Thursday, May 04, 2006

The facts as we know them

On May 4, 2006 MFA students at Brooklyn College were surprised to find their exhibition shut down the day after a successful and well-attended opening.

MFA students were monitoring the show at the Brooklyn War Memorial when, at about 3:00pm, a locksmith arrived to change the locks and a building supervisor insisted they leave immediately.

Later, Maria Rand, the Brooklyn College Gallery Director reached Julius Spiegel, Borough Parks Commissioner, who said he had received complaints about 2 or 3 works containing sexual content.

This exhibition, entitled "Plan B" was scheduled to run through May 25.

Please email if you have any help you can offer us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Media outlets need to be made aware of the current situation . New York 1 is great source for the initial publicity, as well as Art assocations.
Politician and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is s Brooklyn College Alumni, contacting him along w/ Bloomberg a supporter of the arts is good idea. Also consider contacting former Faculty w/ powerful reputations as strong community members.
Anything I can do let me know

Rosemary Taylor Brooklyn College MFA 2007

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that we are being censored in a place conmemorated to those who gave their lives to defend such freedom? Who is obscene now?

Augusto Marin

12:21 AM  
Blogger D. Edward Davis said...

Simultaneously terrifying, aggravating, and disappointing. I hope that a way is found for the show to reopen. Another (more level-headed) venue perhaps?

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am shocked. This is totally ridiculous. I can't believe that people viewing art in New York City can still be scandalized by sexual conduct--didn't we get through that phase with Mapplethorpe?

Certainly if nothing else you have a right to peaceably remove your property.

What heartlessness and idiocy of the management to do this without so much as a 24-hour warning. What are they so afraid of?

1:26 AM  
Blogger skeeboz said...

Take it to the media and ride it for all it'a got. They'll regret they ever got power hungry.

I particularly suggest emailing the Brian Lehrer show on WNYC, requesting that he mention this blatant violation of their right to freedom of expression:

He loves breaking local stories like this.

2:05 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I enjoyed your opening immensely and hope that you're able to reopen soon! there's some small-minded folks in the world, it seems.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess I should I have come out for the opening after all. :P Well, I'm keeping faith this will be re-opened. Knowing some of you, this was the wrong group of MFA students to violate. :)

Sending my energy your way...

3:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having viewed the opening on Wednesday I can fully endorse this exhibit as representing many and varied expressions with great artistic merit. Censorship is always appalling and frightening. I hope this situation resolves itself immediately so that all who wish to can view this exciting art show.
Suzanne L. Cohen, Ed.D., CGP
Licensed Psychologist
Newton, Massachusetts

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Insanity. My first reaction would be to approach the Parks Dept with an offer to place a sign by the door warning of explicit content, but to ready Plan C -- to move the show a.s.a.p. -- if they demand that works be removed.

Re getting media involved, I alerted the NY Times' Metro desk to the situation.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Phoebe A. Cohen said...

This situation saddens me greatly and emphasizes the fact that our country still has puritanical views of sexuality, not to mention serious problems abiding by the first amendment of the constitution. I wish you guys all the best in dealing with this sickening situation and have high hopes to be able to view the show when I visit next week.
-Phoebe Cohen

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marty Markowitz will kow-tow to Speigel. Anything even remotely explicit and sexual and all the gutless and semi-lobotomized politicisn run for cover.

1) What were the arranmgements and understandings by whiuch the exhibition nwas held there?

2) Was there any prior understanding about what could and copuld not be shown?

3) Was there a written agreeement with the gutless Parks department?

4) was there prior notice of the cliosing and an offer to negotiate before changing the locks?

5) Has gutless spiegel tried to present this closing now as a done deal, around which there can be no negotiation?

6) just out of curiosuity is ther any religous imagery mixed with sexual imagery?


1) Call Pat Falk at the Brooklyn Museum. She shepherded them through their indecency controversy when gutless Giuliani was threatening them over their arft exhibit involving dung and religous imagery. Tell Pat what happenened and ask for advice....

