Saturday, May 06, 2006

NY Times Article 5/6/06

The New York Times did a report on the closing of Plan B in today's paper.

Following is the full text of the article:


Published: May 6, 2006

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has done more to promote the arts than any in a generation, but that enthusiasm did not extend to a graduate-student art show that opened this week in a city-owned building near the Brooklyn Bridge. After visiting the exhibition, which featured a penis sculpture, a caged rat and a sexually charged video, the Brooklyn parks commissioner ordered it closed on Thursday and changed the locks to the building.

Warner Johnston, a spokesman for the Parks Department, said the decision was made by Julius Spiegel, the commissioner, who felt the work was not "appropriate for families." In that sense, Mr. Johnston said, it violated an agreement reached six years ago between the city and Brooklyn College for use of the building, a World War II memorial, as a space for the college's art shows.

After discussions yesterday with city officials, the college's provost, Roberta S. Matthews, said that in light of "the public nature of the space as well as its position as an honored war memorial," she had decided to relocate the show, called "Plan B," to the college's campus.

The college has long "supported our students' rights to freedom of artistic expression," she said in a statement.

"We are proud to display our student art here at the college," she said. Ms. Matthews declined to comment further about the issue.

A spokeswoman for the college said the Parks Department had never before raised objections about the nature of artwork in graduate shows.

The latest exhibition, devoted to the thesis projects of 18 Brooklyn College students who are pursuing master's degrees in fine arts, had opened on Wednesday night with the college's president and Ms. Matthews in attendance. But the following afternoon at the building at 195 Cadman Plaza West, a parks superintendent asked the students inside to leave and changed the locks.

"They didn't even ask us to close it or inform us first," said Tamas Veszi, one of the art students, who returned to the building yesterday to post a sign on its tall doors. It read "Plan C," with C as the first letter in "censored."

The students also set up a blog to spread the word about the closing — — and announced plans for a rally today in front of the war memorial building to protest the decision.

Marni Kotak, a performance artist whose work in the show featured a mockup of a third-grade classroom with a live rat as class pet, said the students were outraged by the closing. "We were never told that there would be an issue with the kind of content that we showed," she said. "We had no idea that there would be any kind of problem at all."

In addition to the penis sculpture, the works in the show included a video with sexual overtones in which women are dressed as nuns. It also featured, among other things, abstract paintings and watercolors, photographs, video works and installation-type work using air-duct pipes and spheres of unfired clay.

Last year the National Coalition Against Censorship and the College Art Association wrote to the Parks Department to express their opposition to a rule being considered for the city's public art program, which the Parks Department helps to oversee. The rule was intended to exclude from the program art that demonstrated "a lack of proper respect for public morals or conduct or that includes material that is religious, political or sexual in nature."

Officials from the two organizations wrote that the rule would raise constitutional problems. "Surely a city that is home to world-class cultural institutions and is a major capital of the art world would be an object of ridicule if this rule were implemented," they added. After public hearings last year, the proposed rule was not put into effect.

Ms. Kotak said she and several other artists involved were "adamantly opposed" to moving the Brooklyn College show to the college campus and did not plan to cooperate with the transfer.

"The point of having the show at this space for the last few years was that there really wasn't the right kind of space on campus to do this," she said. "Some of this work is site-specific and is pretty large, like 30 by 30 feet. It's hard to imagine where it's going to be displayed the right way on campus."

For her the only positive development yesterday was that a Parks Department employee allowed her to enter the locked exhibition space to feed the rat in her installation.

"I was getting worried," Ms. Kotak said. "It hadn't had anything to eat in quite a while."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone report on what hapopened at the protest..

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a senior citizen.

I can admit to having viewed pornography without being offended.

But, I have a very strong opinion that anything that takes place in a forum that is supported by taxpayer funding must have the support of the majority of taxpayers.

Therefore, any art expression, whether it is a crucifx in urine or a Madonna in dung, they have the absolute right to publication, but they have no right to taxpayer support.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all in favor to freedom of expression but we also have to be sensitive to our surroundings. Does one have a right to display a phallis? I suppose. But does it really need to be displayed in a WAR MEMORIAL??? It seems that everyone is focused on if they could, rather than if they should.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It only takes common sense to acknowledge that we retain a sense of dignity in public spaces, especially within spaces that carry significant sentiment. A war memorial need not be the venue for this type of art.

