A Certain Level of Denial (performance)

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Date: 1994

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Performance Art


Artist: Karen Finley

Confronting Bodies: City attorney's office

Dates of Action: 1994

Location: Chicago, Illinios

Description of Artwork: The performance piece confronts the government's role in the AIDS epidemic and women's rights to control their own bodies. Finley begins on stage wearing only a hat and shoes, eventually dressing while offering a monologue and social commentary.

The Incident: Chicago's Metro Club booked Finley to perform A Certain Level of Denial one year in advance. The club's attorney read a preview of the show one week prior to it's performance and warned the club owner, Joe Shanahan, about a local ordinance prohibiting nude dancing in venues that serve liquor. The city attorney agreed that Metro Club was not exempt from the law. Shanahan asked Finley to remove the nudity from her show. When Finley refused Shanahan cancelled the performance and refunded the 200 tickets that had been sold.

Results of Incident: One day prior to the show's anticipated performance the city attorney's office reversed its decision, suggesting that the show did not violate the law, however, it was too late to reschedule the performance.

Source: Artistic Freedom Under Attack, 1995