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


  1. Can I point out that the pigs heads in the photo’s were made of latex, and were not real.
    I made this piece to raise the issues about using animal parts in humans, which I am opposed to. I hope I have not offended any animal rights protesters, as it would be last thing I would want to do.

  2. Hello Carrie

    This was pointed out at the exhibition and furthermore by the artists statement present for more information for the viewer to read. It is a good piece of work and furthermore addresses the issues on scientific intervention and the ethical implications. The core fundamentals of what the exhibition was about and contrasted in terms of genetics. I had consulted with the local animal rights activitst and included their literature in the exhibition to present the full spectrum surrounding the subject. As pointed out in the article, the art produced by each yourself and each artist fundamentally addresses those issues and a visual dialogue. The standard of work submitted was exceptional and regardless of what has transpired I believe it was a strong exhibtion with a subject of relevance.

  3. Closing this exhibition was absolutely ridiculous. I was at the view on Wednesday and none of the work was offensive. My first reaction to this news was amazement. My considered reaction is serious concern about the ethics of those who censored it.

  4. If the work had been removed because people didn’t like looking at a dead squirrel while they were eating, I could understand, but taking offence because of animal rights issues?? Talk about missing the point.

  5. This sort of ill considered response gives hysteria a bad name.Unfortunately, the world abounds with real abuse and destruction of innocent people. The dear souls who get their dander up over dead squirrel here and there should watch the news more often, Tempting though it is to apply sweeping moral judgeemtns to art, it has never realy doen much more than to draw attention to the reviled artwork, and render the objectors ridiculous.

  6. I think I need to point out and those who have seen the work of the glass sculptures do not contain flesh or muscle, but merely the bones of what was once a squirrel. The origins road kill. Indeed what remained broken and fragmented into smaller pieces. They are white and encased in the sculpture the shape of the squirrel and significantly the general comment by all that had first viewed this work did not realise they were bones inside the delicate glass sculpture. Not only is the work skilfully executed and aesthetic content considered, but there is the fundamental philosophies behind the work and the relevance of body politics and in this exhibition aligned to scientific intervention and genetics. The artist, as in many, use art to enlighten, and taking into account on first observation the bones are not apparent until analysed in more depth. The mode of representation in the glass sculpture is subtle and hence to induce the viewer to look further and thus contemplate the reasons why. In no way was any of the work in the exhibition one of brutal shock factor. If such was to sensationalise or shock, then the content of the work be blatant, rather it is anything but and quite the opposite. On the issue of what constitute art, this is a mine field for all philosophers, as for centuries has artist content tried to be measured, whether by Plato’s assertions art is only relevant to the erudite, Kant’s measures of objectivity and subjectivity, all the way through to Marx’s theories set against a capitalist society, whether Greenberg or others and so an so on, all is estimated by purpose, function and rationale. Indeed, gauges which denote aesthetic worth and feel good factors and significance in contemporary history and whether such is important enough to be institutionalised. Philosophy of art changes in accordance with the times and indeed so does art itself exploring new boundaries. The relationship integral, as is the human’s intervention of creativity in what ever profession. It is by addressing certain parameters, whether spatial or temporal the validity and ethical nature is known. This rule applies to all, whether science, art or indeed our lifestyles and how we choose to live our lives, only such change is made by enlightenment and awareness to certain subjects, albeit ones position in this equation on the subject.

  7. I am just sad that I missed the opening.

    Furthermore: So does this mean now that if just one person takes offence at an art work and (alledgedly) makes moves to destroy it for whatever reasons, that in such a case the entire exhibition will in effect be blamed for innapropriateness and be shut down..? What decade do we live in ?

    Management groups… The words make be quiver… They so rarely have even the most basic idea of what they are talking about and what they are ruining in the process…

  8. It deeply concerns me that the point of some of the works in the show could have been missed to such a degree. Such censorship demonstrates how art can be subjected to an authoritarian discourse that hinders prgression and gets lost in its own hype.

  9. hey all!

    jst to say how silly it was
    that this show got took down, im a fan of jay’s work infact im buying one of her pieces!! i just hate the way people fail to see past what to shows meaning is! im a vegan myself and i was in no way disgusted by the art!!

    once again i would like to express my disapointment that people are missing out on the chance to see some great art just because of someone being totally idiotic!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here