Wrexham Council Censors Art
1st April 2011
Artist Brian Jones has had two prints selected for the Wrexham Print International exhibition at the council-run gallery, Oriel Wrecsam. The works are titled 'Eyeless on Gaza' and 'Brokeback Britain'.
'Brokeback Britain' appears in the catalogue; but it wasn't until Brian Jones visited the exhibition at it's opening, expecting to see both prints on display, that he discovered one of the works has been removed.
The print still on show at the exhibition, 'Eyeless on Gaza', depicting a mirror image or two ships, one named Block Aid and the other Blockade.
It's the print called 'Brokeback Britain' that has been removed from the show - an act of censorship claims the artist. Brokeback Britain is a play on the Tory mantra, during the final days of the previous government, of 'Broken Britain' and the novel that became a film, 'Brokeback Mountain', where the story of the secret love of two gay cowboys is told. Brian Jones has depicted the coalition in government, the Prime Minister and his Deputy, as two cowboys naked from the waist down. This was too much for the Lib-Dem council at Wrexham.
Mr Jones said: “I made inquiries and was told a council official had decided it was not going to be exhibited. I feel hugely disappointed – this is censorship. 'Brokeback Britain' had been chosen for the exhibition by an independent selector, framed, and included in the catalogue. I have not been told the reason for it being banned. Until I started asking questions I was not informed by anybody at the opening that the piece had been excluded.”
Brian Jones continues: “I had heard of the Liberal Democrat/Conservative alliance being called the Brokeback Coalition and my idea grew from that. There is humour in this piece. It is a satire – I am apolitical. 'Brokeback Britain' has been through the proper selection process for the exhibition. To have that taken away from me is really bad.”
In response to the complaint chief leisure, libraries and culture officer Alan Watkin said: “In the run up to an election the authority has to follow strict guidance issued by central government. As the work of art in question was a satire on two political parties contesting the Assembly elections it would be inappropriate for it to feature in the show.”
The print 'Brokeback Britain' is an adaption of an image by the artist Touko Laaksonen, otherwise known as Tom of Finland whose work has enjoyed an intense cult following in the international gay community. Vivienne Westwood also appropriated the image as a t-shirt design. The artist told Culture Colony: "Vivienne Westwood stole the image off Tom of Finland and I stole it from her".
Other works by Brian Jones also play with iconic images in a style that developed during the dawning of punk in the 70's. Brian Jones told Culture Colony: "I think that Punk's use of collage was born out of a lack of money and access to resources. But photocopiers, scissors and paste were very accessible; it made things very edgey, immediate, and slightly menacing, as 'ransom note' lettering had more sinister connotations".
Birth of Rock'n Roll
"These days the PC is the great Liberator, and forms the same function for me as a photocopier did back in the day; scanning and re-sizing images, which are then printed-out and collaged. The collages are then re-scanned; flat analogue artwork as opposed digitally originated. I use Photoshop for processing but very rarely for originating my works".
Ironically, by banning an art work, Wrexham council have attracted media attention and, arguably, more people will now see this image of fondness being expressed between Nick Clegg and David Cameron than if they had allowed it to be exhibited as it was selected to be.
When Culture Colony asked Welsh Punk Legend Rhys Mwyn for his thoughts on this story he added -
It seems to me that banning a work of art actually leads directly to more people viewing the art and certainly to more people discussing the art - In terms of publicity there’s nothing like a bit of controversy.
Due to all the publicity especially on the internet you are actually talking about people all over the World potentially being able to view and discuss Brokeback Britain, so I guess the Wrexham Councillors have shot themselves in the foot and it’s no longer about them – it’s gone viral – if I were Brian Jones I’d be laughing about this – it’s pure Sex Pistols style controversy in 2011 – Brilliant !
Also See -
Brian Jones profile
The Art of Brian goes to School news item
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