Sunday, May 07, 2006

NY Times, NPR

We are in today's Sunday NY TIMES (May 7th), Metro Section

Also, NPR News (Sunday May 7th, 9:30am) announced that the Brooklyn College MFA Art Exhibit would be moving out of the Brooklyn War Memorial tomorrow, Monday May 8th.

PLEASE NOTE: We have not agreed to move the show.

Please send email to NYC & Brooklyn College officials and to the media. Some suggested contact information listed below.

- Brooklyn College Pres.Christoph M. Kimmich:
- Brooklyn College Provost Roberta Matthews:
- Adrian Benepe, NYC Parks Commissioner:
- Michael Bloomberg, New York City Mayor:
- WNYC News: or go to
- NY TIMES Letters To The Editor:
- NY POST Letters To The Editor:


Blogger Frank said...

Provost Matthews,

I understand you are not only busy but have probably received a good deal of email about this issue already. I wish I had kinder words for you, but I feel that your decision to move the MFA exhibit from the Brooklyn War Memorial due to complaints of so-called obscenity is cowardly and wrong.

I am the brother of one of the artists and was at the opening. Everyone I spoke to there was very impressed by the quality and maturity of the work, and allowing one or two hypersensitive cretans to spoil the show for everybody else is completely unfair.
On the practical side, there is no way that Brooklyn College will be able to adequately display the installations on campus. You know this because it was the reason for having the exhibit at the war memorial in the first place.
On the ethical side, your spineless aquiescence to the demands of a vocal, culturally backward minority not only has shifted the discourse to the right but serves as a de facto admission of guilt on the part of the college and the students.

This is shameful. People are making judgements on the exhibit based on the politics surrounding it rather than the work itself. In all likelihood, you yourself have probably not been able to see the work and may even be unsure as to whether the accusations of obscenity have any grounds.
The problem is that choosing to move the show can never be an affirmation of free speech because it essentially accepts the accusations of obscenity without submitting the actual material to the public discourse.
This is precisely what the cretans want--to not have to see something that might prove itself to be other than what they think it should be.

Having seen the show myself, I found it hilarious that anyone would be offended by it. The mere subjects of the unclothed human body and actual human sexuality seem to be completely off limits these days. While in the show, they were dealt with in a mature and even subtle fashion.
Allowing the Parks Service to shut down the exhibit ignores all of this and allows the artists to be portrayed as provocative degenerates rather than the sensitive, talented men and women they are.

Shame on you for valuing your college's reputation over that of your students.

- Frank F

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People must know the moving of the show is the school NOT THE STUDENTS.
It is an outrageous move on the part of the college to undermine the students, and to lay down to the parks department.



12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Ask who drafted Provost Matthew's initial statement, she herself or the PR consultant Colleene Roche, former speokesperson for Mayor Giuliani.

2) Ask why they engaged a PR consultant to handle this and how much of a retainer or fee the consultant Ms. Roche is charging. These are public funds that are being used, not to defend free expression, but to help the college navigate the PR minefield.

The college will respond that the funds used to pay the PR consultant are non-tax levy. This is a cop-out. Even a choice to spend non-tax levy funds for PR rather than a first amendment lawyer is a choice. Those same non-tax levy funds could have been used for student support or to pay an attorney to fight FOR your right to exhibit.

3) Ask to see this agreement that Commissioner Speigel keeps talking about that makes clear what can and cant be shown. Creating "policy" out of thin air from the past, or even from informal conbersations that he may have had, is not policy.

4) Ask Provost Matthews if her decision to cave was a result of any pressure received from anyone, and, if so, who.

5) If the answer she gives is no one, then ask why she caved so quick.

6) Ask them to tell you any communications they have had with the central administration or any trustee on this matter, if central pressed them to settle quickly without a first amendment defense.

7) When you find out who drafted the origianl statement from Matthews that you had to move, find out what she or Roche say was the purpose to add the phrase about Brooklyn College having always defended the rights of its students.

That may be true of Broojklyn College, I bet it is, but why put it in a statement in whiuch they tell you that this time they won't?

Actually this is a little unfair of me. I know this is a rhetorical question. I apologize for being a little sarcastic. They put in the phrase to try to have it both ways, i.e, "we generally have not screwed you but we are going to screw you this time."

8) Finally remember: The Brooklyn adminsitration are good decent people, they care about your rights, they really do. This may be hard for you to see. But they have jobs in which they have to negotiate a treacherous political environment.

And in this case their political judgement (or the judgement of the Chancellor who may have sent them the message) is that this time they didnt want to pay the price. I understand why they wouldn't. But they have to.

They have to.

And to force their hand you have to be sympathetic, reasonable, empathetic with their politcal position, yet absolutely inflexible about not moving the exhibit. This must be non-negotiable.

