Re: [-empyre-] February 2006 on -empyre- soft-skinned space

Thanks for bringing up this critical issue relating to our recent sedition act. By now I guess everyone is aware of the case of the artist Michael Agzarian at the Wagga Wagga Gallery. A complaint was made by visiting member of the public against his artworks to the Prime Minister’s Office on the grounds that the images were ‘treasonous’, prompting the Government’s Arts Department to contact the gallery to find out whether it was a government funded exhibition. It was not, as it turned out. WHY treasonous? It implies there's an irrationality in reactions such as those by the federal government- it also is a test for these new laws - the implication is there is no expressed immunity for film theatre and visual art.

Central to this case and I believe many others is:
1. the new law's vagueness allows for broad interpretations.

2. The there will be a tendency for self censorship by arts practitioners and arts bodies.
Laws such as these have been used to successfully inhibit "other" views in totalitarian regimes - really how far have we gone down that path? Look at Singapore where recently - 2 students were jailed for doing postings construed as being of "ill will" - we have similar laws available to us under the new Anti-Terrorism Laws.

3. The other question needing to be asked in these uncertain times, by concerned artists is what would have happened if there was funding – would the Government have taken the pieces down? How will this reflect on possible individual decisions made by arts funding bodies? Again consensual paranoia imprisons us....

Gianni Wise

On 03/02/2006, at 8:02 AM, wrote:

February 2006 on -empyre- soft-skinned space

Australia's rcently enacted Sedition Act undermines the right of free speech,
which has "ever been justly
deemed the only effectual guardian of any other right" --James Madison (Fourth
President of the United States and an author of the US Constitution)

This month on -empyre- , the discussion will focus on the legal term sedition,
and its political impact on global media and culture.
Our guests this month: Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) members Lucia Sommer and
Claire Pentecost (US), Nicholas Ruiz (US), and Ben Saul (AU)

Please join our guests for conversation on 'sedition'  at

On an international scale, the prosecution of Steve Kurtz from Critical Art
Ensemble is a case in point. The ongoing court case with the US Justice
Department has demonstrated the effect that the "war on terror "has had on
limiting free speech, particularly in the arts.

In December 2005, the Anti-Terrorism Bill was pushed through the Australian
Parliament. This legislation has met with much concern from the cultural sector
and human rights and freedom of speech advocates. On 27 October 2005, Chris
Connolly from the University of New South Wales, in a Submission to the Senate
Legal and Constitutional Committee, outlined many issues that were raised in
regard to Sedition. In his appendix regarding "Sedition in the Arts" he makes
the comment that the best known use of sedition laws was during the period of
McCarthyism in the USA in the 1950s.

Is this where we are headed? -empyre- in February asks the question. as artists
and cultural producers are we losing our right to express ourselves and comment
on the state of our society?

The discussion will also look at how sedition laws could affect online activist
networks like Indymedia and Znet. As such network operate as open publishing
systems, will there be limitations in the capacity to publish and disseminate

guest bios:

----------------------->Lucia Sommer is an artist, writer, and activist whose
work is concerned with pleasure in everyday life and the creation of critical
ephemeral publics. Since 1994 she has taught art in various settings from
public school to museum, and her work has been shown individually and as part
of the cyberfeminist collective subRosa in Europe and North America. Currently
she is pursuing a PhD in Visual and Cultural Studies at the University of
Rochester, NY.

----------------------->Claire Pentecost is an artist and writer, engaging a
variety of media to interrogate the imaginative and institutional structures
that organize divisions of knowledge. Having spent years tinkering in a
conceptual laboratory for ideas about the natural and the artificial, her most
recent projects concentrate on industrial and bioengineered agriculture, the
alternatives and the trade regimes that force one over the other. She has been
an active member of the Critical Art Ensemble defense fund

------------------------>Nicholas Ruiz III was born in New York City. His work
has appeared in Noema Tecnologie e Society,, Media/,
The International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, Reconstruction, Public
Resistance and elsewhere. He is also the editor of Kritikos:

------------------------->Dr Ben Saul is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at the
University of New South Wales, the Director of the Bill of Rights Project at the
Gilbert + Tobin Centre for Public Law, and an Associate of the Australian Human
Rights Centre.

join us at < _______________________________________________ empyre forum

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.