Gene Culture Show Closed Down, Art Censored

gene_culture_carrie_reichardt_001.jpgThat’s a shame. Ok, there was a dead squirrel (road-kill) in a glass case and some images of pigs heads (made from latex) but they weren’t killed to make the artwork. I’m vegan and it didn’t bother me.
From Transvoyeur…

Gene Culture Show Closed Down
Censorship of Art

Egg (aka the Garden) Bans Gene Culture Exhibition 11 August 2006

Written in collaboration with Tony Knox and Lucia Sweeney

The opening of ‘Gene Culture’ was unveiled on 09 August 2006 at the Egg Space Gallery, Liverpool, England. In less then twenty-four hours this exhibition was closed down.

The show was curated by Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney, as Guest Curator invited by Headspace who manage and curate the venue. Sweeney selected ten international artists from 250 submissions as far as Thailand to London. The standard of submissions was exceptionally high and the final collection of art was profound and compelling. The artists included Jonathan Aldous, Sigal Avni, Jan Bennett, Ken Byers, Sarawut Chutiwongpeti, Kim Fielding, June Kingsbury, Carrie Reichardt, Andrew Taylor and Kai-Oi Jay Yung.

‘Gene Culture’ was to present the current debates surrounding genetics and scientific intervention, as well as the ethical implications surrounding this subject. Each piece of art explored this in different media and some actually using animal parts. Overall the art was one to consider the societal balance of the aesthetic relationship to the ethical importance. The exhibition was obviously a contentious one, but not to advocate vivisection, rather to address certain issues on this subject. Indeed within the artists’ philosophies that found their work they make reference to these principles.

In preparation of this exhibition Sweeney consulted with the management of the venue and local animal rights activists. She included the animal rights activists publications on the subject of vivisection to enable a more objective representation. The content of these publications extreme and show animals in laboratories suffering to reinforce their arguments against vivisection. Equally so, the artists in this exhibition have addressed certain issues surrounding the subject of genetics and scientific intervention.

The management group of the building where the exhibition was held has the space combined with a vegetarian restaurant. The general customers who eat at this establishment sympathetic of animal rights too. Therefore, within this exhibition it was one of relativity to the people that frequent the place. However, after the opening it was alleged by the management group of the building that animal rights activists entered space and attempted destroy the work. No police report was made though and no name presented who had alleged to have done this.

The management group contacted Guest Curator, Sweeney, and accused her of ‘sensationalism’ by the selection of the work and stated they would be boycotted by alleged animal rights activists. It was added that the exhibition was too ‘controversial’ for the nature of the venue, although for more than twenty years the Egg Space has asserted to being a gallery. Yet now it is censors and forbids contemporary art. Regardless of a person’s position on the subject of scientific intervention, such exhibitions which combine art and science provide insight to the ethical implications.

The management group of the building and vegetarian restaurant demanded that all the art work be removed forthwith on 10 August 2006. As a result of this, several members of the original curatorial group from Headspace have resigned.

Sweeney, who is an artist, as well as a curator, has previously organised and managed other exhibitions internationally, such as Transvoyeur, an exchange programme, which she is the founder.

The ‘Gene Culture’ exhibition at the Egg Space Gallery is the launch of a series of projects to come she is researching. The next stage in development of this is an exhibition in Cologne, Germany, and London, UK. Sweeney commented to what has transpired:

‘Statements of ‘sensationalism’ are unfounded, because art and science have played an integral part in the history and evolution of civilisations. These types of exhibitions, which combine art and science, act as a platform for insight and bring to the forefront awareness on certain subjects. It furthermore acts as a conduit on the subject to both scientist and animal rights activists. Through the freedom of expression by the artists it helps to address and evaluate such subjects. It is important for all the 21st century, albeit ones role professional or otherwise, to address certain parameters, as by such we realise the validity of what we do’.

The precise graphite drawings by Aldous are ‘… inspired and loosely based on the novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau by H G Wells … in which a scientist experiments with vivisecting animals, so that they adopt human appearance and traits. This results in a menagerie of disturbing and horrific visions, where the scientist can never achieve his divine vision’.

Avni’s digital art ‘that challenge our perceptions of the human body. At first site grotesque, the people she creates depict states of mind and emotion. Her photographs are moving references to human existence.

Byer’s captures ‘a dialectical relationship between the methexis of collective cultural consciousness and conditioning’ imbued in his ‘quasi-technological machine-form and architectonic structures’ to symbolize the human form.

Chutiwongpeti, whose digital photographic image of raw pink chicken feet contrasted on the green plate, show the difference of culture, east and west, to what may be discarded, as is it with the eugenics.

The fragility of Kingsbury’s road kill squirrels, bones cleaned white and encased into glass sculpture to denote by human intervention on the red squirrel existence ‘the bones are revealed within the space the animal once occupied’.

The collaborative film by Hydrart (Bennett and Fielding) is ‘Creature’ a production to show how on the philosophies of Virilio ‘the creators and controllers’ become ‘pitiless … lacking humanity … a critique of super-rationalists ideals which have historically given rise to eugenic or genocidal practices’.

Reichardt’s images of two pigs heads worn as breasts ‘… made the sculpture partly as a critique of the absurdities of the fashion industry and celebrity breast enlargement, but also as an exterior “in your face