Embracing risk and controversy, understanding rights and responsibilities and re-evaluating reputation, all contribute to creating the conditions for freedom of artistic expression to thrive.
Drawing on our experience of monitoring censorship and self-censorship over the past 10 years in the UK, Index aims to build institutional and individual confidence and resilience needed to navigate dilemmas and embrace controversy associated with challenging, provocative art and expression by the full diversity of artists. Building on the 2018 programme run in partnership with What Next? And Cause4 RRR provides resources, guidance, mentoring, bespoke training, and access to pro-bono support to promote artistic freedom of expression to the cultural sector.
These case studies cover art work going back over the past 9 years that deals with some of the most highly sensitised, contentious and complex issues in today’s society – terrorism, incest, slavery, illegal immigration, grooming, radicalisation – provoking debate and controversy around authorship, representation, the role of the police and online campaigns and self-censorship. In some cases the work was removed, in others not – in some the controversy was anticipated, in others not. Collectively, the case studies aim to equip arts organisations and artists with insight into what worked and what didn’t, what mistakes were made, and what lessons were learned.
The most recent and ongoing series of case studies, written over the past couple of years, are short publications of record with a brief account of what happened, supported by press commentary and short ‘reflective’ interviews with people involved looking back on the legacy of the events.
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, Young Vic
Sir Nick Serota, chair of Arts Council England
Guides to the law on free expression and the arts in England and Wales
Child protection is a sensitive area of law and a deserved focus of public concern. The prospect of a police investigation alone will be a matter of substantial press interest, while an actual prosecution, although unlikely in the professional arts sector, would nevertheless result in grave consequences for the gallery and the artist.
Counter-terrorism is a complex and controversial area of the law, not least because the offences are often very widely drafted. The relevant legal definition of terrorism, contained within the Terrorism Act 2000 (and further extended in 2006), is very broad and potentially covers a very wide range of acts beyond those that are widely understood to be “terrorist” in nature.
Public order law is complicated and its application to any particular case will be fact-specific. It should be borne in mind that much of this area of law – in particular breach of the peace – is governed by the common law. Common law, also referred to as case law, is made by judges and developed in the cases that come before the court over time.