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Ruled by fear: Offaly CC bans mild critical comment from art display


He3

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Jerome Reilly has a chilling story about what happens when an artist holds a mirror up to our nature and a local authority does not like what it sees. Carolina Gustavsson was commissioned to prepare a photographic display for the Council HQ interviewed a cross section of people in the County and added an account of their views as captions to their portraits. Some were mildly critical of certain interests. The Council would not have it.

Artist who refused to be gagged withdraws from council exhibit - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie

Ms Gustavsson -- who is originally from Sweden but lives in Co Offaly -- said she was stunned to receive an email from the council's arts officer, Sinead O'Reilly, questioning the commentary attached to three of the portraits and suggesting changes to the texts

Ms O'Reilly stated in her email: "It is Catherine, Dave and Irene and Jean and Conor which remain problematic. Can I suggest the following edits, which retain the message, just eliminates comments that can be read as offensive to the organisation which is both funding and hosting this exhibition. Yes, I agree that freedom of speech is important, and that the comments are nothing new, we hear them all the time, in fact they are typical of ranting you hear on the radio every day. I was expecting political content, but more insightful comments than merely suggesting that the organisation (funding your project) is corrupt."

Ms O'Reilly's email then suggested that funding could be at stake: "This context is fragile. This is the organisation that funds the arts in Offaly. This exhibition will be up when debates are going on as to how much (or whether at all!) to fund the arts in 2011. It is not a gallery or an arts centre where controversial content should have freedom to air, but a political organisation with the power to completely eliminate the arts service in Offaly if they felt warranted.

"Yes, the truth hurts; but my manager and I are not prepared to allow that truth to damage the hard work the arts service has achieved to be able to fund artists, projects, festivals etc."
Ms Gustavsson was shocked that "innocent and innocuous comments" could be the subject of censorship.

"...a council is different, or at least in my opinion should be different. I wanted to document the state of the nation and how it has changed in the last 10 to 15 years. I could never have guessed that they would react like they have," she said.

Sean Murray, the council's director of services who is in charge of arts, defended the council's action.

"Offaly County Council is a public and democratic organisation and all exhib-itions within our offices should reflect our ethos and our broad community," he said.

"We did not request any quotations of participants to be edited, but asked the artist to reconsider the tone of some of her edited text in consideration of the organisation who was providing this opportunity for her.

"We were concerned that offence could have been taken and this may have impacted negatively on arts funding, for which so many community groups, individuals and arts organisations depend on," he said.
The Sindo article is illustrated with a portrait of the artist against a backdrop of the 'potentially offensive' work, and carries the troublesome text.

Fearful government is ruinous.
 
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truthisfree

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Extraordinary story, have been reading it and am still at a loss at how this type of censorship can be justified.
 

Inda Kenny

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You just have to love local politics do it our way or else certainly seems to be the message coming from the council.
 

Panopticon

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This country recently passed a blasphemy law much admired by the theocracies and fundamentalist monarchies of the Islamic Middle East, including praise at the United Nations and a demand that the rest of the Christian world adopt the same laws, and a painting critical of the leader of the country was the subject of a grovelling apology by the state broadcaster to the ruling party.

Who is surprised by this latest turn away from the freedom of speech?
 

ICallely

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Not to mention the most severe slander and libel laws in the West.
 

Odyessus

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Jerome Reilly has a chilling story about what happens when an artist holds a mirror up to our nature and a local authority does not like what it sees. Carolina Gustavsson was commissioned to prepare a photographic display for the Council HQ interviewed a cross section of people in the County and added an account of their views as captions to their portraits. Some were mildly critical of certain interests. The Council would not have it.

Artist who refused to be gagged withdraws from council exhibit - National News, Frontpage - Independent.ie



Ms Gustavsson was shocked that "innocent and innocuous comments" could be the subject of censorship.



The Sindo article is illustrated with a portrait of the artist against a backdrop of the 'potentially offensive' work, and carries the troublesome text.

Fearful government is ruinous.



It is not art, and it would still not be art, even if all the comments quoted were supportive of the government or county council.
 

truthisfree

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It is not art, and it would still not be art, even if all the comments quoted were supportive of the government or county council.
What on earth has your concept of what is and is not art have to do with this censorship?
 

oceanclub

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Sean Murray: "We did not request any quotations of participants to be edited, but asked the artist to reconsider the tone of some of her edited text....
How on earth can you change the tone of a written quotation without editing it?

P.
 

He3

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How on earth can you change the tone of a written quotation without editing it?

P.

It is doubletalk. Take this example:

Another of the portraits, of "Dave and Irene", also caused concern. The portrait of the couple outside their home was to have included the following comments: "Dave was listening to a documentary where an economist explored the roots of the problem and thinks it might be that Ireland is too small and too personal to keep the necessary discipline: '...like Paddy is a politician who knows Sean whose cousin Eamonn is a banker who knows Aengus who's a solicitor... so cosy and corrupt. A change in the political system is badly needed and, to start with, an apology from the people responsible. Instead they continuously claim they did nothing wrong'."
If I read it correctly, the first section in quotation marks is her version of what the couple said to her. The actual quote from the couple then follows. There is nothing in the least 'potentiall offensive' in her version of what she was told. The sting is in the actual quote from the couple.
 

stanley

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What else would you expect from those hillbillies in Offaly just cos a local lad is Taoiseach they think they are leading the country, I mean Gerard Killally was the chairman of the CC and was stroking through planning permissions to beat the band, now a 74m bankrupt and rising.

Sooner Biffo is back amongst them as a celebrity, without the car, the better, he will be on free pints until he gets to the graveyard.

Offaly has had its shot at the Govt coffers, probably has more ghost estates than any other county, even a fuppin National Fas Training Centre in the middle of a bog, a hundred miles away from the main centre of unemployment, what a joke.
 

He3

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Who holds the purse strings?

Who is the Director of Services afraid of offending?

We were concerned that offence could have been taken and this may have impacted negatively on arts funding

Whoever it is better come out and calm his nerves.
 

Toland

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You have a very wide definition of art. I myself am not an artist, but I could easily mount such an "art display" myself.
Funny that ... about art.

Often seems so easy.

There is an honourable tradition in art of using public funds to embarrass fund administrators. They're likely to regret their pathetic attempt to reverse their original mistake.
 

rubensni

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Can I suggest the following edits, which retain the message, just eliminates comments that can be read as offensive to the organisation which is both funding and hosting this exhibition.
Someone should remind Offaly County Council that they are spending taxpayer's money, not their money.
 

pujols

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Art should never be funded by local or central government. It is a waste of taxpayers money.

What she was doing was a display and imho she should do what the folks who commissioned it asked for.

But she should not pretend it is art and she should not profess such outrage.

Both sides are at fault here.
 
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