2) Call Nay Hentoff and tell him what happened

3) Get a group of MFA students to paint themselves all over in a rainbow of colors and start walking around the site of the exhibit' dress someone as a big paint brush and someone as a big canvas.

4) Tell Presdient Kimmich's Chief of Staff and insist that he or she personally negotiaqte a reopening for you with Parks; tell him that it is the administrations's obligation to support your growth and development as artists; tell him that this is a slap at Brooklyn College

5) Send an email to Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott...big CUNY supporter

6)Stress in all communications that you understand that not all art will appeal to all people. That what is p[ainful and offensive to one person will not be to another.


What is unacceptable in this country at this time or any time is the closing without notice or discussion. This is our beloved Brooklyn not Tienamin Square!

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This country is going insane with puritanism and bigotry. I assume those people never went to Florence and saw Michelangelo's David in Piazza della Signoria or Botticcelli's Venus at the Uffizi.

Raphael Fodde
5 + 5 Gallery

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems like poor communication on the part of the brooklyn parks commisioner and friends (establishing boundries on the content of the show previous to its opening). If they feel they made a bad decision they should suck it up, let the show go on, and learn from this experience.

In Peace-
Isaac Garfield

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New York is supposed to be one of the two or three most liberal cities in the U.S! Two or three compainants can shut down a whole exhibition, the long and devoted labors of a series of graduate students, a show which many wish to view? Surely this is ridiculous and some in city government will come to their senses. Shut down without any attempt at negotiation? For shame.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's very upsetting to read about censorship of this form taking place - especially in a show affiliated with an establishment of higher learning.
I work at NYU and my office is located in a building which houses the MFA program. I've seen many gallery shows here, and it is evident that works have not been censored for sexual content.
The Brooklyn College's Administration has to step forward in defense of artistic expression.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

first, i have to say "kudos" - i thought the show was really great: diverse, contemporary, thought-provoking. it made me wish i had gone to grad school three years later than i did (bc mfa 2003). next, i have to say "WHAT?" this is totally outrageous, and i was scouring the show in my mind trying to figure out which works would be "offensive" and i could not come up with anything. perhaps if there were some nice pastel drawings of nude art models, they'd be OK with that. WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR of all the local newspapers. freedom of speech/expression is a hot button topic right now. power to the people.

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell Presdient Kimmich's Chief of Staff and insist that the President personally negotiate a reopening for you with Parks; tell him that it is the administrations's obligation to support your growth and development as artists; tell him that this is a slap at Brooklyn College

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if the work is currently locked-down or if artists would be given access to remove their pieces. But my sense is that the best way to proceed is to find an alternative space for the exhibition.
Most important however, is that any actions be done collectively.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Augusto Marin said...

Did you know that the three artists that are classified as being "inappropriate" are a homosexual, a woman and a latino?

12:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is tragic and unfair... I hope it can be resloved even if the damage is done...


1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outrage at censorship has been going on since the elightenment. It behooves us to be analytical rather than angry. Why has Brooklyn (from the Bertrand Russell case over fifty years ago through the Brooklyn Museum 'Serrano case' a few years ago, to the current case), been the guardian of delicacy in the public display of religiosexual images and opinions?

New York is the cutting edge; Manhattan the point of the knife. The Bronx is decayed, Queens couldn't care less, and Staten Island is a farm. It is left to Brooklyn to guard family values.

And what are these values? Obviously they have to do with children, and respect, and morality; and all the normative values against which humanistic trust plays. In particular, "the family romance" as elucidated by our dark Freud 100 years ago is at issue. This situation is fraught with risk; risk of shame and risk of violence to the social fabric.

Poor Brooklyn; to be saddled with this responsibility!

