Sensing Censorship: Hughes, Schneeman Headline ‘How Obscene Is This!’ Tonight


Performance artist Holly Hughes — famous as one of the “NEA Four” — along with the legendary feminist filmmaker-artist Carolee Schneeman, artist-journalist-geographer Trevor Paglen and the Iraqi-American artist Wafaa Bilal will appear together on a panel marking the second of three events surrounding the 20th anniversary of the decency clause, a 1990 law requiring the National Endowment for the Arts to weigh “general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public” before determining funding for artists.

In 1998, the Supreme Court, by vote of 8 t0 1, upheld the law, determining that it did not violate the First Amendment. Clearly not everyone agrees.

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The series is called “How Obscene Is This: The Decency Clause Turns 20.” Tonight’s particular panel is called “Decency, Respect and Community Standards: What Offends Us Now?” Given the multifariousness of the panel, attendees are sure to find out.

The series is presented by the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School and the School of Visual Arts at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium (66 W. 12th St.), 6:30-8:30pm.

Here is a little more information about tonight’s event — and I urge you to attend if you can, as admission is free:

The National Coalition Against Censorship and The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School have invited several prominent visual artists to participate in a discussion about visual expression that provokes controversy today. Some of these artists are associated with the culture wars of the 90’s, others were more recently censored during the War on Terrorism. Have attitudes towards representations of nudity and sexuality changed since the 1990s culture wars? Are religious topics still as inflammatory? What is considered offensive or inappropriate under our current political climate?

Laura Flanders of GritTV will moderate.

In addition to tonight’s panel, the National Coalition Against Censorship also has on tap a series of video interviews and a film screening on Mon., Sept. 27, 6:30pm called “Indecent Exposure: Films You Are Unlikely to See Elsewhere,” at the School of Visual Arts’ SVA Theatre (333 W. 23rd St.), co-sponsored by the BFA Visual and Critical Studies Department at SVA. Admission for this event is also free. It will feature a double-bill of groundbreaking films, including Destricted (2006), a compilation of shorts by visual artists Matthew Barney, Marilyn Minter, Richard Prince, Cecily Brown and Sam Taylor-Wood, among others, exploring boundaries between art and porn; and Ken Park, Larry Clark’s film about the abusive home life of several skateboarders in California. The sexual content of the film is known to be controversial in several quarters, which is why it was banned in Australia and received extremely limited distribution elsewhere — and no distribution in the U.S.

NCAC also has an ongoing series of video interviews with artists and curators worldwide under the rubric Power, Taboo and the Artist.