Index condemns removal of artwork from Passion for Freedom exhibition

We need to do more to ensure that police work with venues to promote freedom of expression, not stifle it

28 Sep 2015

Index condemns a decision to remove an artwork by the artist Mimsy showing Sylvanian Families toys being terrorised by Isis.

According to reports, Isis Threaten Sylvania, a series of seven satirical light box tableaux, was removed from the Passion for Freedom exhibition at the Mall galleries after police raised concerns about the “potentially inflammatory content” of the work.

The removal highlights a worrying trend in which artistic or other work that addresses extremism has been shut down. Over the summer, the National Youth Theatre pulled a planned production of Homegrown, a play that examined Isis recruitment of young Britons just weeks before its scheduled start. Last week, Maryam Namazie, an Iranian-born campaigner against religious laws, was blocked from visiting Warwick University after the student union said she violated its external speaker policy. That decision has since been overturned.

“Concerns over terror are being inflated to such an extent that perfectly legitimate, non-criminal expression, is being shut down across Britain: from university campuses, to theatre stages, to art galleries,” said Index on Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “The upcoming extremism bill could worsen the situation further. In the case of the Sylvanian Families exhibit, we need to do more to ensure that police work with venues to promote freedom of expression, not stifle it.”

Index has produced a series of booklets on the UK’s legal framework and its impact on artistic freedom of expression for artists and arts organisations mounting challenging and controversial works.

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