Wednesday, October 27

“Not In This City”: British “Nuclear Colonialism” Artwork Removed | Art

An Australian artist accused a group of conservative advisers of using “intimidation strategies” to silence and censor her work after an installation she created to highlight Britain’s “identity as a colonial nuclear state” was removed from a park in Essex.

The councilmen threatened to “take action against the work” if it did not withdraw, according to Metal, the arts organization that commissioned and later retired the Gunners Park facility in Southend.

By Gabriella Hirst An english garden It consisted of benches and a row of flower beds planted with Atomic Roses, a rare variety of rose created at the height of the Cold War arms race in 1953, along with lilies from Cliffs of Dover.

A plaque on the bench explained this and highlighted a site near Britain’s first atomic bomb and the devastation caused by its detonation on undisclosed indigenous lands in Australia. The plaque also said Britain continues to proliferate nuclear weapons, following the government’s decision to lift a 30-year ban on the development of new nuclear weapons this year and increase its nuclear weapons by 40%. He described the country as having a “permanent and historical identity as a colonial nuclear state.”

On social media, Hirst said she and Metal had received a 48-hour ultimatum to withdraw the job before councilors planned to intervene to censor the “offensive” plaque. He added that the councilors had threatened to subject them to a national media campaign that would frame the work as “a direct attack by the extreme left on our history, our people and our democratically elected government.” She wrote: “Apparently, he said that the government and its nuclear arsenal on a global scale were not considered robust enough to support the transmission of historical and critical facts through an art installation in the rose garden.”

James Moyies, one of Southend’s conservative advisers who objected, told the Observer the badge was “offensive”. His two main objections were: “Using public money on public land to display a left-wing tirade that accuses our current government of investing in hate industries, rather than care”; and “attack our country for currently considering it a colonial nuclear state.” “The rest of the text has other contentious statements that I do not like, but these were the two main reasons why it had to be modified or eliminated.”

The plaque that raised objections from a group of conservative councilors.
The plaque that raised objections from a group of conservative councilors. Photography: Anna Lukala

Moyies, a Brexiter who was regional director of the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU referendum, added that if Metal had not complied with his request, he “planned to take action by sticking a piece of laminated paper with a different message next to it. the offending plate. I planned to get national coverage. “He said he felt the issue had been resolved” amicably. “

Metal said in a statement that it made the decision to withdraw the work after being subjected to “intense pressure” for a period of 48 hours by the group of councilors.

Colette Bailey, Artistic Director of Metal, told the Observer she thinks what the councilors did amount to censorship: “The threat to draw media attention to their profound misreading and misinterpretation of the work was part of their campaign to increase pressure on artistic partners and managers.”

He said that the launch of such a media campaign would have highlighted the “fundamental misinterpretation” of councilors’ work and distorted its “real meaning”, and decided to withdraw it to protect the mental health and well-being of its staff that could arise from the councilors. ‘Actions.

In response, Moyies said: “The notion that someone needs their well-being or protection of their mental health is fabricated nonsense. They were a few benches and flowerbeds, in a prairie park, with an offensive plaque. “

Hirst said the work critically reflects Britain’s colonial and nuclear legacy. “When the correspondence between Metal and the counselors was forwarded to me, I was incredulous at the intimidation strategies used to silence my artwork,” she told the Observer. “It is alarming that a space for criticism and contemplation can be removed at the request of a small number of councilors, to silence a statement that is disturbing to them. I am amazed at the implication that art should not be able to analyze issues such as British colonialism and nuclear weapons ”.

He added that veterans who were present during the British nuclear test program in the 1950s and 1960s have expressed outrage at the censorship of the work: “I am not the only one who finds the realities, the stories and the future of nuclear weapons overwhelming. and terrifying. And for me, this work of art, including its signage, benches, plants, everything that was part of this installation, is an expression of trying to work on a large subject through a bed of roses, to have room to work. on issues that are still involved. in fear and secrecy, even today. “

Ian Gilbert, the Labor leader of the Southend council, said the exhibition was not funded by the council and the park is not managed by the council. “Basically, it is not a decision of the council, so I think it is so inappropriate that [opposition] councilors have exerted this pressure. “

He regrets that Metal felt it was necessary to withdraw the work and said the council plans to meet with the organization and discuss a way forward. “I do not believe in the censorship of art, and I think you are on a slippery slope if you think that artists cannot say anything that criticizes the government of the day.”

Moyies denied the allegations of threatening or intimidating behavior and said he had not been in direct contact with Hirst. He added that the land is owned by the council, but is leased to the Essex Wildlife Trust.

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