Hallwalls' Artists and Models Ball

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Date: 2001

Region: North America

Subject: Nudity Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Film Video


Artist: Multiple artists including Siew-Wai Kok and Tracey McGuirl/Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center

Confronting Bodies: Anonymous complainant and Buffalo Police

Date of Action: June 1, 2001

Location: Buffalo, New York

Description of Artwork: Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center's annual Artists and Models Ball, a fundraising art event for the center at the Buffalo Convention Center.

  • Set within the context of a multi-projector video wall including the work of four artists, one video contained images of nudity and explicit sexual acts (perhaps simulated) apparently taken from an X-rated commercial film.

A second video, by artists Siew-Way Kok and Tracey McGuirl, dealt with issues of sexuality including the artists' own sexuality, representations of sexuality in the media, and sexuality and the internet. This black-and-white video featured nude images, predominantly the midsections of the artists' bodies (Buffalo News, 6.7.01).

The Incident: At 11:00 PM during Hallwalls' annual Artists and Models Ball, an anonymous complainant called the police complaining that pornographic movies were being shown to minors. With its late hour and high admission fee, the event was not targeted at children. In fact, only one minor was present - the child of one of the artists. When the officers arrived, the caller escorted them first to the sexually explicit video and they briefly viewed the exhibit. The police then ordered the organizers to turn off one of the tapes. Thereafter, the police inquired about the video by Kok and McGuirl, about which they had learned from the complainant.

Results of Incident: Compliant with the police's instruction, the Hallwalls staff member in charge of the event immediately blocked the projection beam and ejected the tape. One officer stated that Hallwalls should not have been showing the video, but since the staff member shut it off, he would not report the event. A hired security guard stopped the second video, prior to its inspection by the police. Turning off the second video was neither the decision of the event's coordinators nor that of the police; the guard took it upon himself to stop it in an attempt to preempt the police.

Source: NCAC, The Buffalo News