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Tate in a State over "sensitive" photographs

mini mouse | 15.01.2007 16:56 | SOCPA | Repression | London

As Blair bangs on about how the media spoil his war, showing the wrong sort of pictures, confusion broke out this morning at Mark Wallinger's opening at the Tate.

Using extensive reference photographs Wallinger has has managed in his work 'State Britain' to re-create an exact copy of Brian Haw's protest camp as it was prior to 23rd May's police raid. Today's press call was to encourage us to photograph the art made from the photographs, so to speak.

Except that some art, including horrific birth defects as a result of depleted uranium armaments was off limits. Admission to the launch was dependent on agreeing not to photograph it.

Indymedia quizzes Wallinger
Indymedia quizzes Wallinger

The display, and an art critic makes notes
The display, and an art critic makes notes

Quizzed about the reasoning behind this, an assistant vouched the issue to be that the pictures were sensitive and the Tate didn't want them to be taken out of context.

Wallinger meanwhile referred us to the museum organisers - we were promptly pounced upon by curator Clarrie Wallis who advanced a copyright defence. She was adamant that all photographers had been contacted to obtain their permissions, although unable to point out herself exactly which pictures were off limits.

Press Officer Helen Beeckmans helped out by identifying the Takashi Morizumi photographs. Takashi, it was claimed, had agreed to allow his work in the exhibition but had refused to allow it to be photographed.

Copyright is of course to be respected, and if this is the case then Tate is to be applauded for its diligence. Being based in Japan, Takashi has not yet had a chance to comment on today's events. But he is on record as saying:

"I hope to show to many people a view of the things happening around the world that I have been investigating."

And in the introduction to his book 'Children of the Gulf War':

"The Gulf War saw the introduction of Tomahawk missiles and other high-tech weapons. Now, it turns out, it was a new kind of "nuclear war." In Bosnia and Kosovo, depleted uranium was also left behind. In Afganistan, the likelihood that it was used is high. The continual use of depleted uranium weapons in the future is extremely dangerous to human beings and the environment.

The plight of Iraq's children is an alarm warning people about the horror of this new nuclear warfare."

Possibly not the words of a man whose primary consideration is the preservation of his copyright.

So, 'State Britain'...just an amusing play on words for an artwork - or an ironic description of the country's leading gallery? You decide.

Final word should of course go to the Tate.

"In bringing back into the public domain a reconstruction of Haw's protest" reads its press release, "Wallinger raises challenging questions about issues of freedom of expression and the erosion of civil liberties in Britain today".

Quite so.

mini mouse