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{{Display censorship incident
 
{{Display censorship incident
 
|ongoing=no
 
|ongoing=no
|year=1936
+
|year=2015
 
|region=North America
 
|region=North America
|artist=Victor Arnautoff ('Life of Washington' murals)
+
|artist=Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq ("Hands Up" installation),
 
|subject=Political/Economic/Social Opinion
 
|subject=Political/Economic/Social Opinion
|confronting_bodies=San Francisco Board of Education
+
|confronting_bodies=Flux Factory, NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association
|medium=Painting, Public Art
+
|medium=Electronic Media, Installation, Mixed Media
|date_of_action=December 2018-June 2019
+
|date_of_action=May 2015
|location=San Francisco, CA
+
|location=Flux Factory, Long Island City (Queens), NY
|description_of_content=“Life of Washington” is a mural comprising thirteen panels in fresco on the life of George Washington that depict him in both real and imagined scenarios. It was painted by Russian-American painter and Stanford professor of art Victor Arnautoff in the 1930s (with assistance from artists George Harris and Gorden Langdon) and completed in 1936 at the newly built George Washington High School in San Francisco.  
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|description_of_content=HANDS UP is an interactive installation that explores law enforcement’s relationship with people of color. The installation simulates the experience of being confronted by the police in the manner that resulted in the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, in Ferguson, MO. The piece directly places visitors in the chaotic and overwhelming moments that have since led to an ongoing debate about the state of race relations in America. Video plays on loop of Freddie Gray’s arrest in Baltimore, and police shootings of Walter Scott in South Carolina and Michael Brown in Ferguson. The installation is meant to be experienced alone.  
  
Funded by the Works Progress Administration's (WPA) Federal Art Project, the murals were Arnautoff’s largest New Deal commission and one of the largest ensembles of New Deal artworks at a single site. Arnautoff was a well-known muralist, having painted other WPA funded projects including murals at Coit Tower where he was Technical Director of the project.
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From the website: "One at a time, a viewer walks behind a curtain into a room containing a large wall of flashing red and blue lights. They hear the sounds of sirens and the voices of police telling them to put their hands up. Once they comply and their hands are in the air, a gunshot is heard, several blinding strobe flashes are triggered, and the noises disappear. The viewer is shaken by the sudden light and noise, and left in a chilling void of silence as they exit the space."
 
+
|description_of_incident=Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (the NYPD police union), told the Daily News: “This so-called ‘art project’ is based upon a lie and perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force. If art is supposed to enlighten and uplift, this piece of crap doesn’t qualify.” Lynch told PIX11 that he had not seen the installation, but he had heard about it.
Arnautoff presented the murals as a counter-narrative to high school history texts of the time. The murals depicted Washington's dependence on slave labor, his role in Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion, and the “march of the white race” (in Arnautoff’s words). In one panel Washington is depicted pointing westward over the body of dead Native American.
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|description_of_result=After being harassed, Flux Factory closed the space to the public for the remainder of the exhibition and visits to the installation could be made by appointment only. ('Hands Up' was scheduled to be on display at Flux Factory from May 15–19, 2015).
 
+
|image=Roopa Vasudevan hands-up1.jpg
Arnautoff's political views were influenced by Diego Rivera, for whom he worked as an assistant while living in Mexico. His style is considered more subtle than Rivera's and that of other social realists of the period. Later he joined the Communist Party, the American Artists' Congress and the San Francisco Artists and Writers Union. His politics were reflected in his work, which was part of the mural arts movement intended to inspire change through criticism of the current political system.
+
|source=https://rouxpz.com/hands-up
 
+
Two of the mural panels have come under fire since the 1960’s for their depictions of African Americans and Native Americans. For decades, activists have called for their removal.
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|description_of_incident=In December 2018, George Washington High School was denied landmark status specifically due to the two panels containing offensive content. The high school is part of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and under the jurisdiction of the Board of Education. The Board was divided about the school’s application for landmark status because designating it as such would make it impossible to modify or remove the murals afterwards.
+
 
