How Obscene Is This?: The Decency Clause Turns 20

NCAC Presents a Series of Programs on the Effects of the Culture Wars on the Arts featuring Artists, Filmmakers, Funders, and Former NEA Chair Bill Ivey

August 9, 2010
Marshall Reese, National Coalition Against Censorship (212) 807-6222 or [email protected]
Annie Shaw, Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, (212) 229-2436 x 2750 [email protected]
Michael Grant, School of Visual Arts, (212) 592-2011or [email protected]

 NEW YORK – On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Congressional decision to require the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to consider "general standards of decency and respect" in awarding grants, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) presents How Obscene is This?, a program about censorship and arts funding.
The program includes panel discussions, organized in collaboration with The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School (VLC), and film screenings co-sponsored by the BFA Visual and Critical Studies Department at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). The programs have been generously supported by the CrossCurrents Foundation.

Among the questions the series will explore are: what do "standards of decency and respect" mean in today’s increasingly diverse society? What effect does the constriction of NEA funding and the timidity of publicly funded art institutions have on art production in the U.S.? What alternatives has shrinking funding generated? What is it that provokes controversy today?
Two panels of prominent artists, non-profit arts organization directors, art dealers, and founders of alternative spaces will examine these questions. Laura Flanders of GritTV moderates both panels.
Wednesday, September 15th – 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Panel 1: Survival vs. Autonomy: Public Funding of the Arts, Free Speech and Self-Censorship
The New School’s Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, New York

Participants include: Bill Ivey, Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy and former chair of the NEA (1998-2001); Beka Economopoulos, activist and founder of Not an Alternative and The Change You Want to See Gallery, an alternative space in Brooklyn; Nato Thompson, Chief Curator at Creative Time, author of Seeing Power: Socially Engaged Art in the Age of Cultural Production; and Martha Wilson, performance artist and founding director of Franklin Furnace Archive.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 – 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Panel 2: Decency, Respect and Community Standards: What Offends Us Now?
The New School’s Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th
Street, New York

Participants include: Wafaa Bilal, Iraqi American artist, whose installation Virtual Jihadi was closed down by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York; Holly Hughes, performance artist, one of the NEA4; and Carolee Schneemann, filmmaker and visual artist who has battled censorship for the last 50 years. More panelists to be announced.

Monday, September 27th, 6:30 PM
Indecent Exposure: A Discussion and Screening of Films You Are Unlikely to See Elsewhere
SVA Theatre, 333 West 23
Street, New York
NCAC presents a double bill of groundbreaking films and a discussion with some of the filmmakers (panel in formation):
6:30 - Produced by Neville Wakefield and never before screened in the US, Destricted (2006) is a compilation of shorts by visual artists Matthew Barney, Marilyn Minter, Richard Prince, Cecily Brown and Sam Taylor-Wood and others, exploring the boundaries between art and porn. The film is one of the most controversial and sexually explicit films ever to receive a rating in the UK. This is an exclusive pre-release screening, including 2 shorts that will not be released. (
8:30 - Larry Clark's Ken Park (2002) is a film about the abusive home life of several skateboarders in California. Its controversial sexual content has led to the film being banned in Australia and to its very limited distribution in other countries. This film has not been theatrically released or distributed in the US.
For more information about the program, please visit
About the National Coalition Against Censorship
The National Coalition Against Censorship is an alliance of more than 50 national non-profit organizations, including religious, educational, professional, artistic, labor, civil liberties and civil rights groups, committed to defending freedom of thought, inquiry and expression.  For more information, visit
About the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School
The Vera List Center for Art and Politics was established in 1992 at The New School to investigate the intersection of art and politics. It brings together a wide array of visual and performance artists, scholars, curators, and political leaders in public events. A bi-annual theme provides focus and coherence to our programs, which in 2009/2011 are dedicated to the topic "Speculating on Change." For more information, visit
About the School of Visual Arts
School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City is an established leader and innovator in the education of artists. From its inception in 1947, the faculty has been comprised of professionals working in the arts and art-related fields. SVA provides an environment that nurtures creativity, inventiveness and experimentation, enabling students to develop a strong sense of identity and a clear direction of purpose. For more information, visit