August 25, 2009 - Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI) - Venice 2009
August 25, 2009

Venice 2009

Venice 2009

Lets talk about the ”shared sense of public decency”?
An open letter to Massimo Cacciari, Mayor of Venice

Your Honour,

In a letter dated 18 March 2009, the Direzione Interdipartimentale Finanza e Bilancio – Area Gestione Tributi Canoni of the Municipality of Venice announced the refusal of the project 100 Sexes d’Artistes by Jacques Charlier (which should have officially represented the French-Speaking Community of Belgium in the present Biennale) because ”certain posters could offend the shared sense of public decency”.

On 14 April1, we sent you a letter (in Italian) in which we posed the following questions:

- could you tell us where the ”shared sense of public decency” begins and ends by indicating which of the 100 posters might be considered offensive?
– is the ”shared sense of public decency” so fragile in Venice that it cannot tolerate the presence of a few posters dispersed around the city? And, in addition, are the same criteria applied to advertising, which is more invasive and sexist?
– finally, who decides what constitutes the ”shared sense of public decency”?

We have received no reply as yet.

You may be aware that the project censored by the Biennale and by the City of Venice has since been presented in public space in nine European cities (Antwerp, Belgrade, Bergen, Brussels, Linz, Luxembourg, Metz, Namur and Sofia) where it was welcomed with the good humour appropriate to this project which is amusing but also full of references to art since Marcel Duchamp (see ). What is more, for our part, we have met no one in Venice (whether Biennale goer, tourist or Venitian) who finds the project offensive (see ).

However, thanks to the unconditional support of the Ministry of Culture and Broadcasting of the French-Speaking Community of Belgium and Wallonie-Bruxelles International, we are going to publish a book relating the incredible story of this double censorship. It will contain the documents that have already surprised all those who have consulted them on our boat moored on the Riva dei Sette Martiri, during professional days last June: letters from the director Daniel Birnbaum and the president Paolo Baratta, our correspondence with your services as well as the replies from artists to the question of whether or not the project by Jacques Charlier ”offends” them (which is the reason why Paolo Baratta rejected it, according to Daniel Birnbaum).

In addition, the book will contain the press release by the League of Human Rights that firmly denounces this double censorship, following the open letter which the Observatory of Creative Freedom addressed to Paolo Baratta and Daniel Birnbaum to which only the Biennale Press Service has replied to date… (see ).

Thus, to be thorough, and because we think our questions are still topical, we would be very happy to be able to include your answers in this publication, all the more as we know you to be a trained philosopher. Indeed, many of us are worried about the censoring of this project on the grounds of moral considerations that we believe to be outdated: are the freedoms contemporary art has gained (particularly since Marcel Duchamp and his famous Objet Dard) therefore in doubt in the city that hosts the biggest biennale of contemporary art in the world?

We hope to hear from you in the near future so as not to delay publication of the book.

With our absolute consideration,

Jacques Charlier (artist) and Enrico Lunghi (curator)
Liège and Luxembourg, August 2009

1 TNT Nr 378942885 delivered in Venezia 15 Apr 2009 sign. ZARA

The participating cities

The project is produced by the French-Speaking Community Wallonia-Brussels, with the support of Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI).

Executive producer: AICA – Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art Section Luxembourg and Mudam Luxembourg.

Jacques Charlier. 100 sexes d'artistes.

Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI)
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