+
The SFUSD created a 13-member “Reflection and Action Group” to provide a recommendation to the Board. In February 2019, after four public meetings, they issued their final recommendation to remove the entire series of murals from the school.
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The George Washington High School Alumni Association GWHSAA) launched a campaign to keep the 83-year-old murals intact. The alumni proposed adding interpretive panels to give them historical context and to also document how they have been experienced by Native American, African American, and other students of color.
+
 
+
The story was extensively covered in both local and national media. Those who would censor the work cited its depiction of slavery and the murder of a Native American as traumatizing to some students of color. Others, including NCAC and the leaders of four of San Francisco’s top visual arts institutions, argued that it is an artistic and historical treasure that does not celebrate the life of George Washington uncritically, but rather depicts him as complicit in slavery and the violent pursuit of America’s “Manifest Destiny.
+
|description_of_result=On June 25, 2019, the San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously to remove/paint over the murals. But in early August, after months of public pressure, the Board nullified their vote:
+
 
+
"In a compromise that did not appear to end the fight, the San Francisco Board of Education voted Tuesday night to conceal, but not destroy, a series of Depression-era school murals that some considered offensive to Native Americans and African-Americans.
+
 
+
"The 4-to-3 vote, which came after a tense and emotional meeting, nullified the board’s earlier vote to paint over the murals, a decision that had brought widespread complaints of censorship."
+
(NYTimes, August 14, 2019)
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|image=Arnautoff, Life of Washington.jpg
+
|source=Photo: Amanda Law, via https://www.donnagraves.org/blog/2018/2/27/citywide-historic-context-for-new-deal-san-francisco
+
 
}}
 
}}
GEORGE WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL: ARNAUTOFF MURAL – SAN FRANCISCO CA
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HANDS UP: https://rouxpz.com/hands-up
https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/george-washington-high-school-arnautoff-mural-san-francisco-ca/
+
 
+
CITYWIDE HISTORIC CONTEXT FOR NEW DEAL SAN FRANCISCO
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https://www.donnagraves.org/blog/2018/2/27/citywide-historic-context-for-new-deal-san-francisco
+
...
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Aug. 25, 2019
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Feinstein on SF mural flap: Don’t destroy it, don’t cover it up
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https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/philmatier/article/Feinstein-on-SF-mural-flap-Don-t-destroy-it-14374916.php
+
 
+
Aug. 21, 2019
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Alice Walker Defends George Washington Murals
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“Why try to hide the reality of our history?” she said of the objectionable images that confronted San Francisco students every day.
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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/arts/design/alice-walker-defends-george-washington-murals.html
+
 
+
August 14, 2019
+
San Francisco School Board Votes to Hide, but Not Destroy, Disputed Murals
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The vote, which came after a tense meeting, nullified an earlier vote to paint over Depression-era school murals that some considered offensive to minorities.
+
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/14/arts/san-francisco-murals-george-washington.html
+
 
+
August 12, 2019
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Actor Danny Glover Opposes Washington High Mural Removal; Calls Plan ‘A Book Burning’
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https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/08/12/washington-high-mural-actor-danny-glover-book-burning/
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Aug. 7, 2019
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Hundreds of people flood SF school to see mural slated for destruction
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https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/More-than-100-people-flood-SF-school-to-see-mural-14274260.php
+
 
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August 6, 2019
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San Francisco NAACP Leaders Call For Preservation Of Controversial School Mural
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https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/08/06/san-francisco-naacp-leaders-preservation-controversial-school-mural/
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Aug 2, 2019
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Voters may decide whether to save or destroy historic murals
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Locals push to preserve controversial 1936 WPA art at SF high school
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https://sf.curbed.com/2019/8/2/20751847/racist-san-francisco-mural-washington-vote-ballot-measure
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Aug. 1, 2019
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More than 100 people flood SF school to see mural slated for destruction
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Nanette Asimov
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https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/More-than-100-people-flood-SF-school-to-see-mural-14274260.php?psid=aMZbp
+
 
+
July 31 2019
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The Shame of the Mural Censors — Why Art and History Matter
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By DeWitt Cheng
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https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-shame-of-the-mural-censors-why-art-and-history-matter/Content?oid=27198706
+
 
+
July 27, 2019
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The Case for Keeping San Francisco’s Disputed George Washington Murals
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Exposure to art — even uncomfortable art — is healthy, stimulating, and worthy of students’ debate.
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ROBERTA SMITH
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https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/arts/design/george-washington-san-francisco-murals.html
+
 