And who gave you the right to use a live animal for this so-called "art" anyway?

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in response to k. clark

What evidence is there that those who are opposed to the work displayed are the majority? As shown in the past Presidential election, NYC seems to be more on the left side of things.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My opinion is that our veterans fought and sometimes died to preserve the rights that are now being trampled upon.

The portrayal of nudity was not made in opposition to or in response to the site of the War Memorial, the students are merely doing their own work, their own projects. The "sensitivity to their surroundings" was their mandate to show their best work at their exhibition. The previous posts are reactionary and uninformed. The kind of "taxpayers' who are glad to have the president committing wire tapping transgressions in the name of national security.

I would love to see what the veterans think....

6:46 PM  
Blogger A COLLAGE A DAY said...

I just love it when people comment on something that they have never even seen before. A picture can be worth a thousand words. Word are worth a lot less.
I am sure that the majority of tax payers do not support the war in Iraq. I for one do not want my tax money funding the killing of innocent people in Iraq. That seems a hell of a lot worse than an image of a penis.


7:53 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

Having seen the art myself, I would say that "the majority of taxpayers" would in all likelihood not find it offensive.

Comparing the work to pornography, "a crucifix in urine," or "a Madonna in dung" is completely ridiculous.
These works were really not trying to provoke people or appeal to their prurient interests (which of course is what people assume the moment an accusation of obscenity is made public). Those who failed to see this missed the whole point of the work and are only showcasing their cultural ignorance.

My guess is that the Parks Commissioner did not even find the work particularly offensive himself but rather was worried that certain other individuals would.
It seems that the threshold level for something being "contraversial" is falling rapidly.

2:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you people always have to push your gay agenda? Less then 2% of the population is gay and you seem to think that the rest of us care about this disorder. What is next, Pedophile rights? I am worried about the tactics used by this movement, using discrimination laws as a smoke screen. Please stop.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nobody gives a flying fuck about you so go flap your gums at somebody else you punk pussy bitch.

im gonna remain anonymous just like you punk!!!

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets look at this from another level. 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.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dina, you are a wise and wonderful women. Just not here you are not women. Here you are letter on screen. If a computer has nobody to type on it, is it still a computer, or as French say, and Ordinarytor?

Heiku Master

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heiku master is the man!!!

7:49 PM  
Blogger loboinok said...

"I would love to see what the veterans think...."

1. As a veteran, I think you are all flipping morons!

2. How creative can you people be if you cannot even make up a screen name?

3. Since you believe that what is private, should be art... put your toilets in your front yards.

4. learn to spell... you are college students.

8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christian Viewpoint Banned Again

Censorship in North Carolina:

"The Sampson County school system stands behind a decision to suspend a student for passing out Christian leaflets at Midway High School, Superintendent Stewart Hobbs said Friday... The handouts, which presented a Christian viewpoint on homosexuality, caused a disturbance in the school and prompted some students, teachers and a parent to complain, Hobbs said".

The school can teach that homosexuality is good and wonderful but nobody is allowed to give the opposite message, apparently.

In Matthew 28:18,19 Jesus said: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations ... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you". So the kid was just practicing his religion -- and THAT is constitutionally protected. The kid was not doing it in class time.

The reason honcho Hobbs mentioned "disturbance" is because anything that disrupts teaching has reasonably been held by the courts to trump free speech. But there was no teaching disrupted and it is surely in any case disrupters who should be disciplined rather than someone peacefully handing out leaflets.

Anyway, the school is now in the courts over it. It is really amazing the lengths they go to in order to preach a Leftist gospel on the taxpayer's dime.

Comments? Email John Ray. My old posts on this blog can be found here or here

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo Loboinok:

Gud poynt! We bedderf lurn how too spelll.

And that toilet on the lawn?

So help me. I am going to try it. And Ill be sitting on it.

I've already titled it:

"Urban Throne"

Seriously, you may not be too swift, buit I honest to God appreciate that you served your country. Really do. I didn't and, truith be told, I have alwasy regretted it. Thank you.

I am intensely aware that you served so our freedom of expression could be protected, including expression by jerks like me.

This freedom business is really confusing sometimes, i.e., who is prtecting whose rights, etc.?

But none of this should obscure that you served. Thanks

1:48 PM  

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