Tuesday, March 31, 2009

good idea Judith

On its initial release in 1979, Life of Brian was banned by several town councils in the UK, as well as locaions in the United States, Ireland, and Norway; some bans have persisted into the 21st century. Just this month, a former actress who appeared in the film, now the mayor of a small town in Wales, was successful in lifting the ban in her town. An article about the film's premiere, 30 years later, may be viewed here.

bullions and bullions

A conceptual installation scheduled to open in Beverly Hills earlier this month was indefinitely delayed for reasons beyond the control of the artist: arrangements had been made to purchase and take delivery of 100 one-kilo bars of pure gold, a cost of ~$3.3M. Payment had been made in February, however for reasons of security, it was agreed that shipment was to be delayed until closer in time to the opening. Between the time of payment and the scheduled delivery, the Houston-based bullion company was charged by the SEC with $8Bn fraud, and all of its assets were placed in receivership by Texas court. The SEC website, with links to the complaint, as amended, may be viewed here.

last orders

A devout Hindu residing and apparently expecting to die in the UK, has asserted that a ban on open-air funeral pyres is a violation of his human rights. He argued to the High Court in London that cremation as carried out in Britain does not reflect the cultural values by which he lives, and are additionally "devoid of spiritual significance." Sikhs and Hindus living in Britain appear to be divided on the issue; an article may be viewed here.

an even dozen

The aluminum sculpture was removed from an installed exhibit at a university in Ohio this week, purportedly because displayed where it cold be viewed from outside the exhibition space by young viewers.

Artist Quote: “The gallery at Firelands College had put out a call for exhibition proposals. My proposal included images of all the pieces in the group I hoped to show. The proposal was screened and accepted. When I delivered the work, I made it clear that I was comfortable with appropriate exhibition protocols. I left my work there with the impression that it would be shown without incident.”


It had been long illegal in Japan to depict events with political ramifications or to comment on ruling families, when censorship was expanded in 1804 to include the depiction of warriors living after 1573 and prints of courtesans and geishas. After Kuniyoshi was summoned to a Tokyo magistrate's office in 1843, for showing women in contemporary fashion, he increasingly changed his subjects and relied on symbolism. An American collector has donated a carefully-built collection of geisha prints, currently on exhibit in a London gallery; an article respecting his donative intents may be found here.

she's all that

A second-year philosophy, religious studies and ethics student was voted Miss Heythrop College, becoming automatically eligible to compete for the title Miss London University. Last week, however, pageant organizers invited the first-runner up to compete in the final, it having been determined that the winner was a man. The winner stated: "I won our event fair and square." A student publication reported the story, here.


A coalition of graphic artists and publishers in the UK responded to a proposed set of laws policing cartoons of children in sexual settings, fearful that the wording of the legislation as proposed could lead to the banning of many mainstrean comic books, by forming a group called Comic Book Alliance to oppose the laws, or limit their application to overly paedophilic and pornographic cartoons and not artistic erotica.

An article about the proposed ban may be found here.

early onset

A British Department of Health advertisement shows a device which appears similar to a Sony Computer Entertainment gaming controller product. The agency which created the ad has not confirmed use of the product, however it is reported that no permission from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe was obtained for the product placement in the ad. An article about the sponsors of the ad may be viewed here; an image of the Sony product may be viewed here.


In the aftermath of a school shooting in southwestern Germany in mid-March which claimed the lives of 16 people, including the shooter, the president of the German Foundation for Crime asked for a ban on violent videogames. A subsequent search of the bedroom of the young shooter revealed games where players digitally clothe and arm themseves, as well as 'play' weapons which fire small pellets. The 17 year old was wearing a black combat uniform during the rampage; all but 1 of the schoolhouse victims were female. A related article may be viewed here; an article about gun laws, and gun clubs in Germany, here.

Monday, March 30, 2009


An Australian film exploring Lebanese and gang sterotypes in Sydney was pulled from several movie houses after brawls broke out at the screenings. The movie has re-opened everywhere, with additional security at screening locations. A synopsis and plot spoiler, may be viewed here.

no art without suffering

A city in northern Portugal is the first to ban bullfighting, a cultural performance compared to a pas de deux, or a gladiator spectacle, depending. The bull is not killed by the matador in the arena, as in the classical form, but after the fight, outside the ring, away from public view. In 2001, a Portuguese bullfighter accommodating a crowd's chants, killed a bull in an arena, was detained, then released when angry crowds circled the police station; he was ultimately fined 100.000 Euro (approx. $137,000.00 at today's rate of exchange) which he appealed repeatedly and unsuccessfully. Today, his performances end when he simulates a kill. An article about bullfighting in Portugal may be viewed here.

