A self portrait of Dean Hutton included in the catalogue for #Transitions: in search of an authentic queer, which a Johannesburg company has refused to print. Photo: Dean Hutton
Accusations of censorship of the “queer body” have been levelled against a Johannesburg-based printing company after they refused to print a photographic artist’s exhibition catalogue, obstensibly due to nude content.
Artist Dean Hutton, who promotes LGBTI rights through her work, said after sending through a mock up to Remata Cross Media Solutions containing the images she wishes to feature in the catalogue for her upcoming exhibition #Transitions: in search of an authentic queer opening at the Goethe Institute on 19 November, she was contacted by the company yesterday (Wednesday) and told they would not proceed with the job.
Hutton said she was told the company had a policy to not print nude photographs.
She said this came after two weeks of liaising with them and after having paid a 50% deposit of R8 793 for the job, which the company has since paid back.
She said the company, which has art book publishers among its clients, had at no stage made any mention of a policy regarding nudity. No such policy can be found on their website.
“It was shocking, after having dealt with them for two weeks, to be told they were refusing to print my artwork.”
This raises the question of whether their reneging on the job has to do with the nature of the nudity in Hutton’s work, which, while the images challenge conservative, or normative, views of gender relations and are on occasion explicit, are not, as Hutton describes, “sexualised” and are not pornographic. Many images are self portraits of the artist, taken by herself or in collaboration with friends and other artists.
Remata printers’ decision not to go ahead with printing has led to expressions of outrage on Facebook and Twitter after Hutton expressed her disappointment on her social networks yesterday (Wednesday).
Among those who added their comments were National Arts Festival director Ismail Mahomed, who stated the move by Remata was “censorship and breach of contract”.
Mahomed stated that apart from the censorship and business principal issues, Hutton’s work “is rooted in queer politics”.
“Hence, the other issue of concern here is that of discrimination and the prejudices associated with printing her nudes which articulate issues of the queer body/politics.”
Performance artist Ant Moys, who won the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year award last year, echoed the reaction from numerous other professional artists when she wrote : “WTF???”
Talks of staging a nude protest to Remata’s offices in Midrand were bandied about on Facebook.
In an open letter posted on her Tumblr 2point8photo, Hutton wrote: It’s not about the time and the effort already expended, the difficulty of now approaching a new printer at short notice and we’re two weeks from opening the exhibition. It’s about the disregard for my work and my rights as an artist and a journalist. It’s about an attempt to silence the queer voice and to hide the queer body. I doubt any such a policy of nudity exists. It’s about the type of nudity and who can be nude on paper. It is a clear case of censorship.”
Given that the printers had agreed to do the job and had accepted a deposit, legal avenues in terms of the Consumer Protection Act were also being considered.
At the time of publishing, the directors at Remata printers had not responded to requests for comment. This story shall be updated should such comment be made available.
— Steve Kretzmann