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Aerial photography (public domain) of the Homestead Base where the Shelter for Unaccompanied Children is located. The blue area indicates where Forensic Architecture says it has taken samples of soil and groundwater for testing.


For a decade now, in the United States, and to a lesser extent in Canada, the conservative America and the liberal clash mercilessly. So we now witness to very different kinds of censorships : the new woke liberal censorship, cancel culture, and which aims to protect the sensitivity of different minority communities or religious groups, at the cost of renouncing the freedom to create and exhibit. And the old, almost forgotten, conservative censorship, with some McCarthyism in its DNA, so not very far from the conservative state censorship that we witness in many countries from the former Soviet empire or the Middle East. 

If Cancel Culture aims, for example, to censor works by white artists adressing non-white issues (censorship or attempted censorship cases in 2020 and 2021 of Philip Guston exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, National Gallery of Art in Washington and at the Tate in London and exhibitions by Dana Schutz since her participation in the Whitney Biennale in NYC in 2016 are particularly enlightening in this regard), or works by heterosexual artists dealing with LGBTQ+ issues, etc., conservative censorship will seek to ban works by artists natives of countries in open or latent conflict with the United States (Cai Guo-Qiang and Sandra Ramos's works both banned from the 2021 Illuminate Coral Gables show in Coral Gables, Greater Boston), or works addressing taboo subjects among conservatives: nudity, abortion, feminism, environment, transsexuality, etc. 

From one camp to another, the ways of proceeding are most often different: 

Cancel culture proceeds by a public call for censorship of the artwork and even of the artist himself. It is openly proclamed by the community which feelings have been hurt by one work of art that the autor of the work be banned permanently from exhibiting in the country and worldwide. 

In the conservative camp things are often more underhanded and the real reasons for the ban on exhibiting are rarely assumed, but the methods they use are no less effective.



The case of the exhibition True to Scale by the Forensic Architecture collective, scheduled from February 19 to September 29, 2020 but closed as of March 2020, is exemplary because it highlights several aspects of this return of the North American conservative censorship and the cowardices that most often accompany it:

- First of all, one of the founders and pillar of the Forensic Architecture collective could not go to the opening of his exhibition: he learned on the day of his flight to Miami that the United States had canceled his authorization to stay in the USA, the US cleck explaining that  it was impossible to know the reason of this decision because it had been taken by an algorithm. (The Architect's newspaper "the officer informed me that my authorization to travel had been revoked because the "algorithm" had identified a threat. He said he did not know what alarmed the algorithm").

- Secondly because one of the parts of the project, an investigation with artistic rendering which was to be carried out during the time of the exhibition and relate to a detention center for migrant minors located nearby, was officially canceled due to the closure of the Museum in March because of the Covid pandemic, and not because the subject was going to hurt the public and elected Republicans in Florida. (Documents obtained by The New York Times under a Freedom of Information request, NY Times January 12, 2021).

- Thirdly, because the museum claimed to have discovered this very part of the program after the opening and blamed the curator of the exhibition for this lack of transparency, when all of the content of the exhibition had been validated by the higher authorities of the museum long before the opening. (Documents obtained by The New York Times under a Freedom of Information request).

- Finally, because the concerned curator was then told that her contract with the museum would not renewed, but without those who fired her acknowledging that this sanction was directly linked to the programming of this exhibition.

AC, 11/18/2022

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