Statement from MOSTYN Director regarding Paul Yore work
Statement from Afredo Cramerotti, Director MOSTYN, Wales UK
MOSTYN Open 21
Exhibition dates: 13 July - 27 October 2019
Paul Yore's Taste The Feeling (2018), an appliquéd textile made from fragments of reclaimed fabric which asserts a radical queer subjectivity, was recently on display as part of the MOSTYN Open 21 but was removed following concerns around the safety of MOSTYN staff and the security of the work itself. I took this decision after a number of complaints and concerns, about perceived homophobic hatred and antisemitism, expressed by several of our communities and partner organisations, followed by aggressive behaviour from some members of the public. The episode was witnessed by North Wales Police officers who were present in the gallery at that time.
As a Director of the institution, I don’t want any one of my staff, or our visitors, to be at risk of harm, or the artist's work being damaged or destroyed. I start from here.
It is not uncommon for contentious queer works to be censored even before reaching exhibition. We are currently in an age of populism where radical positions are avoided and simpler narratives are preferred. As far as I am concerned, I don’t think controversial works should be avoided. We have shown them in the past and we will do it in the future. Although we may have, on this occasion, misjudged the potential for negative reaction from a small part of our audience base, we can safely say that we did not patronise those audiences. Many more people enjoyed and appreciated the work than complained about it, and we have to remember this. Obviously the litmus test suggests that a few people took deep offence at the work, and quickly moved from words to action. That was when I stepped in. Contemporary art is about contemporary life, no more, no less. Cultural expression is one of things that make human beings human. And this, sometimes, generates misunderstandings and tensions.
Yes, there is challenging language and text in the work but this is not invented, it is actual language used regularly against people in the queer community and I think like many cultural movements that are happening, it is good that artists like Paul Yore are reclaiming that language and making it their own. In the same way that some years ago Tracey Emin made waves in the cultural world with her diary-like representation of sexuality from a female perspective, I think there is an under-representation on many LGTBQAI+ perspectives. With regards to the perceived anti-semitism, if you saw the work I think you would agree that this is not the case. The inclusion of a swastika is not simply a symbol of far-right agenda. Paul Yore's is an anti-anti-semitic work – subversive, and yet I understand that this might be open to misinterpretation.
How do we progress from here? MOSTYN will continue to support freedom of expression and advocate artist practices from LGBTQIA+ communities. We will continue to discuss how to raise awareness for LGBTQIA+ perspectives. We will do so by displaying the interview, where the artist discusses the context for the artwork and which was recorded at the launch of the exhibition and filmed in front of the piece, along with the original label describing the work, and an additional statement explaining why the work was removed from the wall and the process that led to such decision. We won’t hide the reasoning, the threats, the fear for something that could happen on a physical level, and the lengthy thinking process that went along with decision. It is our responsibility as cultural ‘open houses' to consider how the discomfort caused by a work can turn into debate, pursuing through a discussion about censorship as part of the public programme.
I understand the position of Paul completely; and he can understand mine. We strive to find a common ground in tackling this, because if we - the artists and curators, the cultural producers and cultural institutions - cannot find a way to advance debate in society, then we are set up for failure before we even start. I am aware that this statement won’t satisfy everyone; nevertheless, to give my personal viewpoint is the closest way I have to share with the audience how I - we all - feel at MOSTYN.
Alfredo Cramerotti, Director, MOSTYN, Wales UK
25 July 2019