+
July 27, 2019
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Screaming match erupts over vote to remove Washington mural at San Francisco high school - CNN Video
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https://www.cnn.com/videos/media/2019/07/27/school-board-votes-to-remove-historic-mural-san-francisco-smerconish-vpx.cnn
+
 
+
July 25, 2019
+
PD Editorial: Don’t destroy San Francisco school’s Washington mural
+
https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/9830114-181/pd-editorial-dont-destroy-the?sba=AAS
+
 
+
July 25, 2019
+
PD Editorial: Don’t destroy San Francisco school’s Washington mural
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https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/9830114-181/pd-editorial-dont-destroy-the?sba=AAS
+
 
+
JULY 2019
+
Destroying Antiracist Art Will Not End Racism
+
BY AQSA AHMAD
+
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/07/art-san-francisco-george-washington
+
 
+
JULY 23, 2019
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Whitewashing American History: the WPA Mural Controversy in San Francisco
+
by JACK HEYMAN
+
https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/07/23/whitewashing-american-history-the-wpa-mural-controversy-in-san-francisco/
+
 
+
JULY 22, 2019
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Move to erase George Washington mural sparks firestorm among Dems
+
By CARLA MARINUCCI
+
https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/22/george-washington-mural-san-francisco-1424425
+
 
+
San Francisco Highschool Pledges to Paint Over Washington Mural
+
By Victor Westerkamp
+
https://www.ntd.com/san-francisco-highschool-pledges-to-paint-over-washington-mural_359863.html
+
 
+
NCAC Op-Ed July 12, 2019
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Open Forum: SF school board need not be a regime that destroys art
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By Svetlana Mintcheva
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https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Open-Forum-SF-school-board-need-not-be-a-regime-14089832.php
+
 
+
NCAC Letter: May 6, 2019
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SAN FRANCISCO HIGH SCHOOL MAY DESTROY HISTORICAL MURALS
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https://ncac.org/news/san-francisco-high-school-may-destroy-historical-murals
+
 
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Professor Dewey Crumpler Defends GWHS Murals
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GWHS Alumni Assn SF CA
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Art Professor Dewey Crumpler defends Victor Arnautoff's (WPA/PWA 1936) Murals and discusses how the Arnautoff murals relate to his [Crumpler's] 1974 murals, and vice versa, at George Washington High School (San Francisco, California).  We must face, not erase, America’s dark history.  Censorship is never acceptable. - GWHS Alumni Association
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZEMpyvdAXQ&feature=youtu.be
+
 
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June 26, 2019
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San Francisco school board votes to destroy controversial Washington High mural
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Jill Tucker
+
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-school-board-votes-to-destroy-14050025.php
+
 
+
SF school board votes to destroy circa 1936 mural
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“No one has the right to tell us as native people—or our young people who walk those halls everyday—how they feel” 
+
https://sf.curbed.com/2019/6/24/18716046/george-washington-high-murals-sfusd-vote-victor-arnautoff
+
 
+
SFUSD Approves Covering Controversial George Washington High School Mural
+
https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2019/06/26/george-washington-high-school-mural-cover-up-sfusd/
+
 
+
June 25, 2019
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Bay Area art leaders on censorship of George Washington High mural
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The controversial mural will see its fate decided during a Tuesday evening school board meeting
+
https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/art-exhibits/bay-area-art-leaders-on-censorship-of-george-washington-high-mural
+
 
+
School board votes to paint over historic high school mural
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Alumni have threatened to sue over removal of frescoes depicting slavery, death of Native Americans
+
https://www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/school-board-votes-to-paint-over-offensive-sections-of-historic-high-school-mural/
+
 
+
June 24, 2019
+
Open Forum: The San Francisco School Board is flunking history
+
By Lope Yap Jr. 
+
https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Open-Forum-The-San-Francisco-School-Board-is-14039382.php
+
 
+
June 20, 2019
+
High school mural debate a reminder that destroying art destroys our culture
+
https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/art-exhibits/high-school-mural-debate-a-reminder-that-destroying-art-destroys-our-culture
+
 
