It is over a month after the Victoria Police raided the Linden Contemporary Arts Centre in St. Kilda on Saturday 1st of June – what is happening? Not much has happened. Heide, Gertrude Contemporary and the Victorian Tapestry Workshop have praised Paul Yore for his time with them. And a small side issue has developed with a scrap between artists and the Linden Centre. (For more about the police raid see my article in Crikey.)
Writing and researching this story has been way out of my usual territory of writing about the arts but having started on it I want to stay on the story. For let us not forget that at the heart of this story there is still a young artist, Paul Yore whose contribution to the “Like Mike” exhibition at the Linden Centre has been censored by the police, and that a month later some of his art in the hands of the police and his legal fate is still up in the air. Justice delayed is justice denied.
I’ve been trying to get information from the Victoria Police, politicians, people on Twitter, anybody… Nobody has been quick to comment, especially on the record. It looks like everyone is trying to bury this embarrassing episode quietly and slowly before allowing common sense in the discussion. Finally, the police replied to say: “the investigation is still ongoing. No charges have been laid at this time.”
Saturday 8th of June, artists rally at Linden Centre demand that the Centre reopen the “Like Mike” exhibition and stop pandering to censorship. Protesting the closure Stephen Haley has resigned from the Linden board of management. Geoff Newton, the co-curator has called for artist’s to boycott the Linden Centre.
The Linden Centre re-opened on the 11th and it issued a statement by Sue Foley, Chairperson
Linden Board of Management Inc on 16th. The statement did give some further details; “we were notified by the Australian Classification Board that elements of the work by Paul Yore are considered Classification 1 – Restricted. This means that the work is considered to contain adult content and should be restricted to people 18 years and over.” (This classification was on Yore’s exhibit minus the work removed by the police.)
Although the Linden Centre has reopened to the public, with extended hours, the room with Paul Yore’s work remained closed. Closed is what the Linden Centre describes as “working through what this (the restricted classification) means in practical terms and will continue to consult with all the artists and our stakeholders when making decisions about how best to proceed.”
What is wrong with this picture?!
The motivation behind the Victorian Police raid on Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in St. Kilda is becoming clearer with more research. The Victorian Police are not in the habit of visiting art galleries looking for child pornography but they are too easily manipulated to do just that by conservative wanna-be politicians.
On 28th of May Adrian Jackson and Chris Spillane along with Cr Andrew Bond were at Port Phillip City Council meeting. (These three people were the only people complaining about the exhibition in The Leaders’s article. For more on these people see my post, Police Raid Gallery.) In public question time Chris Spillane’s agenda is made clear in the minutes of the meeting.
“Chris Spillane asked about a current art exhibition at the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts in St Kilda. He stated that while he hasn’t seen the exhibition himself, from what he has heard about the exhibition it is offensive and pornographic in nature. He suggested that the exhibition should be shut down or at the very least there should be more appropriate signage warning of the contents, age restrictions in place, and this section of the gallery should be cordoned off. He asked, as sponsors of the gallery, what action the Council intends to take?”
“Mayor Amanda Stevens responded that the gallery is run by an independent board and that there is already appropriate signing regarding the exhibition in question in place.”
Adrian Jackson’s agenda become apparent in a comment that he made in The Leader. Posted at 7:31 PM June 2, 2013: “Mission accomplished – the kiddy art exhibition is now closed. Next step is getting the Linden Gallery to be self funding instead of behaving like a parasite on ratepayers. Currently $100,000 PA is spent by Port Phillip Council on maintenance and equipment in the Linden which has been a ratepayer owned building for the last 25 years or so. This money does not appear in the Linden’s annual Statement of Affairs (see their website) as far as I can see but what is included is about $250,000 PA in ratepayer funds in “operating cost”. All this for 6 or 7 exhibitions per year involving about 6 artists per exhibition. The large post card exhibition could be moved to the town hall and the Linden closed if it cant be self funded. Other galleries in Port Phillip can fund themselves so why cant the Linden committee. I understand that this years exhibition was probably organised last years before the current new committee member joined it.”
The artist, Paul Yore has interviewed by detectives from the St Kilda Crime Investigation Unit and the police have yet to lay any charges. The detectives and the mainstream media have yet to examine the conservative political agenda behind the complaint. It is a shame that they are unable to do the same research that I have done.
The facts: Victorian Police have raided St Kilda’s Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts and removed work by artist, Paul Yore. No charges have been laid. (See The Age and the Port Phillip Leader.)
The artist: Paul Yore is winner of $8000 Wangaratta Contemporary Textile Award 2013. Last year he was exhibited at the NGV’s Atrium at Federation Square. There is an interview with him from last year, along with un-pixelated photographs of his art in Desktop.
The gallery, St Kilda’s Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, is one of Melbourne’s oldest council funded art galleries with a reputation for quality exhibitions. It is well known for its annual post-card exhibition. I have no doubt that the curatorial team had appropriate warnings (warnings are so commonplace now in exhibitions).
The exhibition, “Like Mike” is a homage to Australian artist Mike Brown.
The curators of the exhibition are Jan Duffy and Geoff Newton. Jan Duffy is an experienced curator as is Geoff Newton who is a well known as the director of Neon Parc gallery. Geoff Newton, from my knowledge of him and his work, is a man who seriously wants to advance art.
It is not clear exactly who the complainants are. The newspapers quote an “Adrian Jackson a Middle Park resident” and “Port Phillip resident Chris Spillane”. Chris Spillane is a Liberal Party candidate for the local council accused of racism. Adrian Jackson is ex-Australian Army, a want-to-be politician who has run as an independent candidate, who was expelled from the Liberal Party in 2003. Given their backgrounds Jackson and Spillane don’t appear to be the usual gallery visitors. (For more on their motivations see my recent post, Political Motivations Behind Police Raid.)
Local Port Phillip City Council members, Councillor Andrew Bond an independent and a former church youth group leader, has called the exhibition “obscene” and compared it to hardcore pornography.
This story is more about the ambitions of certain people involved in local politics creating a controversy to be noticed and the Victorian Police being unable to learn from the experiences of their NSW counterparts with the raids on Bill Henson and Juan Davila’s exhibitions. This is yet another sorry and pathetic part in the story of Australian censorship. (See my 2008 post: More Art Censorship as events are likely to play out in the same way.)