union and an frenching upon the rights of the student body. What if X does the administration have a right to see this this is a very very difficult thing for me to talk about because I have obligations to many areas of
the university and to the state as a whole I am a painter. But I'm also a teacher. I'm a faculty member in the art department. I'm a staff member of the university and I'm a public servant of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. I have obligations to all these areas. Now I understand fully the university's position. I think I do. They have many problems. They are the big mediators the Go-Betweens between the actual day to day problems of giving in education or helping a student become educated and the purse strings of the administration of the legislature. Now one of the things that they did not want to do was obviously to offend the legislature. Now it so happens that at the 25th of this month the legislature is going to tour the University of Massachusetts campus. Now if they were to become offended by something thats on exhibition in plain view in the student union there is at least the possibility that there might be a cutback in the allocation of funds.
Four new buildings for instance the fine arts building more or were something else now. The last thing that I want to do is to offend these people and cause the universe to lose money. Thanks to the university's position has done nothing to appease any single group. For instance the conservative viewer would wonder why it stayed up that long in the first place. I haven't seen the stuff or why it was hung who gave authority and what the hell is going on over there at that university in the first place. The liberal viewer will wonder why it came down so having left it up for as long as they did I don't think they're in a position to really appease anyone. It's just the same type of censorship applied to the library by the way. I am not exactly sure of all the facts in the library case I've heard many rumors but I really don't have enough information to make a statement like that in terms of flesh and blood who are the ladies and gentlemen who make up that
educate and therefore nightly through material dictate dictate our consciences. You mean who are they in fact are they who are the legislator you say that the legislature might or might not fund. Well these are our David recently a lot of the elected representatives of the region and how they rank it by the individual constituents and what it might matter a person is elected in other words are the Arctic's pets. Well I would tend to think that they probably were not there how they competent to watch matches are judged not only in the art area but in the literary and terms referring to they're probably not at all and I think also neither would the administration be in a position to make affective judgment as to what should or should not be home more so presumably and well perhaps although I think that the policy of the art department has been a good one.
The art department. Selects exhibitions has faith in the person who is going to be exhibited then spend was exhibited there alright or was there any attempt made on the part of anyone to convince you as to what or what should not be shown. I like shows you know. Now this was a this was during the summer when Charles and I think there were fewer people around us with something to do with it. I don't know if my work in some respect would be considered controversial. I doubt that it would. In fairness to the conversation now however there was considerable to do about where it was to be heard. I didn't want my show hung in that particular hallway or corridor where your show is. I wanted in a separate is not there now right. Would it not in fact be a great tragedy to have someone from the legislature the great and general
court walk in be so offended that he would fight very hard to make sure that the entire budget of the university be reduced. Well I actually fought for a state that ranks 50th in terms the right the amount of money spent on its various higher education. I think though that that that that is a fear which is in the minds of our administrators which maybe to a certain extent unfounded I don't think that it ever turns into excuse me they had enough trouble last year with a cartoon which appeared in the campus newspaper to say which is Yahoo which is a room in the hall that's a campus humor magazine which uses the recording but never nevertheless theme any fear I think would be well founded after that controversy.
Well I suppose I think the university made a little bit of stand on that than I did on this particular issue. I I do want to be furred to the university and to the administration I wish perhaps I had a little more. Respect for their own staff because I do feel that I have been insulted on one hand and thought that if they don't have faith in me a member of the staff that no one will as I understand a great many of the objections to your show actually came from thankful team members. Well I don't know whether they were a great many or not. I have seen no evidence that there were and are in fact a great many but I assume that that they have some basis for their decision but even if they did we get into the broader issue of censorship as whether or not even if there were a sizable body of people who were offended whether or not they have the right or whether or not they have the obligation to the
students. I don't think that there is anything which. Well the one one other thing which I think is important is that I think there's a lag between what can be dealt with in the written word and what can and what can be dealt with in visual terms for instance Playboy magazine now can use any four letter word they want can discuss any courses openly as freely as they can as they want. Can the describes perversions but they can't show anyone doing anything else and kissing and they can of course show pubic hair. Why is this happening what. What's wrong with with with the nude body. What's wrong with pubic hair. Why can't we do it why can't we deal with these things with the same type of information right here for instance and in literature the state of Massachusetts or the Supreme Court in Massachusetts just passed on on Naked Lunch. If you you can imagine someone doing illustrations for Naked Lunch you know he'd be locked up in 10 minutes. The
book though can be sold to anyone who can reach the counter with the rest 65 cents. Most interesting thought for some. Minister Charles you describe some of your works to me as being in part at least three dimensional and for example one of the figures may be painted as a flat form an illusion of a person. In part and in other parts would be built out and in the third dimension I wonder if this could be in a way a supplement or extend let's say a vision and to be more suggestive. You see and therefore maybe offend more people. Well in comparison to the written word I can I have no male organs or pubic areas or breasts. The three don't in the third dimension I know the hands and faces and so I was like this in three dimension. I am interested in them and interesting. Kind of
relationship between the allusion to dimension and actual dimension because as you move around the piece that deals with both of these there is a greater amount of change which takes place in the actual three dimensional form and takes place in the illusion and the two dimensional form. And I build pieces in the kind of strange perspective so that in one from one position the to the piece seems to be extending further than it does from the other direction. But these are all kinds of static considerations which I take into account and actually what I consider is what I'm making as I'm dealing with. Unfortunately no one has talked to me about my paintings. And no one has decided that right now my point here and this is this this is an interesting idea you know you are the first person who really from the press at least or for over the air or whatever of the many interviews and things that I've had who are who has felt.