make mine a double

On March 11, the Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum presented a report on the effects of marketing brands to young drinkers. The group, composed of public-health as well as industry-affiliated scientists, were unanimous in their adoption of the report, which concluded that advertising both reinforces brand allegiance and leads to increased consumption. The forum was chartered in 2007; a statement announcing its formation may be viewed here.

everywhere you want to be

It's not the first time visa issues have pre-empted a live performance: the American embassy in London administratively denied a work visa to a British R&B singer this month, forever altering the lineup at a California music festival next month. An article from the embassy's website may be found here. A year ago, a prior denial of the same artist on unrelated grounds resulted in a satellite-feed appearance at the grammys. The Sri-Lankan rap artist selected as a replacement at next month's Coachella, coincidentally, has also been denied entry in the past, on grounds which are speculated, here.

no girls in our club

At the 4th annual Riyadh Book Fair last week, the 'muttawam' or morality police (aka the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) clashed with the writer's culture; 2 writers were detained then released without being charged. In the aftermath, 35 clerics wrote a letter to the new minister of culture, asking that the government, among other things, not permit Saudi women to appear on tv, nor in print ads. An article excerpting from the letter may be found here. The muttawan in Saudi Arabia are responsible for such things as enforcing dress codes and mandatory observance of prayer times, as well as segregation of the sexes.

your hat, my office

Bulgaria this week became the most recent European nation to attempt to legislate a ban on the hajib in schools. The draft bill, which makes a distinction, but also bans religious symbols, must still be passed in Parliament. Unlike some other parts of Europe, Bulgarian Muslims have lived in established communities in their homeland for centuries, in relative harmony with mostly Christian neighbors. An article about the differences between a hajib and a burqa may be found here.

national lampoon

The 8 ton mosaic, controversial when installed in January at the European Council Building in Brussells, was initially reported to have been a collaborative effort by 27 artists. The Czech artist soon admitted fabricating collaborators; he conceived and built the piece with the help of only 2 assistants. He is interviewed, here. This week, the governor of the Bulgarian National Bank threatened to boycott a pan-European council meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in April, if the installation is not removed. A Bloomberg article, attempting to explain the stereotypes, may be found here.

Update: April 30: Černý's Entropa to be taken down on May 10.

goa way

Goa, a state in the republic of India, is mostly associated by westerner travelers with colonial Portuguese architecture, fusion cuisine and tropical beaches along the Arabian Sea. Locally, merchants have been banned from selling beachwear deemed offensive, to wit, clothing which depicts spiritual scripture or iconography, such as the symbol for the chant 'om,' or the visages of the gods of Hindu, the religion observed by a majority of Indian citizens. An article describing the reasons for the ban may be viewed here.

maybe YOUR mother

When the Chinese government launched a campaign in January to eliminate all 'pornographic and vulgar' content on the web, the web community responded in code. Introducing the Grass Mud Horse, memed to be a mythical creature in China, though its pronunciation is phonetically equivalent to "Fuck Your Mother" in Chinese. The Song of the Grass Mud Horse, while banned in China, is on YouTube; a China Digital Times report may be viewed here.

pomp and circumstance

According to a Haaretz article, Israeli Defence Forces soldiers sometimes order t-shirts with images commemorating the end of basic training or field duty--"graduation shirts." The Israeli military has opened an investigation into possible troop misconduct during the Gaza war after reports of civilian killings and property destruction. Protocol additional to the Geneva Convention-- a definition of 'civilian', and the protections to be afforded such -- may be viewed here.

gatecrash redux

The Singapore Democratic Party reported this week that a film, gatecrashed and confiscated by the country's Media Development Authority upon its release in May last year, and banned by the government since then, has received 40,000 hits on the Internet. The film may be viewed from here; the filmmaker's blog, here. Censorship in Singapore is reportedly still discussed internally in terms of shifting OB Markers.

cross examination

In 2007, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (California) ruled a simple 8’ tall cross, maintained for 70 years on public lands as a monument to veterans, an "impermissible governmental endorsement of religion." An ACLU article, depicting the undraped image, may be viewed here. The Supreme Court has, as a matter of discretion, determined it will hear the appeal.

An article about the cross symbol may be found here.


