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Suggestive Poses: Artists and Critics Respond to Censorship

by Lorraine Johnson, ed.

This anthology presents a range of takes on and experiences with censorship in recent Canadian history, most of them by people who have been on the cultural “front lines.” From John Greyson’s preface “Don’t Cry for Me, Project P,” which raises the spectre of censorship as an androgynous character, named “Eveto,” exercising crowd control, the volume moves through a series of essays and artists’ contributions. The writing ranges from poetic to academic prose, with political engagement as the common denominator. Since all of the contributors are Canadian artists, curators, critics, and academics who have had first-hand experiences with censorship in recent Canadian history, a lot of the same events, the same legal battles, are referred to again and again, but often from divergent viewpoints.

Editor Lorraine Johnson contributes not only one of the more substantial essays about censorship, hypocrisy, and the news media, but also a series of fact lists on topics such as children and sex, homophobia, hate, accountability, and “forbidden sex.” Curator Su Ditta provides one of the more thorough accounts of recent censorship-related crises at Canadian Museums and Public Galleries. She details how four major institutions dealt with their respective “situations,” and with what consequences. Thelma McCormack provides a more academic, historically grounded analysis of pornography as a genre and relative tolerance or intolerance of it as a societal force.

One essay that diverges from the thrust of most of the others is Richard Fung’s “Uncompromising Positions.” In this text, he outlines why “for many artists of colour, censorship is at best a peripheral issue” – just as anti-censorship activists stay out of issues relating to racist organizations such as the Heritage Front or the KKK. In light of the problematic nature of this segregation, he advocates a more complex and integrated understanding of racial and sexual representations.

Robin Metcalfe’s gripping and poignant essay about Eli Langer weaves autobiography and dream sequences into an analytical text. This fluid style allows him to poetically bring the central hypocrisy behind censorship to a point: the silencer is often institutionally identical with the abuser.

All told, this is an important anthology of Canadian writing about a topic that has been a particularly hot issue on the Canadian cultural landscape, especially over the last 15 or so years, and one that is far from resolved.


Reviewer: Moritz Gaede

Publisher: Riverbank Press/Toronto Photographers Workshop


Price: $25

Page Count: 193 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 1-896332-04-8

Released: May

Issue Date: 1997-7

Categories: Anthologies