Went to an exhibition called 'Veil'. It explores ideas of the (Muslim) veil by various artists and other kinds of photographers like documentarians and ethnographers.

2 works by one group of artists based in Moscow were censored by the local authority from the exhibition and taken down. This exhibiton is in a major regional gallery with public funding. All the artists and organisers were wearing t-shirts of the censored work for the opening event. They pointed out that these works had been produced 7 years ago, long before the 'War on Terror', and had been exhibited widely already. Nevertheless the ban continues, despite the fact that the local Mayor thinks the ban is bizarre.

It's interesting because some of the works that are left, especially those in that room, actually serve to prop up popular misconceptions and pre-conceptions about Islam generally and women and Islam. What we are left with is an exhibition - or part of an exhibition - that instead of questioning the status quo, almost serves to maintin it - just with the removal of 2 works.

This makes me think of another show I went to very recently, in Leighton House, London. It's Lord Leighton's house, a mid/late-Victorian rich guy and artist, who had decorated his entire house in (orientalist) faux-Arabian style, complete with Arabic religious calligraphy. That's how it was in those days, English people looked to the Middle East as a source of artistic inspiration and fabulously crafted goods for their homes. Many many middle-class now come to the museum to look at his amazing home. This exhibition was an intervention into the house, attempting to question some of the assumptions that Lord Leighton had about 'the Orient' and how we view it today.

The reason I'm writing about it here is because there has been a huge negative response to the exhibition by local people and visitors from further afield. I wonder whether these vistors would find the exhition so offensive, if we weren't currently protraying the Islamic, Arabic world as THE ENEMY. I wonder whether artists would be allowed an unhampered - or even sympathetic - voice to question assumptions if we weren't in the middle of a propaganda war.

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