Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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Today's Featured Case



Free the Water.png

Artist: Antonio Cosme and William Lucka

Year: 2016

Date of Action: August-October 2016

Region: North America

Location: Detroit, MI

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Installation, Mixed Media, Painting, Public Art

Confronting Bodies: City of Detroit

Description of Artwork: In 2014, two Detroit artist-activists, Antonio Cosme and William Lucka, painted the politically motivated graffiti slogan, FREE THE WATER, along with a fist of resistance on a Highland Park water tower. Cosme and Lucka are outspoken critics of Detroit's redevelopment scheme and the water shut-offs that continue to plague the city. The shut-offs have stirred widespread protests because they disproportionately affect the city's poorest residents.

The Incident: In August, 2016, the artists faced fines of up to $75,000 and a maximum jail sentence of four years on charges related to the malicious destruction of property and trespassing. Hyperallergic reported: 'In November 2014, police confronted Cosme and Lucka at the bottom of the tower, but nearly a year and a half had passed before police contacted them again about the incident. Then, a Detroit graffiti task force — a newly formed special unit charged with tracking and prosecuting taggers and graffiti artists — took over the case, claiming the cost of cleaning the tower would range from $45,000 to $75,000, Cosme says. Police raided Lucka’s home, taking many of his art-related materials, and eventually brought a slew of new charges against him, using one of the task force’s key tools: an expanding graffiti database. Cosme describes it as a “badass” archive of local street art despite its nefarious purpose. Using the database, the task force linked Lucka to multiple appearances of the tag “Astro,” which appeared on the water tower with “Free the Water.”'

Results of Incident: 10/25/16: The Free the Water Defense Campaign announced that artists Cosme and Lucka reached an out of court settlement with the state prior to their October 24th trial. A http://freethewater313.org news release reports: "Thanks to widespread community support and media coverage…[the artists] hammered out an arrangement for 1 year of nonreporting probation and 120 hours of community service each."

Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/5sgDIVh-Vj/


Settlement Negotiated!

Detroit Artists Face Felony Charges for Protest Graffiti, AUGUST 24, 2016

Free the Water campaign

Two Detroit Artists Face Up to Four Years in Prison for Political Graffiti, by Matthew Irwin, Hyperallergic, August 12, 2016

Apparently Painting “Free The Water” On A Water Tower Can Land You Jail Time, by Bridget Casey, Art report, AUGUST, 2016

#FreeTheWater: Detroit Artists Fight Felony Charges and Prison Time by Brenda Montaña Aguilar, The Odyssey, July 19, 2016

Detroit: Artists Fight Felonies for Painting "Free the Water" on Tower, Democracy Now, JULY 14, 2016

Water shutoff activists face possible jail time for ‘Free the Water’ mural, by Steve Neavling, Motor City Muckraker, April 18, 2016


What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

Activists can search for ongoing cases or contribute a case that is ongoing or recently resolved.

Artists and cultural producers are similarly invited to add cases they are directly involved with or are familiar with first hand.

Censorpedia builds on the landmark 1994 art project The File Room, initiated by Muntadas.

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