+
June 19, 2019
+
Activists want a racist San Francisco high school mural removed
+
https://tworowtimes.com/opinion/activists-want-a-racist-san-francisco-high-school-mural-removed/
+
 
+
June 17, 2019
+
Fate of controversial SF high school mural down to three options
+
https://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/Fate-of-controversial-SF-high-school-mural-down-14008090.php?psid=auUdw
+
  
June 15, 2019
+
[https://www.indiawest.com/entertainment/global/indian-american-explores-police-gun-battle-deaths-through-digital-art/article_7a6c0bd8-0dff-11e5-bc8a-6f1f0f4b78c5.html Indian American Explores Police Gun Battle Deaths through Digital Art, Jun 8, 2015]
National Coalition Against Censorship Urges Retaining Washington Murals
+
https://sfrichmondreview.com/2019/06/15/national-coalition-against-censorship-urges-retaining-washington-murals/
+
  
June 10 2019
+
[https://hyperallergic.com/208206/crimes-of-the-art-13/ Crimes of the Art, Benjamin Sutton May 19, 2015]
Activists want a high school mural removed. Should its impact today overshadow the artist's intentions?
+
https://www.cnn.com/style/article/george-washington-mural-conversation/index.html
+
  
MAY 13, 2019
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[https://pix11.com/2015/05/18/police-union-slams-hands-up-art-exhibit-in-queens/ Police union slams ‘Hands Up’ art exhibit in Queens, MAY 18, 2015]
David and Art - "High School Mural"
+
By BRODIE BASHAW
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https://www.kwbu.org/post/david-and-art-high-school-mural#stream/0
+
  
May 7, 2019 9:00 p.m
+
[http://player.ooyala.com/static/v4/stable/4.16.8/skin-plugin/iframe.html?ec=51Yng1dToZFIAZmKwnQ9BZO8_s2y6o9W&pbid=9ae34776f76145da969becdeb205e6a5&pcode=hpOTQyOnmbX84Mb9rpsdJwTfN9uo&fbclid=IwAR3WdCOB20CXXBhu5PVxUIoN4NqMLaQqrzmgHJDbYzIapmi4uNkJy_wwx8o Video interview (PIX11)]
Feds could weigh in on fight over preservation of historic mural
+
SFUSD working group favors removal of controversial Washington High School fresco
+
https://www.sfexaminer.com/the-city/feds-could-weigh-in-on-fight-over-preservation-of-historic-mural/
+
  
May 3, 2019
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[https://news.artnet.com/exhibitions/hands-flux-factory-installation-simulates-police-shooting-299454 Hands Up: Flux Factory Installation Simulates Police Shooting, by Cait Munro, May 18, 2015]
High School May Remove George Washington Mural that 'Traumatizes Students and Community Members'
+
http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2019/may/high-school-may-remove-george-washington-mural-that-traumatizes-students-and-community-members
+
  
Apr 15, 2019
+
[https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/nypd-union-slams-hands-art-installation-queens-article-1.2225266 NYPD union slams 'Hands Up' art installation in Queens, By THOMAS TRACY and ANDY MAI. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS MAY 17, 2015]
STUDENT OPINION
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Should School Murals That Depict an Ugly History Be Removed?
+
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/15/learning/should-school-murals-that-depict-an-ugly-history-be-removed.html
+
  
April 11, 2019
+
[https://www.metro.us/new-york/controversial-queens-exhibit-simulates-police-shooting/zsJoeq---5RWYYzZsbHvK6 Controversial Queens exhibit simulates police shooting, By Nidhi Prakash, May 17, 2015]
These High School Murals Depict an Ugly History. Should They Go?
+
By Carol Pogash
+
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/arts/design/george-washington-murals-ugly-history-debated.html
+
  
April 9, 2019
+
[https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-newyork-handsup/new-york-exhibit-taps-into-dialogue-on-race-and-policing-idUSKBN0NZ27G20150515 New York exhibit taps into dialogue on race and policing, by Alice Popovici MAY 15, 2015]
Historic WPA murals at George Washington High School are facing destruction due to controversial depictions of Native Americans and African-Americans
+
https://richmondsfblog.com/2019/04/09/historic-wpa-murals-at-george-washington-high-school-are-facing-destruction-due-to-controversial-depictions-of-native-americans-and-african-americans/
+
  
