September 11 aftermath exhibition in New York censored by the Cultural Bureau of Homeland Security?
by Lisa Schmidt
An email received by ArtThrob this week announced the closure by the Homeland Security Cultural Bureau of an exhibition at the White Box Gallery, a non-profit art gallery in New York. Amidst the shows around town commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, the White Box had announced the opening of an audio project called RadioActive by artists Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri. The show at the art gallery was purported to be a pirate radio station, which through the day would broadcast programmes to be heard on the street outside the gallery. This programming related to or engaged with September 11 and the responses by figures both outside and within the artistic and cultural community. In the words of the artists, the work wanted to take up questions linked to September 11, as well as give voice to related questions which have emerged over the last year. Both artists originate from the Middle East.
According to the email, the opening was prevented by Carolyn Parker Mayes, spokeswoman for the HSCB, introduced as the cultural branch of the Homeland Security Service, an organisation which came into being in October 2001. ArtThrob is always interested in the censorship by the State of the arts, so further investigation was carried out.
The HSCB proved to have a well designed and important looking website - www.hscb.org with the content of the site nearly indistinguishable from real governmental sites. The mission statement reads "The HSCB is protecting the interests of the country's national security by employing efforts to direct and guide the parameters of cultural production". However, it turned out that domain was org. rather than gov. and the site is registered through the german company www.joker.com, giving hints to the actual intended project, which IS happening.
The gallery has remained closed with a notice pasted on the windows announcing the closure by the enigmatic HSCB.
The White Box Art Gallery in Chelsea is known as a non-profit, very political and non-conventional gallery. The discussion on the web has now developed to the point where it is being asked whether this is considered to be an artwork or a just a publicity booster. The closure notes (as to be seen on www.hscb.org) taped to the outside of the gallery were defaced with notes such as "bad art".