Category Archives: An Essay in Kasterlee


In September I was working on an essay about censorship at the Frans Masereel Centrum, Kasterlee, Belgium. A series of posts from the time of writing provide a context and are collated under the heading of Kasterlee Posts.

A draft of the essay, provisionally entitled IDEE – The Right Beginning: Words without Pictures, can be found here.

I am now developing ideas for a show and a publication that brings together this text and Masereel’s images.

Source: IDEE

Such material is sometimes open to misinterpretation by the authorities

A Universities UK document about Prevent can be found here and the summary makes interesting reading.

Universities play a vital role in carrying out research on issues where security-sensitive material is relevant. This guidance document concerns the storage and circulation of security-sensitive research material.

If circulated carelessly, such material is sometimes open to misinterpretation by the authorities, and can put authors in danger of arrest and prosecution under, for example, counter-terrorism legislation. Certain procedures for independently registering and storing this material – through research ethics processes – are recommended in this guidance.

Academic study, like art and literature, is now subject to special scrutiny: researchers, writers and artists are warned to be wary of misinterpretation.

This is the last post under the category An Essay in Kasterlee. The essay itself will be on this site soon.

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The political cartoon is still full of energy, but where will it go from here? The Cartoon Movement is one place to keep in touch with political cartoons from around the world.

This one is from Fadi Abou Hassan in Norway.

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Dead bodies in your living room

Dark Fields of the Republic is an exhibition of Alexander Gardner’s photographs of the US Civil War now showing in Washington.  The old issue of authenticity has once again been raised, but equally interesting are attempts to explain the impact of photography to twenty-first century visitors.

“It’s not like they would hang them on the wall and say look at these beautiful images of death. They had collections of these images, but it was more like surfing the internet and looking at newspapers.”

[The Guardian quoting Bibiana Obler from George Washington University]

Antietam, Md. Confederate dead by a fence on the Hagerstown road. Photograph from the main eastern theater of the war, Battle of Antietam, September-October 1862.

Confederate dead by a fence on the Hagerstown road. Battle of Antietam, September-October 1862.

No longer a subject for painters

It’s  obvious what’s happening, or about to happen, in this picture called De enthoofding van de heilige Catharina van Alexandrië. It is part of a triptych from the first half of the sixteenth century and is from the Brabant School of Painting.  It is unlikely that this would be thought acceptable as the subject for a painting today.


ACRCIT may be an incitement

There’s a big exhibition of Guy de Coincet’s art at the M Museum in Leuven, and they have reprinted his ACRCIT newspaper and are giving it away – as he did. The work ‘presents an overview of the different systems underpinning his drawings and books, such as crossword puzzles, mirror writing, number series, Morse code, Braille and decorative motifs.’

Could a work of this sort ever be banned or censored, or, even more intriguingly, what might happen if it were redacted by a suspicious officialdom? After all, it could be a code, a secret message, an incitement of some sort.


Zappa is fantastic in this

Rock lyrics have always been under attack from censors, and this is an example from 1985.  Watching Frank Zappa at the Senate committee hearings on the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) tells us something about how all Americans can appeal to the US Constitution, and it might encourage more to do so in these troubled times. The testimony by Dee Snider and John Denver is also well worth watching. Fantastic!

Block those ads

So Apple put some ad-blocking technology into Safari, and it worked so you could stop so many intrusive ads getting on your device and collecting data on you.  One software developer has pulled its ad-blocking Peace app.

This raises an interesting issue about how we all feel when it is someone else that pre-determines what we see on our screen, but it misses the point that all of this consumption is pre-determined by one or other tech company.  All the content comes pre-packaged and pre-approved or it doesn’t come because it’s pre-censored.

Marco Arment’s blog says more about his reluctance to play the role of censor.

I still believe that ad blockers are necessary today, and I still think Ghostery is the best one, but I’ve learned over the last few crazy days that I don’t feel good making one and being the arbiter of what’s blocked.


L’Humour à mort

L’Humour à mort (Je suis Charlie), a new film by Daniel and Emmanuel Leconte is showing in Toronto and getting written about in the press.  The coverage is measured and restrained.  The information sheet released for the Toronto International Film Festival contains an interview with the directors in which Emmanuel Leconte recognises that freedom of expression means very different things in different countries.

What are you hopes for the film being internationally shown at the Toronto Film Festival?

EL : Terrorists tried to exterminate the newsroom of a weekly newspaper. This horrible act constitutes a new level of modern terrorism and has affected the entire world. That said, it is important that we speak with our sensitivity on the international level to evoke our French specificity: a newspaper as free and as irreverent as Charlie Hebdo could not, unfortunately, exist in many countries in the world.

Beware of artists

In 2012, this poster started to appear on the Internet, accompanied by the story that described it as ‘an actual poster’ from the McCarthy era.  Actually it’s what’s called a meme that has spread from person to person on the Internet.  It would be impossible to censor, but it proved very easy to make large numbers of people believe the story of its origins, showing that while it’s more and more difficult to censor images, it’s also more and more difficult to know what to believe.