Artistic freedom of expression and the threat of censorship has dominated debate in the art world of Australia after police raided a Melbourne art gallery, seizing part of an installation, on 25 May 2013.
“Let not the law be a weapon to close down artist expression,” said Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Arts Martin Foley, after Police had come to the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art in St Kilda, Melbourne, and seized allegedly “inappropriate” art work by Australian artist Paul Yore after complaints from local residents that a public funded gallery was “supporting dirty, offensive art.”
The exhibition entitled ‘Like Mike’ pays homage to the Australian artist Mike Brown (1938–1997) and looks at his diverse influence on other local artists. Mike Brown is the only Australian artist to have been successfully prosecuted for obscenity.
Paul Yore’s installation, entitled ‘Everything is F****d’, featured sex aids, toys and balloons, along with a cardboard cutout of a child with Justin Bieber’s head urinating from a dildo into a sink. Residents compared it to child pornography. In Melbourne, child pornography offences carry prison terms of up to 10 years.
“This is stuff that’s out there”
Paul Yore, 25, hit back, saying: “My voice has a right to be heard”, claiming that the criticism “borders on homophobia” and failed to understand the context of the work, which includes images taken from popular culture and advertising materials.
“I see it as a kind of collage and assemblage of all sorts of things from society. It’s about questioning our social fabric,” Paul Yore explained to the Herald Sun: “This is stuff that’s out there in society, not that I’ve created… I don’t think the work is shocking compared to what’s out there.”
In an interview on the gallery’s website Paul Yore, who is winner of the AUD $8,000 Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award 2013, says the installation is designed to sarcastically point out the ideas of excess and spectacle in our society.
“I wanted to talk about the phallocentric nature of our culture … especially in relation to the natural world, the way our society of civilisation has this very destructive relationship with the natural world,” he said.
“This is yet another sorry and pathetic part in the story of Australian censorship.”
Mark Holsworth, arts administrator, artist and writer.
Large crowd of protesters
The board of Linden Centre for Contemporary Art have so far refused to shed light on the closed gallery’s fate, despite calls from community leaders to immediately reopen the gallery and the exhibition.
A group of Melbourne artists say their work is now being unfairly censored. “The police have taken whatever artwork that has been in question, and therefore there is nothing left in this exhibition that could be offensive,” they were quoted as saying.
On 8 June 2013, a large crowd of protesters, which according to Sydney Morning Herald included local business figures, artists and the member of state parliament Martin Foley, staged a rally outside the Linden Centre calling for an end to the censorship of the gallery’s exhibition.
Martin Foley called it “a dreadful misuse of process” and called on the St Kilda community to stand by the exhibition.
The Guardian – 14 June 2013:
Censorship is stifling Australia’s artistic freedom of expression
Challenging Australian artworks are being attacked and censored. If we are only permitted to view ‘correct’ works then art’s primary function is destroyed. By Steve Cox
Sydney Morning Herald – 8 June 2013:
Artists rally in protest on censorship
By Thomas O’Byrne
– Also published in The Age
red-jos.blog – 7 June 2013:
Censorship in the Internet age? What a joke!
By Dewi Cooke
ABC News – 4 June 2013:
Artist Paul Yore likely to be charged with child pornography offences after works seized from St Kilda gallery
The Music – 4 June 2013:
Melbourne Artist To Be Charged With Child Porn Offences
CCAS Social Pages – 3 June 2013:
Like Mike everything is still f****d
By Natalie Thomas
Black Mark – 2 June 2013:
Police Raid Art Gallery
By Mark Holsworth
Herald Sun – 29 May 2013:
Controversial artist Paul Yore in firing line after police seize Linden centre works in St Kilda
By Dana McCauley
Black Mark – 22 May 2008:
More Art Censorship
By Mark Holswort
Art work removed from Sydney art fair
Daily Life – 19 September 2013:
Controversial artist’s work removed from Sydney art fair (Video interview, duration: 2:23)
One of Paul Yore’s works was pulled from the Contemporary Sydney art fair because it would have broken NSW criminal laws involving the depiction of children in art.