John Brodsky MD
123 South Princeton Avenue
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is truly ironic that you are being censored in a place that honors those who fought for our freedom of speech and expression. What a sad day for the MFA students and for NY and the entire US when students who have worked so hard the last 2 years cannot display their talents. Whatever images are presented in this show are out of the creative genius of some of the best Brooklyn College has to offer. I hope that the college succeeds in taking up your cause and that those who rejected your show will someday come to appreciate the talents of your generation. Good luck to all of you. May the future hold much success and happiness for you and do not let this discourage you, dampen your dreams or keep you from expressing your creative genius.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shutting down the show without any dialogue, deeming all of the works essentially unacceptable is obviously the easy way for a city agency to deal with something it is not educated about.

This should be made known public, otherwise artists are losing an opportunity to make a larger impact.

Their lack of understanding of sexuality as a metaphor does not make them philistines, but it smells suspiciously like someone in government made another decision based on ignorance.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Viviane said...

I'ved linked to your press release.

9:05 AM  
Blogger CharlieX said...

This is both sad, depressing, frustrating and oddly I think it will ultimately become ironically amusing... I went to the Whitney Bienneal about a month a go and was amused to see in one of the rooms Serrano's "Piss Christ" I was surrounded by high school students who were too young to realize the stir that that once inflammitory now benign image had caused... I guess my point is this: Take comfort in the fact that 10 years from now this work that was sooo controversial that it had to be shut down and locked up will in all likelihood be viewed in a major museum show and we all will think back on the fuss it caused and chuckle!!! It's hard to imagine now and I cannot imagine how angry you must be now but as this parade of well wisher's proves we the artist's and intellectual's are standing behind you and it is you that history will remember not some burecrat who tried to silence you!!!

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to David Grubbs
You are exactly right.
The responsibilty for the sign you suggest lies squarely with the director of the gallery. As posted at another site here, this has been common curatorial practice across the country since the Mappelthorpe scandal in the early 90's. It represents a compromise struck then between artistic freedom and community values.
Why wasn't this done at the onset?

12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the whole thing is really just a lot of news and confusion and ...chaos, frankly. I was at the protest today and I can tell you, it was really a site to behold

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the whole thing is really just a lot of news and confusion and ...chaos, frankly. I was at the protest today and I can tell you, it was really a site to behold

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the protest, too, today. And you will never believe what I saw: 2nd year MFAs cnesoring' their classmates, trying to control the "message" that was being fed to the press. Isn't that exactly what this is all about- Freedom to speak? I thought a brown haired woman named Carrey, in particular, was really out of line with some of her classmates.

Julia Sands
Brooklyn Heights, NY

6:56 PM  
Blogger Michael Cross said...

Well, you have run up against the fear that permeates our society like a virus today. Fear of bird flu, fear of "nucular" proliferation, fear of terrorism, and on and on. But fear of art in public places?! That just shows how fearful our current government bureaucrats are of THEIR superiors. These yokels are not afraid of families seeing your art exhibit. They are afraid of their own bosses firing them if some Philistine complains to the wrong person.

Remember this experience as a demonstration of the power of art, able to strike fear even into those who know nothing about art.

If any of you would like an alternative for the show, how about flooding the blogosphere with all the images of the exhibit. I'll volunteer to post a few on my blog, if you'll email me a jpeg at

Anyone else?

Michael Cross
Dallas, TX

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUTRAGED, shocked, dismayed, disappointed, and angry hardly begin to desribe how I feel about what is happening to the MFA students. Needless to say, the Parks Department abrupt closing of "Plan B" exemplifies censorship in one of its ugliest forms. I cannot believe that Brooklyn College so easily rolled over in the face of adversity. The school's compliance with the Parks Department's outrageous demands is blatantly disrespectful to its students and faculty as well as their freedoms of speech and expression. Apparently Brooklyn College does not value its artists as much as it claims to in its brochures. B.C. has hammered a nail into its coffin- no artist will want to be apart of an institution that allows its students to be censored. If the powers that be wish to save their university's reputation they will redeem their actions and come to the aid of this victimized group of students-- RE-OPEN PLAN B AT THE BROOKLYN WAR MEMORIAL!!!!