Citizens United sought to distribute this 90 minute docummercial as video-on-demand, and tv-advertise it within 60 days of a general election, running afoul of McCain-Feingold, according to the Federal Election Committee, which concluded that the film was the 'functional equivalent' of electioneering, subject to campaign finance regulation. The DC Court of Appeals upheld, applying a standard penned by Chief Justice Roberts in 2007, previously applied mostly to 30 and 60 second spots: an ad is covered when "susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than its appeal to vote for or against a candidate." Arguments were heard by the US Supreme Court last week; a ruling expected in late June. More may be seen here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

end over end

An artist in the UK was convicted this week of Health and Safety code violations in the installation and maintenance of Dreamspace V, a 2,500 sq meter piece of inflatable art, containing 110 'rooms' separated by sheets of colored pvc, which could be toured by patrons. Two years ago, the outdoor installation, destabilized by a gust of wind, lifted 100 feet in the air and flipped, resulting in 2 deaths and several critical injuries. Authorities initially charged the artist with criminal manslaughter in the deaths, however the jury failed to reach a verdict, whereupon civil Health and Safety violations were brought against the artist, the district council, and the company which installed the art. A short article from the CBC may be seen here.


This graphite, masking tape, newspaper, wire, steel and acrylic (57x48x53) piece was installed in the front window of a Chashama space in New York earlier this month, part of a group exhibit. The building real estate manager saw it and demanded it be removed or covered up, threatening to cancel the lease. Thick draperies were hung behind the window glass throughout the exhibit, March 5-8. The Norway-born artist's webpage is here. The piece sold to a collector.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

turnabout is fair

The long-established doctrine of fair use, which includes biting parody,  is discussed here.  The original image shown is based on an actual person, Andre the Giant, whose biography including a photo, may be viewed here. Earlier variations of the stenciled image have circled the globe since first produced in 1986;  parodies followed, even then, as shown here

fair and balanced

The camera policy at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art restricts picture-making in the galleries, and there is a published report from a credible source that the policy is in force in the gallery where "Supply and Demand" is on exhibit. A commercially marketed work in the exhibit is subject of a preemptive civil lawsuit filed by the artist in New York federal court, asserting fair use, in which the AP has filed a counterclaim for infringement; a short article from the Globe may be viewed here. Footnote: the artist was arrested and bonded out the night of the exhibit's opening, on 2 week old warrants for tagging a Mass. Transit Authority property.

Friday, March 27, 2009

game over

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's decision, ruling a California law criminalizing the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, unconstitutional. This in the same month that Amazon removed RapePlay, a first-person Japanese video game simulating the stalking and raping of a family of women and girls, from its list of offered products; though noted here, an English language version remains available online. Governor Schwarzenegger, who signed the bill into law in 2005, may appeal.

Update May 21: Governor Schwarzenegger will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

wanted woman

A single complainant objecting to a television advertisement for the DVD release of the movie Wanted resulted in (UK media standards watchdog) ASA banning the ad. It was reported by the BBC, here, that Makers Universal Pictures perceived an underlying bitch: about a woman in a lead role in an action genre film. Six months ago a billboard and poster montage of scenes from the movie was banned in the UK as a result of 17 complaints. The banned poster image, withdrawn in both the UK and US markets, without plans to rework, may be viewed here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

holy bela lugosi

The poster for director Park Chan-Wook's first horror (vampire) genre film has been banned by the South Korean Media Rating Board. The working title of the film 박쥐 (Bak-jwi) may be translated into the Korean language, as 'Bat.' The poster, as revised for the Korean release April 30, may be viewed at Hancimema.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

pay it as it plays

Select archival articles will henceforth be available online, at PlayboyArchive.com; Reuters reports the unveiling here. Christie Hefner, Playboy's CEO since 1988, stepped down in January amid rumors that the company was in financial distress, and assumed a position with the Center for American Progress.  She was interviewed this week, about the changing face of the American workforce; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act--equal pay for equivalent work--referenced in the interview, may be viewed here. Playboy's (PLA) stock closed down today at $1.92. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

around the block

Reporters Without Borders has published a report listing 'Enemies of the Internet,' countries which pervasively cybercensor, blocking IP addresses, filtering URLS, highjacking prefixes and persecuting dissidents. The US, UK and Germany have less pervasive censorship and surveillance policies than the enemies list, but are much more centrally important to internet traffic routing. Unless extraordinary measures are undertaken, some international internet content, legal where generated and legal where requested, is subject to being censored or surveilled as it routes through the big 3, threatening reachability. The RWB report may be viewed here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

baby driver

In non-medical contexts in the west, a foetus image is commonly associated with stem cell research or reproductive politics. This month, an automobile print advertisement in Singapore seems to suggest apolitical self-awareness. A thought-provoking summary of an article analyzing the use of a sonogram image in a 1991 Volvo ad may be found here. (.pdf)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Several works by an Iranian graphic artist living and working in Norway were attacked by Muslim patrons. The exhibit consisted of 12 graphic images accompanied by translated text from the Qur'an. The artist was promptly contacted by the director of the exhibition space, and requested to remove the works, and the artist complied. Euro News' report of the incident may be viewed here; the images and accompanying translations may be viewed here.