Obligated to wood to talk about the word. I don't mind defending my work in fact I relish the opportunity to defend my work on the things I consider important. I just don't feel that I have to defend the nature of the subject matter. What I'd like to mention one of the things Charles I mention a third the third dimensional aspect of quality of your work also the fact that you're using Plexiglas painted which you know lets through late and this is a rather exotic material no real serious Yes and in combination with the you know that the nature of your subject matter I think that this could add to the total illusion. It's interesting to me in other words a back to the original question of why you know the show is taken down and I'm trying to try to somehow analyze welcher of it and why I think. Perhaps the use of three dimensional vacuum forms pieces and Plexiglas areas and the added depth and the
illusion to depth that perhaps I have stubbed my toe on something which could be considered a little more close to life than a regular than in the normal two dimensional padded surface. It's pretty easy to think of everything within a rectangle that's got a goalie frame around it as being like some you know like artist wonder of unity or something like that and this is his statement as a as a as a painter. But the minute you start building three dimensional sinks and hang them on the wall it does recall for people a real sink you know. Decided Not Yeah sure. They feel that they can turn the faucet and they can probably reach out and touch a person's stomach or whatever I suppose but I don't see where this should offend anyone I think that that they should recall also beautiful experiences they should recall for them some of the some of the pleasant sensual experiences that they've hired or you would really get from
again from the from the point of view of people who would pay for censorship here. You are admitting in fact that essentially I mean you are a painter. Well I'm very interested in and the sensual aspect of the sensual potential of the work. I don't think that that I dwell on that I think that just the activity of the pattern in the wallpaper and the the kinds of forms that I use are trying to arrive at a very kind of sensual organic form for a figure. But as it is as far as it being necessarily more or less erotic I don't think that that the dimension or that the illusion necessarily will contribute to that. It may perhaps present up to them more of a mirror to themselves and they may not be able to accept that it may reflect a little bit more on their experience or may recall more experience
because of the time of the use of three dimensional form but that anything that they were to read in. Would be part of it. I think more part of their own mental process. I have I have been told by a member the. And by the Ministry of Officer campus that they have found quote phalluses in my wall paper. Well I think that their if if they have to rely on this kind of. Shall we say. That's really their problem and not yours is it. Well I would think so. I didn't intend for them to be there I guess a second still not find them even when they're pointed out to me and I would prefer real experiences rather than to have to look for that sort of thing of censorship which is the.
Or has there ever been one tends to think of the people who are censoring all of a lot of blockheads. What I'm trying to find out is there any way in not censorship generally. Is there any decent argument persuasive argument advanced for it or does anybody know of an intelligence sense or another but who's to say it is work. Mark why is it the quietest telling you know it's right right. That's me. I'll sell out. I'll attempt to Ince answer that. Mr Close was hired by the University of Massachusetts our department and I'm sure all in good faith. I mean there are some very good people there and if they knew course of his work they obviously accepted him as an artist. His teaching is based on his own artistry and his ideals and his thoughts are all based on this and the combination of this and him self as a person
so it has to be in a sense a total acceptance at least tentatively. But the answer like can't they then just have an exhibition you would then have to follow through and just have an exhibition of his work being uncensored then does this give anyone the right to disturb the conscience of anyone. The fact that a person is hired by him by a faculty does this kid give any faculty member the right to do anything he wants. It should basically s faculty member at any public institution as it is able to do what ever he wants. I will try to answer well the trustees see him in the printed in the special issue of the Kluge and there is a definition by the trustees of faculty freedom and it does come down I suppose to that as an issue as to what I have in the way of academic freedom.