In a strange way, your inflexibility will help the Brooklyn administartion. No one will be able to blame them for not persuading you to back off if you absolutely refuse under all circumstances NOT to back off.

You guys are my heros!

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I sympathize with your problem and your situation, it seems that you r problem lies with the admionistration of Brooklyn College who A) brokered a deal with the city that limited (cencored) the potential creations of the artists, and B) never told the students of these limits. The city parks commissioner was merely doing his job and should not be chastised for his role in this situation. Having said that, I think the whole thing is an abomination. The fact that the Brooklyn College administration would make a deal with the city that ostensibly puts parameters on what should be a comletely free and personal exercise (the master's thesis exhibition and art in general) is completely unacceptable. It calls into question that administration's dedication to art as a viable and important aspect of our culture. It seems to me that the Brooklyn War Memorial is not an appropriate venue for this exhibition or any exhibition of art with particularly adult themes. Way to go to the people who run the Brooklyn College art program. Foresight and common sense is incredibly lacking.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous numberer:
thanks for your illumination of these intricacies.
(i assume you are also the same anonymous numberer of earlier posts)
i'm sure the students will find your advice and support very helpful.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thanks. From now Ill be called "The Numberer." My advice comes from experience on both sides of battles like these and it comes with good will.

And it also comes with having learned from long experince that there are no demons in a fight like this. Every person is acting in a way that responds the best they can to the bureaucratic pressures they confront. This includes the Brooklyn College administration and the Parks Department and the Mayor.

But sometimes good people need to be pressed and pressed hard. President Kimmich and Provost Matthews are academics for whom censorship goes against every bone in their body. But they are also bureaucrats trying to do their best for Brooklyn College against forces from the Chancellor to the Parks Dept to the alumni whose understanding of academic freedom is much less strong.

I guess I am saying, hold their feet to the fire but don't demonize them. Be civil, but be stubborn as mules.

The art doesn't move.

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is what I say- The work in the show can be termed "site specific," a term that comes in handy when you are arguing with the NYC Government, just ask Richard Serra how helpful that term proved to be. SO, if the work is site specific and the Parks Dept doesn't want that kind of work, the penis kind, publicly hanging in one of their parks, just move the whole building to a private location. If they bust your chops for moving the war memorial onto private property, just say "YOUR TRESSPASSING" and shoot at them with rubber bullets. This kind of brokered agreement would benefit both sides and save a lot of headache farther down the road.

The Blue Man Group

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Heiku:
Art of the penis
pissing off a man
who commisions park

4:23 PM  
Blogger Plan C said...


Thank you for your well-put advice on this matter!

We will use some of it in our meeting with the Provost tomorrow.

Plan C

12:00 AM  
Blogger Hazel said...

The only thing I know about being gay is that I am not gay. ANYTHING else I could possibly say about being gay is pure speculation.

As far as the art exhibit goes, I have a six year old-daughter and don't think it's a family exhibit. She knows that penises and vulvas are used to make babies (and that's it for now). She also knows that it's not polite to grab your penis or vulva in public. We've seen several nude statues, she knows mommy's favorite painting is Cupid & Psyche, I have a reproduction of Rivera's Nude with Callas hanging over the mantle, her aunt posed as one of thousands for Spencer Tunick (and we've seen the final shots); that is considered nudity in our home and it's acceptable and appropriate ALWAYS.

However, there is a difference between nudity and sexuality/mature sexuality. I don't want her thinking that a man grabbing his erect penis or a woman displaying her vagina (or paintings of it) in public is art. At 6, she's too young to embrace the concept of artistic value, and if someone were to actually expose their genitals to her, I don't want her to think "it's art" because it is not; it's illegal. At her age,it is more important to learn about modesty than mature sexual behavior and activity. While there are a few opportunities to instill a healthy attitude toward her sexuality (and sexuality in general), it is very limited at her age. She's not mature enough to understand full scope of "sex"; she still she thinks that kissing is gross, and that genitals and genital-related activities (butts, farts, poop, pee) are funny.

As far as homosexuality goes, I explain to my child that some women prefer to kiss other women and the some men prefer to kiss other men and that it's okay, but some people don't think it's okay because it's not what most people do. She knows that that sort of attitude is NOT okay because no one is in a position to judge another person's decisions or feelings. I also teach her that people who touch each other's "special places" in public (i.e. make out) is rude and inappropriate (heterosexual OR homosexual). There is a time and place for everything, and a park bench is not the place to get it on in broad daylight. A child doesn't posess the mental faculties to understand mature sexuality OR paintings of it.

All told, if my kid was 13 or 14 and capable of handling the mature content, we would probably go see something like this and and discuss why it is considered art by some and pornography by others.

3:57 PM  
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