Who’s the Censor Now? FPÖ Attacks Artist in City Council

On Dezember 22nd I attended a Slum TV presentation by Alexander Nikolic given at Galerie 35 in Berlin, presented by Tanja Ostojic, David Rych and Dmytri Kleiner on behalf of the Art & Economics Group.

The Art & Economics group investigates the intersection of art and political economy and this was the last in a series of four discussions held in 2007. Topics included political economy as a theme in art, the economics of art production and economic activity as an action based art practice. Tanja Ostojić herself became known throughout Europe overnight in late December 2005 as a result of the “EU Panties” poster, a satire of Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde. Ostojić’s version displayed her own crotch, photographed by David Rych, but clothed in blue underwear complete with EU stars. The image is meant as an ironic suggestion that foreign women are only welcome in Europe when they drop their underwear. Along with other works, this poster was selected from an ongoing art exhibition to publicly promote Austria’s presidency of the European Union. Vienna’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper turned this into something of a scandal, expressing its outrage over state-funded pornography and its concern for Austria’s world image.

The discussion of the evening started with an introduction of the recent project Slum TV by the guest of the evening, Alexander Nikolic, dealing with the art of empowerment projects, as much as with micro-economies of representation in cross-cultural exchange. He explained that Slum TV wants to document the lives of the people in the slum of Mathare and to reevaluate these lives through the camera, because a camera always attracts attention: „Our partners from the slum film and document the life in Mathare.” The small movies are then shown in public places in Mathare, like a newsreel. In Mathare, there exist a variety of self-established cinemas. Mostly American and African films and European football is shown there. Analogous to weekly news-shows in the early age of television our partners want to show their contributions in these cinemas, and maybe to charge a small entree fee
in order to finance videotapes and other material. Copies of the videos are sent to Vienna. From the proceeds the manufacturers in the slums benefit again.

A couple of days later war brakes out in Kenia. Pictures of men hacked to death, churches burnt to the ground, thousands of people on the move, men dressed as policemen pulling out AK- 47s and firing into the crowd were beamed across the word. BBC and The Independent report that „Slum TV presents the other half of the Kenyan story.” [*] Ironically, Vienna’s tabloid Heute soon picked up the story, turned the whole argument around and now accused Slum TV of sugarpainting Kenya’s political situation. (Heute’s publisher is Eva Dichand, dauther-in-law of Hans Dichand, himself publisher of Kronen Zeitung.) Best of all, the next day Austria’s extrem right wing party FPÖ themselves accused Slum TV and Stadtrat Dr. Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, Vienna Executive City Councilor for Culture and Sciene, of censorship and the City of Vienna and the Austrian Development Agency were accused that they finance such a “again communist notion” propagandist project and attacked Slum TV in Vienna City Council on 24th of January.

So, who’s the censor now?

References

[*] Steve Bloomfield, Slum TV presents the other half of the Kenyan story. The Independent (London) Jan 9, 2008; http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20080109/ai_n21187573

Slum TV Website: www.slum-tv.info

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