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U.S. artist says cancellation in Berlin is censorship

U.S. artist says cancellation in Berlin is censorship

A U.S. artist is criticizing the cancellation of a public display of his video artwork on a Berlin office tower, calling the decision censorship.
A German art magazine said it canceled the display on a screen atop a prominent office building because it deemed the video inappropriately evocative of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The 2 1/2-minute video by Boston-based artist Jonathon Hexner shows him painting the words "I like America & America likes me" _ outlining the letters with a fuse and then lighting the fuse, creating black smoke.
German art and fashion magazine Sleek commissioned videos from eight artists to show them on an LED screen 4 meters (13 feet) high and 50 meters (165 feet) wide above the offices of the Axel Springer publishing house in Berlin. Springer is not the publisher of Sleek magazine, but provided the use of its screen to the magazine at no cost.
"As an American I am personally offended that they would censor my work on the basis that it's anti-American," said Hexner, who said he was initially told Springer found the content anti-American. "As an American I consider free speech the foundation of everything that I stand for."
But Sleek said it alone, not Springer, decided on the cancellation.
Editors at Sleek magazine said they feared the meaning of Hexner's work could be misunderstood. "We were really excited about Jonathon Hexner's work," said Annika von Taube, managing editor of Sleek magazine.
"But then we did a test run, and the impression that emerged was alarming," she said. "Sept. 11 terror attacks, every cliche, but not the meaning of the work itself, came across."
Springer said it did not seek to cancel the video. "It is not our task to evaluate or interpret the content," Springer spokesman Tobias Froehlich said.
Hexner said no one mentioned the Sept. 11 attacks as a reason for not displaying his video, but that he was told it was being interpreted as anti-American.
Hexner said his title pays homage to a landmark performance artwork of the same name done in New York in 1974 by the German artist and philosopher Joseph Beuys. Hexner said he has been using the fuse-on-paper technique in his own work for over 10 years.
Von Taube said the magazine is thinking about showing Hexner's video in an extra event explaining its meaning to the media and public in advance.


Updated : 2021-06-23 15:42 GMT+08:00