Artists and Models Affair (fund-raiser)

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Date: 2001

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity

Medium: Film Video


Artist: Video artists presenting their work at the annual Artists and Models Affair fund-raiser. Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center, which was in charge of the Artists and Models Affair fundraising event and is a nonprofit organization.

Confronting Bodies: Buffalo, NY police department

Dates of Action: 2001

Location: Buffalo Convention Center; Buffalo, NY USA

Description of Artwork: The video artworks in question all featured nudity, specifically nude women. The video was a collaborative work by two artists, Siew-Wai Kok, a University of Buffalo (UB) student from Malaysia, and Tracey McGuirl, a graduate student in the UB Department of Media Study. The black-and-white video featured nude images, predominantly the midsections of Kok’s and McGuirl’s bodies. Kok says of her video, “my artwork is more personal […]. I’m trying to break some of my own taboos. I think my artwork and myself are growing, both technically and mentally”. Executive director of Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center which was in charge of the fund-raising event, Edmund Cardoni, said that the controversial videos in question was from an X-rated film, but Cardoni emphasized it was part of an overall artistic piece and was not intended to be pornographic.

The Incident: In May 2001, the annual Artists and Models Affair fund-raiser was taking place at the Buffalo Convention Center. Piece on show at the fund-raiser included some provocative video artworks that featured nudity, including Siew-Wai Kok and Tracey McGuirl’s piece. Responding to an anonymous complaint regarding the provocative videos, Buffalo police showed up to the Artists and Models fund-raiser.

Results of Incident: While in office at Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giulani has threatened to cut funding for controversial art exhibits. His opposition to provocative art has bled into areas outside the metropolitan New York area, including Buffalo New York. The Bufallo police ordered a video unplugged that formed part of one of two artworks that were the subject of the complaint, and the second was closed by Hallwalls security staff in anticipation that the officers would object to it as well. Police officials said they forced the videos to be shut off because Hallwalls, a nonprofit organization that prides itself on encouraging provocative art, makes no effort to screen minors from attending the popular event. Patrol Chief Larry Ramunno said the officers involved did not have the authority to close down the entire event and speculated it might have been a “tongue-in-cheek” threat. But, the chief urged Hallwalls to consider setting an age limit for the event. Hallwalls officials rejected the idea of setting an age limit, though they are willing to consider posting a warning sign regarding the provocative content in the exhibition. Lucinda Finley, a member of the Hallwalls board and a UB law professor, said the Buffalo police violated the First Amendment when they coerced Hallwalls into shutting down the artworks.

Source: The Buffalo News: search www.buffalonews.com