Last Thursday after putting The Art Life to bed for another week, we belatedly received an email from artist Zanny Begg who was taking part in the Out of Gallery project in and around the Blacktown area. Begg was planning to install her work on walls and in car parks in Blacktown which would have fit in nicely with the stated aims of the project. According to the web site of the University of Western Sydney the Out Of Gallery project is:
“A series of guerrilla exhibitions in Western Sydney [that] brings together the works of over forty artists with the public of Western Sydney in the form of artist happenings, short-term exhibitions, public interventions, performances and other forms of contemporary art. The project encases five distinct yet compatible art ventures: Urban Architecture: Site Specific Interventions, Art Park: People, Ecology and Environment in Art, Art Trafficking, Other Places: New Media and Local Identities and Digital Landscapes. Each project aims to present confrontational and unexpected dialogues and interactions with Western Sydney society through contemporary art. These five components within [OUT OF GALLERY] provide both artists and audiences with the stimuli to react to issues in our everyday contemporary culture.”
But it seemed that Begg’s work was too confrontational and too unexpected as her email explained:
“Today (Tuesday 23/11) I was stopped by police when installing a work – Checkpoint – for the Blacktown Art Gallery [Out of Gallery] project. For this work I was creating 10 “checkpoints” for “weapons of mass distraction” in various locales throughout Blacktown. These “checkpoints” were marked by a life-sized stencil of a soldier and were placed on hoardings, fences, walls and car parks.
I was contacted by a police officer outside Blacktown Gallery and told to take down all the artworks as, in a “climate of terrorism,” it was inappropriate to “show such political messages“. I was told that if I did not take the works down I would be taken to the station and fined. I rang the curator of the show and he explained to me that the council had asked that my work be pulled from the show and that all the works must be taken down.
”I am disappointed that this work was censored by the council and will no longer be able to be part of the [Out of Gallery] project. I feel this work would have made an important contribution to the exhibition and had conceptual and artistic merit – in addition to its political anti-war message. I had hoped that these artworks would surprise people, in back streets, car parks and other parts of the suburb and remind them of the conflict which is going on in the backyards for people in Iraq.”
Update: Bilateral has the whole sorry story.