News / Calgary

University of Calgary student art show cut short after censorship confusion

A student took down their show after they weren't happy with the University of Calgary's treatment of the art show

Zac Slams was told her gallery show, with depictions of gay pornography, was too explicit for The Little Gallery at the University of Calgary.


Zac Slams was told her gallery show, with depictions of gay pornography, was too explicit for The Little Gallery at the University of Calgary.

Please be advised, this exhibition contains adult or provocative content and may be disturbing to some viewers.

Now, are you interested in seeing this gallery show at The Little Gallery?

A University of Calgary student took down her art show a day early after she felt it was labelled and censored by the school. The exhibition featured images of gay pornography, and was deemed to be explicit by faculty. Limits were placed on the students' show including the aforementioned warning, and a closed-door policy.

"I have had a content warning at a show before, but it certainly didn't brand the work provocative and disturbing before anyone got chance to see it," said Zac Slams, the artist. "It said content warning, there is sexual imagery in this art. Which is a lot less aggressive. The language matters.

To be told the first day of your show the doors will be shut and you're not even allowed to open them for the opening – I do see it as a kind of censorship."

Brian Rusted, department head at the University of Calgary Faculty of Arts, said this isn't a form of censorship, but rather a warning that the faculty of arts have used in the past. To his recollection, another pair of students have had similar treatment – a warning and closed-door mandate. That show, according to Rusted included sexually explicit drawings done by two students after they had intercourse.

"Categorically there is no censorship. We've done nothing to impede Zac Slams ability to make the work that she makes and we've done nothing to impede her ability to show it in our gallery," Rusted said. "Our staff came in on Monday morning, we had no idea what her show was, what the content of it was, and staff, technicians, and faculty members were shocked….we discussed what would be appropriate, and we consulted other galleries about their practices in the past."

In an email exchange between the department's gallery curator and Slams provided to Metro, she outlined the content of her show before it went up, including the fact that it would depict images from gay pornography.

"Usually that kind of thing would be discussed before when they knew there was gay pornography in the work and it would be discussed with the artist, not enforced on the artist," said Slams.

Slams added there should be a policy in place to deal with sexual content – directly in the school's gallery contract.

Rusted said there's no clear-cut policy or rule about explicit content. He said the gallery is meant to be a teaching gallery where 95 per cent of exhibits are connected with courses and supervised by professors.

"It's rare that we have somebody outside the department exhibiting work," Rusted said. "We don't have...a committee that selects submissions…I think one of the outcomes of this situation is we will probably do something like that."

In protest of how she was treated by the University she photocopied the audience warning and had her boyfriend line the room's floor with it.

"I sent my boyfriend to go and take down the whole show and I cancelled the opening," Slams said. "I made 40 copies and covered the whole floor with them, just to point out the ridiculousness of what happened to me."

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