Terrorism exhibition cancelled at Chelsea Art Museum

Museum curator resigns over claims of censorship

An exhibition examining images of terrorism and political violence, “The Dialectics of Terror”—scheduled to open this month at the Chelsea Art Museum—was abruptly pulled at the end of September. The museum’s former chief curator Manon Slome cancelled the show and immediately resigned from her position due to a difference of opinion with the president Dorothea Keeser, who she claims said that the exhibition “glorified terrorism and showed disrespect for its victims”.

A statement released by the museum on 26 September states that Ms Slome had resigned for “personal reasons” and that “upon resigning, she unilaterally decided to cancel the exhibition ‘The Dialectics of Terror’ and informed all the participating artists without prior discussion with Dorothea Keeser…or Museum personnel”.

In her email to the artists, Ms Slome claimed that Ms Keeser had attempted to censor the exhibition catalogue, but Ms Keeser says that the catalogue had been approved by both parties and was already at the printers when Ms Slome decided to pull the show.

Ms Keeser first responded to Ms Slome’s accusations in an interview with Art Fag City blogger Paddy Johnson. Although she denies any hostility or censorship of the catalogue, she admits that she personally did “not think that an artist should show children and women which are torn apart by bombs”.

Ms Keeser told The Art Newspaper by email that the discussion of images of torn bodies took place “long before discussions about cancelling the show” and that the conversation was aimed at exploring ways of overcoming terrorism.

Ms Slome says that “nothing in the exhibition glorifies terrorism and there are no images that are in any way sensational.”

Artists in the show included Josh Azzarella, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Coco Fusco, Johan Grimonprez and Jenny Holzer. Most of the works criticise or make reference to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s efforts against what it deems terrorist suspects. Fusco’s video installation Operation Atropos, 2006, documents a course taken by the artist and six other women that teaches military interrogation methods.

Ms Slome says she will try to find another venue for the exhibition.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as ‘Terrorism exhibition cancelled'