Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Brooklyn Public Library Expounds on Its Censorship of Art

The Brooklyn Public Library, which banned several works of art from its reshowing of the "Footprints: Portrait of a Brooklyn Neighborhood" show has provided more justifications rationalizations statements about its decision to not show several works that it deemed to controversial. Apparently, the library feels that they advocate, rather than document. We could go off on an entire riff about how, sometimes, documenting, is also advocating because it's all in the reaction of the viewer and about how sometimes advocates can document.

In any case, Wendy Zarganis at About Brooklyn emailed the Library about their, um, choices. Last week, they burbled something about being a publicly-funded institution. This week, they cite "space constraints" and that business about documentation vs. advocacy. In any case, they write:
As with any exhibition we host at Brooklyn Public Library, we worked closely with the curators of the Footprints exhibit to select the pieces that best represent the theme of this exhibition. We also had to take into account space constraints. Our interest in this exhibition is in documentation, not advocacy.


A curator of the show, Belle Benfield, also provided this statement to About Brooklyn:
We as the co-curators of the "Footprints" exhibition understood that documenting Brooklyn and the lives of its residents is one of the major objectives of Brooklyn Public Library's exhibitions policy, which is why we applied to have the exhibition take place there. Our exhibition fits these criteria, taking as its subject the area of Brooklyn now known as the "Atlantic Yards," and interpreting this space and the lives of its residents through the perspectives of 27 artists with strong ties to that neighborhood. We understood and accepted that the library's interest was in documentation and not in advocacy when they agreed to the exhibition.

Rather than merely remounting the Prospect Heights exhibition, we worked together with representatives of the library to curate a new exhibition with a somewhat different focus. We selected this exhibition because of its relevance to current events in Brooklyn and because it’s something that our diverse community cares about. We felt strongly that the art featured caters to the interests of the audience that we serve.
They worked "to curate a new exhibition with a somewhat different focus." This would resonate if they had added a lot of new work, but of course, they found a "new focus" by removing (or censoring) some of the work. Ms. Zarganis writes:
Shouldn't we be allowed to see the controversial art too, with the understanding that the Library could show the contentious pieces and still maintain that it is not an advocacy group?
We're not certain what's more irritating--the removal of the works or these hollow attempts to rationalize it.

Related Post:
The Art the Brooklyn Public Library Doesn't Want You to See

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