April 8, 2019
+
[https://www.instagram.com/p/2uRWQrrXah/?utm_source=ig_embed Flux Factory Instagram post, May 15, 2015: Hands Up]
Critics say mural depicting slavery, Native Americans at a San Francisco high school is offensive
+
http://www.ktvu.com/news/ktvu-local-news/critics-say-mural-depicting-slavery-native-americans-at-a-san-francisco-high-school-is-offensive
+
  
Offensive or important? Debate flares anew over SF school mural depicting slavery
 
https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Offensive-or-important-Debate-flares-anew-over-13748800.php
 
  
April 2, 2019
+
[http://www.fluxfactory.org/events-old/hands-up/ HANDS UP, a project by Atif Ateeq and Roopa Vasudevan / Opening Reception Friday May 15th, 7 – 10pm / On view May 15th-19th, 2015]
Washington High Alumni Push to Keep Dubious Mural
+
A mural showing colonizers stepping over a dead Native American has long been controversial, but an alumni group is fighting to save it.
+
http://www.sfweekly.com/news/washington-high-alumni-push-to-keep-dubious-mural/
+
  
  

Latest revision as of 11:12, 7 November 2019

Featured Case



Roopa Vasudevan hands-up1.jpg

Artist: Roopa Vasudevan and Atif Ateeq ("Hands Up" installation)

Year: 2015

Date of Action: May 2015

Region: North America

Location: Flux Factory, Long Island City (Queens), NY

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Electronic Media, Installation, Mixed Media

Confronting Bodies: Flux Factory, NYPD Patrolmen's Benevolent Association

Description of Artwork: HANDS UP is an interactive installation that explores law enforcement’s relationship with people of color. The installation simulates the experience of being confronted by the police in the manner that resulted in the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, in Ferguson, MO. The piece directly places visitors in the chaotic and overwhelming moments that have since led to an ongoing debate about the state of race relations in America. Video plays on loop of Freddie Gray’s arrest in Baltimore, and police shootings of Walter Scott in South Carolina and Michael Brown in Ferguson. The installation is meant to be experienced alone.

From the website: "One at a time, a viewer walks behind a curtain into a room containing a large wall of flashing red and blue lights. They hear the sounds of sirens and the voices of police telling them to put their hands up. Once they comply and their hands are in the air, a gunshot is heard, several blinding strobe flashes are triggered, and the noises disappear. The viewer is shaken by the sudden light and noise, and left in a chilling void of silence as they exit the space."

The Incident: Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (the NYPD police union), told the Daily News: “This so-called ‘art project’ is based upon a lie and perpetuates a falsehood about police officers and their use of force. If art is supposed to enlighten and uplift, this piece of crap doesn’t qualify.” Lynch told PIX11 that he had not seen the installation, but he had heard about it.

Results of Incident: After being harassed, Flux Factory closed the space to the public for the remainder of the exhibition and visits to the installation could be made by appointment only. ('Hands Up' was scheduled to be on display at Flux Factory from May 15–19, 2015).

Source: https://rouxpz.com/hands-up


HANDS UP: https://rouxpz.com/hands-up

Indian American Explores Police Gun Battle Deaths through Digital Art, Jun 8, 2015

Crimes of the Art, Benjamin Sutton May 19, 2015

Police union slams ‘Hands Up’ art exhibit in Queens, MAY 18, 2015

Video interview (PIX11)

Hands Up: Flux Factory Installation Simulates Police Shooting, by Cait Munro, May 18, 2015

NYPD union slams 'Hands Up' art installation in Queens, By THOMAS TRACY and ANDY MAI. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS MAY 17, 2015

Controversial Queens exhibit simulates police shooting, By Nidhi Prakash, May 17, 2015

New York exhibit taps into dialogue on race and policing, by Alice Popovici MAY 15, 2015

Flux Factory Instagram post, May 15, 2015: Hands Up


HANDS UP, a project by Atif Ateeq and Roopa Vasudevan / Opening Reception Friday May 15th, 7 – 10pm / On view May 15th-19th, 2015


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.

For more information about censorship visit our Annotated Bibliography


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