You may have heard that Culture and Sport Glasgow (the body responsible for art galleries, libraries and sports centres in Glasgow) and the Gallery of Modern Art have recently decided not to show a number of artworks that they had planned to exhibit as part of the sh[Out] LGBT arts programme. In particular, this has affected the work of Spanish artist Dani Marti and his residency with Gay Mens’ Health.
Three pieces of Dani’s work were withdrawn by CSG – effectively censored. These works were “talking heads” type documentaries where gay men revealed their HIV status and discussed issues around their lives and loves. They were to be shown on a few Thursday evenings after 5.30pm at GOMA. Other parts of the programme have been re-scheduled and doubt has been cast over whether other planned exhibits will be allowed to go ahead.
Culture and Sport Glasgow have stated that one of the reasons it decided to withdraw Dani’s work was to protect the artists, the sh[Out] programme and the LGBT community as a whole from negative press and attacks from other groups that would “negate both the artistic and societal endeavour” of the programme.
This completely misses the point that sh[Out], a “contemporary art and human rights” programme was supposed to address such issues, not shy away from them. The artists and organisations involved in the sh[Out] programme are fully entitled and much better qualified to make these kind of decisions for themselves. We are the ones who have been dealing with homophobia and negative and violent reactions all of our lives. These experiences inform our art/work and are what led some of us to become involved in the sh[Out] programme in the first place, either as exhibitors or as members of the sh[Out] Advisory Group.
My own organisation, Bildwechsel Glasgow, has been well supported by staff within GoMA and recognises that the staff there have been put in a very difficult position. However, it is has been made clear to the sh[Out] Advisory Board that some elected Glasgow councillors have reservations about sh[Out] which they have made clear to CSG staff. This, combined with recent Daily Mail outrage over the ”defaced Bible” work, has directly contributed to CSG’s decision to censor, re-schedule and put on hold vital works of art by LGBT artists.
We are deeply concerned that the on-going, in-depth and media-sensitive scrutiny of artworks planned for the sh[Out] exhibition may be inherently homophobic, as no other artists or exhibitions at GoMA have been treated in this way.
We demand that Culture and Sport Glasgow and the Gallery of Modern Art re-instate Dani Marti’s censored work immediately. They must also re-affirm their commitment to show all the works originally planned as part of the sh[Out] programme, without attempting to make them less visible by re-scheduling or re-locating them.
Culture and Sport Glasgow has a responsibility to promote, explore and celebrate the art and culture of the great diversity of peoples that live in Glasgow and beyond. If LGBT people have the courage to live their own lives out and proud in the face of hatred and homophobia and under threat of marginalisation and violence, surely we have the right to expect courage and vision from decision-makers and elected representatives.
I would like to ask you to e-mail, phone or write to your own Councillors to make them aware of the situation and let them know your views.
Everyone in Glasgow now has three or four councillors that cover the Ward they live in. You can find yours and their contact details by entering your postcode here:
If you want to, you could also contact your Members of the Scottish Parliament, whose details are at http://www.writetothem.com/ or write to the Director, Mark O’Neill, Head of Arts and Museums, at the Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow, G1 3AH (You can use the online form at glasgowmuseums.com/emailform.cfm?staffgroupid=24&staffid=72). GoMA has received many letters from organised right-wing groups in opposition to sh[Out] artworks. We think it is important that they begin to hear some other voices.
You can keep up to date on the campaign here shoutadvisorygroup.blogspot.com.
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Best wishes, Kate Henderson