Monday, November 10, 2008

A Million Distortions is a Statistic

Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento spots another case of "institutional censorship and curatorial alteration," this time in New York: "After complaints to the city Buildings Department, and concern from the Urkainian community in the East Village, Cooper Union removed a giant banner with a reproduction of a Picasso drawing of Joseph Stalin" that had been put up by Norwegian artist Lene Berg. As Sergio points out, the case is reminiscent of a similar incident at UCLA last month.

From a VARA point of view, the issue seems to be whether the banner was one element of a single, larger work of art (in which case its removal would seem to be a distortion or modification of that larger work) or, instead, was one work in a multi-work exhibition (in which case it would probably not be a VARA violation, though it may well still be wrong). It's not quite clear from the news report. The lede says Berg "included the banner as part of her one-woman art installation," but a statement put out by the school notes that "the gallery component of the show — two videos and two book projects — ... will be closed until further notice." The School of Art's website has also been describing it as "an exhibition" (rather than "a work").