Never The Twain

Public Service Neutrality



I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might plan a gallery visit or two…. once the weather improves. So I have been sifting through the various heads-ups and gallery twitterings to see what’s going on.


As usual for me, the first one to catch my eye was a gallery behaving…well…. in a very un-art like way. This was the Beau Arts in Paris; apparently Clare Carolin senior tutor at The Royal College of Art and Chinese Artist Ko Siu Lan had been given a space to curate and create an installation outside the gallery walls. Outside – inside its all the same really – it is still connected to the gallery. But after the event was installed the gallery decided to pull the installation on the grounds of unsuitability – why after though? had the gallery not bothered to keep abreast of work in progress? had the artists right at the last minute bunged in some really visually offensive or epilepsy inducing strobes or something that was going to offend ‘those of a nervous disposition’ ? maybe it was offending language – racist even? .

No, the work consisted of four banners each with a word on it ; gagner, moins, plus, travailler  or  work, more, earn, less, the way the banners were positioned I guess you could read in any particular order you wished as they were hung vertically from the sides of the building.

Beaux arts

I baffled over this one cos the words to me in any order didn’t seem ummmm ? offensive?. Maybe an obvious statement if you juggled them about to actually read work more earn less. Only when I saw a news article did the explanation come out, the gallery had decided that as these words had specifically been used in Sarkosy’s 2007 election campaign (only in the order; earn more work less) that they were too ‘explicitly political’ to use. Ohhh right that explains it then, they being a public gallery and all, this is about being publically accountable to the government yes? No absolument! Ok publically accountable to the public perhaps? No No!… is about ‘Public Service Neutrality’.


Yes, I am in still in the real world and have not slipped into another parallel dimension, I did get that right – public service neutrality. Didn’t Richard Branson have an ‘art’ and state moment 30 odd years ago when Virgin records were taken to court in Nottingham over their subtle window display of the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks album? I can use the b word here – as John Mortimer (bless him) proved at the time the word had an old English meaning and therefore could not be deemed to be offensive. Even the other spin off from that album which involved the Monarchy and the song God Save The Queen, didn’t have her Maj expressing anything more than ‘regret’ over decency and taste that such sentiments needed to be used against her. Now the behind the scenes details I have no idea of, but the overall outcome was that John Lydon and the group’s manager defended the song’s lyrics as being a more ambiguous take on the monarchy or monarchies in general. No doubt her Maj was not amused in the slightest with that explanation. But it passed without having the whole thing withdrawn totally from the public.


Posh spice I seem to remember also tried a different take on word use a few years ago when she wanted to TM the word Posh and failed – cos its a word !.


So, Beau Arts, as bastion of art for the public, what kind of ethic got in the way of this project then?, free speech perhaps? – even the artist expressed disbelief and she is from China.


Public Service Neutrality… boy that’s a line and a half… Public Service Duplicity more like.