And in reading that over this was written I think in 1963 or something like that much before they'd ever heard of me. And in reading that over I can find no area of their statement which would be in conflict. So what I have done nothing that may be someone else's interpretation might be quite different. I am. I do recall though in terms of this idea of censorship I studied for a while in the Academy of Fine Arts and you know were going to really study for a period of about two weeks before they kicked him out and he is the only person ever in the history of art to have been in my as far as I know is ever been tried and convicted and punished for the making of pornography. As an artist it's very interesting now that. He died in 1913 that this many years after his death that they now have a huge bronze plaque inside the door saying you're going to surely studied here
there seems to be this lag between learning the work of a person and the acceptance by the public and I think we're right that this is been a problem before it was a problem with Goya and isn't that good my job and it's been a problem with a lot of people and it just takes time. The public has had it. I don't know that it really is a matter of time I think that there are a number of Goya's which have not been shown publicly that are in private collections. There are a great many Hokus I prints which are never shown public meeting. He supported himself by this non public part of his art the only way he could support himself. But I think that there is a difference between public exhibition and private interests. I learn. I will explain to you if I may why I decided to show my work and why I chose a particular work site shows if you were interested I would not have watered down the show for anything I would not have tried to make
thing work quote unquote tasteful show for the university. I would rather not show or I would show the works which I feel represent me to the best. Now to a certain extent I am in the hydro option. Did you go out of your way to be controversial no I did not. I did not the other. On the other hand try overly hard not to be controversial. But I was I chose the works for me for a couple of reasons. First of all I wanted the strongest representation I could within. Trying to encompass the idea of the fact that this was to be shown in an educational institution in which I teach now I present I open myself up to the students in many ways and I show them as best I can the clinks in my armor and the fact that I am no god in that I have troubles and I make mistakes too and I would not have perhaps shown the work that I did in a commercial gallery because it was and to a certain extent inconsistent. It showed
my work in transition earlier work which is not exactly a Canon handling to the letter work but that's what I feel is all right and perhaps good in an educational institution they can see how and perhaps a little better how I think what my thought process is on how I how I perhaps evolve certain kinds of form. I would show say several studies for a work when it would probably end in a commercial Gowri I would not do this but the studies will give the student an opportunity to see what came first how I changed it what came next how I felt I need to change the form or alter the space and this I considered to be a service to the university and part of my function as a teacher. But in doing issue in one way I know they damage the reputation of that institution.
Why are you even performing much of a service for the students or for art generally. Well I would say that. The most important thing that I can do as an artist teacher is to be honest and to to show works which do not deal with as completely as possible with that which I'm involved. To me seems to be a disservice I find nothing I find absolutely nothing pornographic or lewd or smutty in my work. I deal and I'll be honest with you I deal with some things which can be considered to have shock value. Now I don't think it should have shock value. So if it's once a shock wears off people can look at the work. Perhaps they need to be exposed to these things little they will no
longer have this attitude towards their work will no longer be shocked. While I remember the shock I had when I first saw it when I saw my first accounting I wish I could have that again. I don't look at the code in the same way now. It was a beautiful experience to have that and it was a beautiful experience to get beyond it and perhaps lose it. But the first time you see a Jasper Johns flag you know you have feelings in the pit of your stomach about patriotism that makes you make a lot of decisions but to not show the work because it might offend the American Legion or the daughter's American Revolution has nothing to do with the work and should in my opinion not be a consideration. Why do you think you are dealing here with the the DA R. or the American Legion where we're dealing with other people on the news and on campus.
