Mute/Off (student publication)

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Date: 2006

Region: North America

Subject: Language, Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Literature Print Journalism


Artist: Professor Robert Ovetz and the students in his cultural studies class at the Art Institute of California - San Francisco.

Confronting Bodies: Administration at the Art Institute of California - San Francisco

Date of Action: December 2006

Location: San Francisco, California, USA

Ovetz1.jpg

Description of Artwork: Mute/Off is a free literary magazine written and produced by the students of Robert Ovetz’s cultural studies class as their final project for the class at the Art Institute of California. The publication dealt with societal issues, green living, racism, and the cultural effects of video games. The magazine includes a collage of corporate logos that are overlaid with the words "Organized Crime." One of the logos was that of Goldman Sachs, which bought the school in 2006. One of the most controversial pieces in the magazine is a short story entitled Homicide written by Simone Mitchell, a third-year student who is African American. Mitchell's story chronicles the criminal exploits of three African American males who call each other "Niggaz" and are stereotyped as thugs. At the end of the story, it is revealed that they are characters in a video game being played by three wealthy, white suburban boys.

The Incident: The day after Mute/Off was distributed, the administration at the Art Institute of California confiscated all copies of the publication. A spokeswoman for the school stated that the magazine produced as a final project for Prof. Ovetz's class was confiscated because it had been distributed without first being submited it to the administration for review.

Results of Incident: After objecting to the administration's confiscation of the provocative and controversial student magazine, Prof. Ovetz was fired from his teaching position. Ovetz and the students claim that the administration had violated the First Amendment, as well as a state law protecting student publication from censorship by confiscating nearly all 500 copies of the magazine. In addition, Ovetz and the students say this is not the first time the Art Institute has censored students work restricting freedom of speech and expression. One student's project was banned in December from a student exhibition on "taboos", and in 2005 a student's alien sculpture was removed from the campus gallery after complaints that it looked like a vagina.

The magazine was re-distributed in its entirety in mid-January after what the administration says was a 'review process.' Mitchell transferred to another school.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle; Robert Ovetz; Art Institute of California - San Francisco students; Metro Active:http://www.metroactive.com/bohemian/02.21.07/art-censorship-0708.html