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Le Quotidien de l'Art

What is the status of censorship in France?

Foto Femme United
Foto Femme United
+December 03, 2020
We are very honored to have been mentioned in this article by Marion Bellal in Le Quotidien de l'Art. The article has been translated in English below.
FFU image
FFU image
FFU image
While the mobilization against the "global security" law has been amplified by the Zecler affair, the debate continues on the famous article 24, which provides for the punishment of the diffusion of malicious images. of the police forces. And raises the question of censorship even in the artistic field, as the episode concerning Paolo Cirio and his work Capture reminds us. Beyond this topicality, many artists denounce the persistence of a form of censorship in France, for political, religious or social reasons.
By Marion Bellal
Between 133,000 (according to the Ministry of the Interior) and 500,000 people (according to the organizers) demonstrated on Saturday, November 28 against the "global security" law, after the release of the video of the beating of a black producer, Michel Zecler, by police officers. One of the main reasons for this mobilization is Article 24 of the law adopted on November 24th in the National Assembly, which provides, among other things, to penalize the "malicious" dissemination of the image of police officers. If the representation of police officers is such a controversial issue, it is also a sensitive issue for artists. Paolo Cirio thus saw his work Capture, composed of a multitude of helmeted police faces recovered from the Internet to denounce facial recognition and its excesses, being removed from an exhibition at Le Fresnoy (see QDA of October 6). The conflict between the artist and the Tourcoing institution was accentuated by a position taken on Twitter on October 1 by Gérald Darmanin, Minister of the Interior - and mayor of Tourcoing until September 3: "Unbearable pillorying of women and men who risk their lives to protect us. I demand the deprogramming of the "exhibition" and the removal of the photos from its site, under penalty of taking the matter to the competent courts. "Perhaps Paolo Cirio's work played a role in Gérald Darmanin's inflexible stance on the "global security" law and his use of the martial register.

Two versions of the facts

Paolo Cirio assures to have been the object of a pure and simple form of censorship. The Fresnoy student-researchers did not hesitate to write "LA HONTE ! "in capital letters on the blue palisade hiding the work Capture, at the opening of the exhibition. "Panorama 22: The Sentinels". The artist assumes it, his goal was well to provoke. But he would never have imagined such a "quick and aggressive" reaction: "I started working on facial recognition in France," he says. very shocked to learn that it was one of the European countries that used the most. My goal was to prove its drifts by using it to against those who usually use it, the police. In addition, France is often singled out for police violence. "Alain Fleischer, director of Le Fresnoy, takes a different position: "I don't think we can say that there is censorship in France today. I experimented with film censorship in my youth, and at Le Fresnoy we welcome artists from countries where political censorship is unquestionable. To this day, I can't think of the slightest example of an artist who has complained about any censorship in France. "According to him, the work itself had no reason to be censored. It was the artist's call on social networks to identify faces that overstepped the limits of creative freedom in the face of the police's right to an image. The Le Fresnoy manager also claims that Paolo Cirio did not respect their agreement that Le Fresnoy would not be associated with the collage of some of these police faces in the streets of Paris, a happening that the artist carried out at the beginning of October.

Political censorship, societal censorship

Paolo Cirio is not the only artist to denounce the existence of a form of censorship today in France. According to the Freemuse organization, the visual arts are the second most pursued art form after music for reasons that are most often political or religious. France is one of the 13 countries denounced on this subject in 2019 along with Brazil, China, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Iran, Lebanon, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, the United States, and Zimbabwe (see QDA of May 28, 2020). Scheduled for March 2020 and postponed to the beginning of the school year because of the first confinement, the gallery &co119, 119 Rue Vieille du Temple, hosted an exhibition entitled "C*ensorsh*p", conducted with the feminist collective of photographers FFU (Foto Femme United). Its founder, April Wiser, can no longer stand the glass ceiling that she encounters as a woman photographer. With her collective, she wanted to denounce the censorship of women's artistic creation: "We are double censored in the world of photography. Not only on our place and role as women photographers in society, but also on the way our bodies are represented in photography", she analyses. The exhibition also denounced the role of social networks on this point, a censorship that the illustrating artist Marie Casaÿs experiences on a daily basis. The latter participated in September in the exhibition "Ras la moule de la censure! "presented by Gloria collective at 3013 in Marseille. "Clearly, nudity can still not be artistic today, in 2020, she considers. If we give free rein to our inspirations, we can be banned from Instagram. On the other hand, as a woman, we learn to always be decent. It's hard to get out of this education, to prove that drawing sexuality doesn't make us dirty and can be a form of elegance. "The illustrator fears that many artists prefer to censor themselves rather than risk a ban from the social network, which is now essential to the visibility of their work (see the case of John de Andrea's works censored by Facebook, in the QDA of December 4, 2018).

Erotic art, irreducible taboo

According to the sculptor and ceramist Elsa Sahal, erotic art is in the front line of censors in Western countries, just like militant art and religious caricature: "The market for a work such as my Fountain remains to be developed. For me, it is necessary to have playful, daring, even critical works in the public and museum space. Of course, I don't work for the market but I live from my work. A little more audacity in museum purchases and public commissions would be welcome. "While the artist insists that she understands the origin of this persistent restraint in 2020 and feels neither disappointment nor resentment, she points out that works from the 1970s could be much more provocative: "We sometimes find ourselves thinking that artists seemed freer than today! "Elsa Sahal notes that the #MeToo movement was a shock wave that helped to raise awareness and change mentalities, but also to reactivate the virulence of the protests. "A movement of reactionary hostility" that led to her sculpture representing a little girl urinating like a boy, installed on the fountain of the Place Royale for the "Voyage à Nantes", being vandalized (see QDA of September 2, 2020): "There was no real censorship, but reactions from the public and the media were very strong. violence, especially on the internet, and an act of vandalism. Yet I did not want to make a provocative work but a funny, teasing play... My work has been criticized as are in fact all feminist gestures today. »