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an artist. I have seen the work. It's pretty poor "art" for the most part. Most of the "concepts" have been done to death since the 70's or so. Most of these redundant "concepts" are poorly executed. Shame on the professors. Shame on the students. It's lazy and it's insulting to the viewer. This is the reason that very little art from the last fifty years will have real lasting impact

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FUrious, hungry, wet, clammy, aggressive, relaxed, big, Chinese- these are just some of the adjectives that this whole FIASCO brings up in me. Others are blue, citrusy, speedy, toasted, shewy, pornorgraphic, orgiastic, drippy and hard

4:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You idiots are sick. You represent all that is wrong with our once-great education system.

Get a freaking something positive....

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i read about it i just couldn't believe that ART was CENCORed in NY.. NY is known as one of the most important centers of Art..well..i don't think the reputation can last very long with such a mentality which is very sad..

All my best to the all artists who worked very hard for this exhibition.. i hope that you get your exhibition back..


9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The city Parks Department said an agreement with the college stipulated that art exhibits at the memorial be "appropriate for families."- extracted from your Blog.

Come on guys! Any museum or gallery knows that if there is questionable content then you need to inform people of this before they enter. That is their right. And your responsibility. The Parks department is no gallery or museum organization- they provide services to families! You knew this before you staged the show.
Gets your stuff together first before making angry accusations and attracting attention to yourself.
Have you been to the Whitney? Have you seen Calilgula? Have you seen the sign posted outside that warns you that explicit sexual content is viewed inside.
This is not about censorship, or about the government deciding what art is or isn't appropriate, this is about you and your group fulfilling your contractual agreement as would any other group that was staging a show in a museum or gallery. You have to follow procedure and obviously you haven't done so, which is why your show has been shut down.
By making this scene you are giving artists a bad name and simply attracting attention to yourself. I hope you enjoy it while you can. Get your 15 minutes now.
I support freedom of speech an all manners but you cannot be unreasonable and show explicit content without informing people.
respect their rights and they will respect yours. It works both ways.
Thank you


9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read these FREAK SHOW responses and I say to my self, "What has happened to this country?"

I saw the art work - It was tasteless no talent art that I would not want my kids to see. If you want to show this crap Rent a Private place (Oh wait you have no jobs or money). And all the freaks can come and say how great the art is, get high and have sex.

I do not want MY tax money paying for this. Get a JOB and do it yourself.

12:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sean 9:47 is correct. But the responsibility to post a warning would lie with the gallery director, Maria Rand, not the students.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg! just heard the provost pulled a bait and switch early this morning with the students showing up for a meeting she called. they got there and found it was canceled at the same time trucks came to the war memorial to remove the art. fantastic move! right out of machevelli or the chinese war guy. or tony soprano.
anyone heard an update?

2:15 PM  
Blogger Eco Child said...

I've posted some commentary on my blog so that your story can gain some more attention. Best of luck!

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what's going on over there???

7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For all the people who write on the blog but don't know the facts and talk crap.
You did not pay for this exhibition. The students payed for this, from their tuition money and from their pocket. The school would not even provide manpower for installation of the show and they did not have to pay for the space. So, no taxdollars here! Even if there was taxdollars involved students were not informed of any guidelines for the so called Brooklyn College Art Gallery, but after Julius Spiegel closed the show before anybody actually seing it the students and professors offered to put a sign up. So, this is actually is about censorship and the parks department and Brooklyn Colleges power trip.


12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, sexuality is the gate to all wonder and mystery of the worlds. It's also pleasure and a source of awareness. No wonder that priests, politician, imams and the crap want to control it, institutionalize it as marriage, oppress it and shy it as the most natural and freest way of expression, your own deep self. It's the same human stupidity in the organized religions, the power houses everywhere. Here, fanatic Islam comes to mutual terms with a child molesting priest and Mr Giuliani, SEX! KILL SEX! Kill the free will!
Besides, I think you should push the case, they helped you half way to stardom with the closing. Bless you all!

1:05 AM  
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