Well it is a very busy public building to a certain extent. And and it is open to townspeople and to family. The family of the students. But I don't see why. I don't see that I dealt with anything that shouldn't be dealt with as they should be exposed. Perhaps it's misjudged my Master of us trying to sort of broaden because it's always sort of difficult to sort of always defend oneself with one's own voice. Thank you to be fair to sort of quote The Massachusetts collegian letter which is from the art department and which lends more than Mr. Christie's voice to his own defense. And it runs to this effect. Dear president literally the department of faculty at the University of Massachusetts submitted this letter in response to the issue that has arisen over the cunt exhibition at the Student Union. It is briefly state the position of artists in general. They view their freedom to
express their ideas as essential to convey to continued creativity. Great to presidents in history. Sure that the curtain of freedom has handicapped the educational process. When Art is judged by those unacquainted with its girls damage may be done to the cultural environment in the university and its community restraint of free expression destroys the very core of education. We agree that exhibitions in the past or in the future have been and should be selected with the judgment of a committee of one or more of our members whose competence has been authenticated that this judgment is made on the merits is Thetic and otherwise of the artist or group of artists exhibiting and is in no way a form of censorship. We believe as a matter of principle that once this judgment has been made we cannot with integrity. Subsequently refused to hang a show intact. We really we reiterate with the greatest urgency our belief that an exhibition programme is vital as a
part of the whole education process process and that its loss could be tragic. The Art Department defends the exhibition of Mr. Gross on the basis stated above and believes it should not be taken down. Contemporary art is not easily understood by the public and certainly the present public space within the student union is not suitable for showing art. The prevailing discontent demonstrates a compelling need for more appropriate gathering facilities. We reaffirm our complete confidence in Professor Norton's judgement on past exhibitions as well as the kind one department of art faculty and then a whole lot of completely illegible signatures but I've no doubt they're genuine. I am. Was it an ox today by the way. I have not seen one. The answer I suppose was the taking down of the show the next morning. After after the letter had been written after the president and the
other key members of the administration had read it. If I might I think there's a very nice statement in here by John Green CList who is the president of the student senate. Also to President John literally if I may read it please. It is appalling that a university supposedly dedicated to the ideals of education must hide its expressive and artistic talents from the eyes of the public. Granted being a state university where we are subject to the control of the Commonwealth. But does this mean that we should sacrifice the ideals of free expression vital to a university community in order to secure additional money for the Legislature next year. With this money we will build bigger and better buildings increase student services and hire additional personnel. But we will continue to keep controversial subjects in the exhibits and in Student Union basements and away from the public view to perpetuate a university afraid of its shadow was hypocritical. Are we an institution of higher
public education with freedom of expression and thought Or are we a place of sterile instruction where the students must sit and listen and the faculty dare not be controversial. If we cannot accept our responsibility education then we do not deserve the money we now receive from the legislature. You know this rather brings you back to your earlier question not that free expression you you're asked Dennis over there what I is the artist to be permitted to do anything and he couldn't answer it but I think the answer is that. If a man is himself in a position of responsibility or however small the position of responsibility he is uncensored in these matters and when he knows he is going beyond the pale then he paid his own conscience. And if this is what dictated not another person's opinion and if he is in this position then he has this or should have this inbuilt responsibility. What how how one just defines the responsibility I don't know.
And I think this is a very difficult thing for any censor to define what is what is good and what is bad or what is evil what is virtuous. Maybe there is no definition ultimately I don't know. But I don't want to take away from your your good answer but in a sense this is is what I said that an art department hires an artist in the first place and ask him to have an exhibition then as I did there and I'm sure Mr close to it was to select his own works and show them. I mean I agree with you and I think that's what you didn't see. Charles John Roy who was on your show a few weeks ago said to me that they said censorship starts at home and that's exactly where it should end. In my opinion. I put my neck on the line to a certain extent by having an exhibition in the first place and I expect to be challenged as far as the aesthetic criterion I exert on myself and I also will if necessary defend the subject matter but I think that that is where a
censorship lies. Me not at your shows down Charles is it true that the exhibition intact will be showing it if it isn't right now I'd like to I'd like to say that. That the arts and Temple gallery in Amherst under the direction of the very capable direction of Dagmar Right-Winger who many of your Boston listeners will probably remember from a rhyme or relation with with Harvard University. She will is right now where the show has been up there since my gosh. I've lost track of time has been up for several days. It will continue throughout the scheduled run until the thirty first. She however has also sent a letter to the administration stating that at such time as the university would care to honor a petition is being sent around
to the faculty and also being signed by students asking for the return of the show to the student union that is such time she would be glad to let the university have it back. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. Has the faculty council or faculty senate of the university taken a position. Well the faculty as I met a few days ago and. I'm not sure what if anything they arrived at I understand that they came to the conclusion that there should be some kind of committee to review the works to decide whether or not they are appropriate for they dictionary do they not in fact have a committee already reviewing the works before they go up. Yes a departmental Committee. So what they want to do is bring lay people in to make the decision. I I guess that's what they have in mind about how to fight. I find
that a ghastly thought I hope they don't follow that procedure in medical college earlier. Charles because you made a statement that the subject matter was really not terribly important to you but can you actually separate the other parts of the work from the subject matter. Well I think of the subject matter is merely a carrier for the other things that I have to say like What are these other things that you have to say what are the ideas in pain. Well I would say generally you know I have certain spatial considerations which I happen to be very excited about. I have an attitude about the potential of multiple readings of space. The multiplicity of reading that is. A kind of purposeful or designed ambiguity where it would appear to be one thing from one direction or you close one eye and something else happens. I did this in the flat surface as best I could. That is never really
nailing down a form in space giving perhaps a graphic indication with the wine or something as to where it would be the color perhaps contradicting that its relationship to an adjacent color again contradicting that. But I found that with the three dimensional form of that that this can happen more easily and if I'm in the process of trying to explore that even further. Now I'm. The kind of situation that I'm dealing with at the moment is a single figure in an interior and I have certain attitudes about that organic form and being imposed upon or placed and to a. Oh and are an architectural setting. This has been in the past a bathroom or something like that. But these considerations are for me what's important. I don't deny the fact that
I have to be very excited about the idea of dealing with nudes or with oh I have I interested in the moving figure of times to be something that some of my colleagues who are working with and I think I handle differently. There are lot of ways to do and to Kate and the fact that action has taken place. Sometimes real action that is the fact that the form advances when you walk to the side because it is three dimensional. These are the things which I think about these are my painterly considerations I suppose and the things that I would be willing to talk about and defend. But of the the viewers or the viewing public. Yeah. Frankly I can't get beyond the subject matter. Most of us talk generally and censorship. We talk about the right of it and the wrong of it and most of us have never been sincere.
