‘Excerpt from 71822666 LD50’
'Somehow you and I collide', MA Fine Art Interim show, Central Saint Martins, March 2017
‘Excerpt from 71822666 LD50’
Central to the work is the ‘act of display’, its meta-political context and the mutability of signs.
I am interested in exploring meta-level issues surrounding the ‘act of appropriation’ in the age of Internet forum culture. In particular the vulnerability of signs to acts of hostile aesthetic takeover, as enacted in the sub-cultural hijacking of previously innocuous cartoon characters, such as Pepe and Trash Doves. These appropriations have resulted in a battle for the soul of the sign, which is transformed into a cypher for alternately humorous and malevolent intentions, the oscillations of which are amplified through viral replication and hyperstitional invocations of ‘meme magic’.
Sometimes the sign falls back into its default state and the transgression is rendered temporary. In other instances the sign is permanently marked by the encounter, transformed into something Other by the power of collective will and viral association. I am exploring ‘frieze framing’ moments in memetic replication, through the physical manifestation and calcification of the sign, conjured out of the liminal-flux of the digital-ether.
[Further justification provided to tutors for showing the work] ‘Excerpt from 71822666 LD50’ is exhibited in relation to the above concerns: the focus of the protest against LD50 centred on a series of talks, which took place over the summer and were streamed live over the Internet in the gallery, and not the ‘physical’ exhibition 71822666, which the artefact I have excerpted was taken from. It was a small detail in a much larger diagrammatic-installation, which featured appropriated signs and signifiers that charted examples of the aesthetics of the Alt-right and meme culture. A further criticism was that the exhibition wasn’t sufficiently contextualised within a ‘critical’ framework, however this is no longer the case with opinion pieces in the New York Times, the Guardian and Art Review taking up both sides of the debate.
The context of the protest against LD50 is significant to the methodology of the piece – to render the redacted object visible. It is presented as the pivot on which two ideologically opposed art world positions balance: One is that art should be able to provide a window onto the world, however challenging some people might find the view. The other is the rhetoric of No Platform, which is becoming increasingly mainstream and seeks to enforce the equation: Hate Speech > Free Speech.
‘Excerpt from 71822666 LD50’ was censored by the MA Fine Art Programme Leader, Course Leader of MA Fine Art, and the Curators of the CSM MA Art Interim show.
The work was deemed “too dangerous” for public viewing; there were concerns that the work would be destroyed by SJW protestors, who might also target surrounding exhibits, and I was asked if I had sought the ‘permission’ of my classmates to show the work. Ultimately, I was forced to remove the artwork, but left the empty plinth in the space as a cypher of an ‘occluded presence’.
I requested a formal, written explanation and justification as to why the work could not be shown; see below
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
As you state in your email I had to make the difficult decision to ask that part of your work be removed from the interim MA show held at the Mangle in March 2017. The piece that you had set up was a work borrowed from LD50 gallery. It was a small block of glass with an image of a cartoon figure that has associations with the alt right movement. LD50 gallery is notorious for holding exhibitions displaying alt-right imagery and a conference hosting a number of far-right speakers.
I understand your work was intended as a provocation that would illicit serious debate about the media furore that emerged around the gallery. As an area of enquiry I think this is rich and interesting, however there were a number of conflicting interests I needed to consider when displaying this work in a public context. The interim show is open to the public, and publicity for the exhibition is widely distributed by CSM. Given the nature of the work I was seriously concerned that including it in the exhibition could incite protest. LD 50 was forced to close following a number of attacks from anti-facist protestors and I could not put the work of other students at risk by including this wok in the show.
It is also worth considering to what extent as an artist you are able to control the political ramifications of such work. If the work had been interpreted as condoning the views of the Alt Right this could have been very difficult for you as an artist and this could also have had a damaging effect on how the exhibition was received and on how other works in the show were seen.
I strongly believe that Art School should offer a space in which students can explore difficult issues Once the work is presented publicly, however, I have a duty of care for all students and on occasion this means that I have to exercise my curatorial judgement when putting together an exhibition.
I hope this email helps explain my decision