Benedict XVI traveling to Cameroon aboard Alitalia, was widely translated and quoted by a French journalist as saying the HIV-Aids epidemic there is a tragedy which cannot be overcome by money alone and cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravate the problems. Subsequently, the comments as translated on the Vatican's website, were that condoms risked aggravating the problems. The cartoon appeared in the Times March 18; the Vatican's website may be viewed here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

book beat meet and greet

Publicity surrounding publication of a book by a retired veteran anti-graffiti officer of the New York City Transit Police Department, occasioned a panel discussion featuring members of the law enforcement and street art communities at a gallery in Brooklyn, where, it was suggested by one person in attendance, warrants could be served. An article describing the forum may be viewed here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


In the past several months, social networking sites Facebook and MySpace have removed images of women breast-feeding infants, citing Terms of Use policies against the posting of pornographic or obscene content. In the U.S., no state outlaws breast-feeding in public, and many states' laws permit it; a summary of state laws may be viewed here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

a tall Persian Roast, to go.

An Egyptian cleric has called for a boycott of Starbucks Coffee in the Middle East, stating that the Seattle-based coffee purveyor's logo features Queen Ester, a Hebrew queen in ancient Persia. The company's initial logo, purportedly based on an old Norse woodcut, was in use from 1971-1992; the current logo is a modification of the first. An article from the Middle East Media Research Institute, excerpting the cleric's remarks may be viewed here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

23 ' skidoo

This 23 foot tall image was installed in the shadow of a CCTV camera in October 2008, on the side of a government building in central London. However, this week, a Westminster Council determined that the image was graffiti, and might encourage other graffiti, and ordered it covered up. A grouping of the artist's murals may be found here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

tear it up

For the past few months, there have been incidents of images being sliced from advertisements and collaged, creating new images and text, in NY subway stations and trains, the jurisdiction of the Transit Bureau, Citywide Vandal Task Force. An arrest was made last month of an individual the media-dubbed had 'Poster Boy;' arraignment is calendared for April. Images of altered advertisements, posted by the traveling public, may be viewed here.

me and my calvins

This image is part of a spring/summer 2009 fashion campaign for jeans. The owner's website may be viewed here. A 30 and 60 second video will run in parts of Europe; a redacted version will run in the U.S., on cable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

fashion statement

These images, part of a series involving flag imagery, are by an Iranian photographer and textile artist currently living and working in New York, on display at the 'Unveiled' exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery. The artist's website may be viewed here.

book matched

In 1995, this image by a young Iranian photographer won a photography competition-before being deemed too contentious by a minister of culture; the artist was eliminated from the competition. That work, as well as more recent work by the same artist is part of a group exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London, through May 6. A short article from Reuters about the exhibit may be viewed here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

ban the bombshell

This 1998 image was part of a series by a Utah photographer, depicting the Mattel product 'Barbie.' Mattel filed a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit in federal court in California requesting injunctive relief, as well as surrender of all Barbies and destruction of all photographic negatives. The ACLU-assisted artist prevailed by claiming fair use (parody). The appellate court (9th Circuit) ruling may be viewed here. This week, a legislator in West Virginia proposed a bill which would have the effect of banning the sale of the plastic form, launched at a New York toy fair on March 9, 1959, stating that it promotes in girls undue importance on physical beauty. The artist's website, showing this piece of art with a new title, may be found here.

disappearing ink

Oklahoma legalized tattooing in 2006, the last of the 50 states to do so. This month State Senate Bill 787 will, if passed, criminalize the practice of scleral tattooing- tattooing the whites of the eyes- by tattoo artists. Certified medical micropigmentologists in the state, who under current law are required to perform all procedures in a physician's office, would not be affected. The progress of bill 787 may be tracked on the Oklahoma Legislature's Home Page.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


In Long Beach, the curator of a public exhibition of 70 paintings by the same artist determined that 2 of the paintings 'could be viewed' as sexually overt and 'could be viewed' as offensive, and required their removal. The artist responded by removing all of the paintings, resulting in a cancellation of the exhibit. An article from the Orange County Register featuring a slideshow of 9 images from the cancelled exhibit may be found here.