What is it like in being in that position and being willing to please me. Well it's a very uncomfortable position to be in because first of all I have been attacked personally and I cannot respond personally. My first reaction is of course to fight you know pull out my claws and go at him. But I as I say I have a responsibility I cannot find anyone to fight in the first place. And secondly I have responsibilities to other people and I would like to think and I think it's really marvelous the way the department took This is completely unified stand. Taking risks I suppose and. Dr. Nordan who is our chairman who is I think a perfectly marvelous Chairman I can't imagine a better person to work for as I made his position extremely clear he will not condone censorship and that's the way it stands. Dr. non-singer who's the head of the student union student affairs Dean of Student Affairs has made
his position quite clear. Unfortunately the people that I would like to deal directly with have not made this possible. I've had phone conversations and things with nothing. I only regret that some concession was not made that the possibility for alternative plans could not have come out the fact that we could have moved the exhibition somewhere else or taken it down for a short while and put it back up again or or something could have happened to be more enable the solution for all involved. It's extremely regrettable when any institution takes it upon itself to censure censor and when they do they must I think expect that there will be. Reaction from the student body and from of the faculty members and of course from myself but it's the sign of a guilty conscience every thought to set a sting to Dave remained anonymous and
well way strikes me. I think they're waiting for the thing to die down I know. Same thing with the. I really feel quite sorry for them because they are caught in between their their own faculty asks them to do something and they feel obligations to other areas too. And they must make these decisions. Right or wrong they made the decision and it just remains to be seen what will happen. Legislative media the real veterans of peace. Well again it's one of these the great unnamed you know being attacked and I hate to be in that position. I'm sure we do have the name did not say take the show down the name did not take the show down. I mean there are there are real people and there are real people out there somewhere you know. And I've been in contact with some of them I just can't user names. I can't go
can't even quote them because before I can even get to talking to them. This is made clear that this is you know off the record. It's really quite an unfortunate situation I think. Do you feel that the the officials and the day at the university let's put it that way. I feel that the legislators are not old enough to to look at these are not mature enough to what perhaps they feel with a legislature that legislators should not be put in a position of having to make a stand because they have responsibilities to their constituents that comes full circle again. The senator Herndon didn't fare too well through the Yahoo incident I know and it will but I'm sure they're all interested in maintaining their positions and keeping peace keeping peace the great ones you.
Know staying well obviously like to change your ways of being an artist. Right. Charles I don't have all that. I don't suppose. That you would you would like to go through this type of thing again. I doubt very much for that I would put myself in that position again. Just because the possibility of hurting innocent people. I don't buy that I mean people who are in a position of having to defend me and or feel that they who feel they have to defend me and I think I think that you're going to show the kind of work you choose to make and in the future and continue to do I know let's focus I'm very sorry this happened again I'm very pleased that the work is on exhibit at arts and temple of the prize. I found that the ones and when the words a pornography and things come up and by the way the administration said that I'm the only one who ever used the word pornography which is I'm can assure you not the case when the words pornography come
- Studio Talk
- Censorship of Art
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- Chicago: “Studio Talk; Censorship of Art,” WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 20, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-15p8d7n1.
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- APA: Studio Talk; Censorship of Art. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-15p8d7n1