[Reader-list] The File Room: an interactive web-based archive of censorship incidents

Svetlana Mintcheva svetlana at ncac.org
Sat Dec 7 03:19:43 IST 2002

Please join this forum!

www.thefileroom.org    www.thefileroom.org   www.thefileroom.org

Aristophanes' plays were banned in the 5th century B.C. because of
obscenity and anti-war themes; Confucius' writings were incinerated around
250 BC after a change of dynasty made them politically incorrect; in 1933, a
New York court declared a set of pictures of Michelangelo's Last Judgment
fresco in the Sistine Chapel obscene; in 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a
fatwa against the life of Salman Rushdie for the publication of the novel
Satanic Verses; in 1999, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatened to
cut off funding to the Brooklyn Museum of Art and evict it from the building
because the Museum refused to remove one work from an art show; in 2001,
books from the popular Harry Potter series were banned from schools and
burned in churchyards in the United States. Manifestations of the control of
expression are historically and culturally specific. Nevertheless, close
investigation reveals recurring themes and issues.

The File Room - an Open Forum

The File Room, a web-based interactive archive of censorship cases, is
open to submissions by organizations and individuals locally, nationally,
and internationally. The project was initiated by artist Antoni Muntadas and
originally produced by the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago in 1994. It
then went on the Internet as an open submissions archive. In 2002, the
National Coalition Against Censorship* re-programmed and updated the archive
and is currently maintaining it. The File Room already contains information
on hundreds of incidents dating from the 5th century BC to the present. More
cases from around the world are added every day.

Our Goals: Documentation and Resistance

The File Room locates acts of censorship in relation to social settings,
political movements, religious beliefs, and economic conditions. The wider
understanding of censorship adopted by The File Room allows it to record
instances of censorship through market mechanisms, the censorship of private
galleries or that of schools and colleges, institutional self-censorship, as
well as suppression of work by limiting its distribution or refusing it

The File Room is not only a database or a tool for facilitating critical
discourse on the subject of censorship; it is also a tool of resistance,
i.e. a tactical medium. It makes public those actions of governmental and
private institutions (as well as individuals), which are usually intended to
remain out of sight. To resist the suppression of symbolic speech, we have
to acknowledge how pervasive and interconnected censorship incidents are by
recording the many cases of deletion, exclusion, or suppression of speech.

To submit a case or search the archive, go to www.thefileroom.org

For more information contact Svetlana Mintcheva at 212-807-6222 ext. 23/
Svetlana at ncac.org

  * The National Coalition Against Censorship (www.ncac.org), founded in
1974, is an alliance of 50 U.S. non-profit organizations, including
literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil
liberties groups. United by a conviction that freedom of thought, inquiry,
and expression must be defended, NCAC works to educate our own members and
the public at large about the dangers of censorship and how to oppose them.

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