amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, August 27, 2011

should bureaucrats be our cultural arbiter?

August 27, 2011

re: Mural Deserves Its Words, Activists Say

Dear Editor,

Not to diminish the importance of finally having a mural in support of gay rights, but I am dismayed that a City of Ottawa bylaw officer is allowed to decide what and what is not art. This officer clearly has no idea of what art is. Art is not restricted by such narrow guidelines.

I understand that the City has to create rules in order to make revenue on signs, but this decision enforces the letter and not the spirit of its rules. Why can't a message be part of art? I am disappointed in the City of Ottawa's draconian and ill-informed policy.

The bylaw officer's ruling contravenes City of Ottawa cultural policy as written on the site: "The City of Ottawa is committed to fostering an environment in which arts development is valued and artists of all disciplines are supported in the creation of their work." This is not supporting "artists of all disciplines."

Such a limiting attitude limits the cultural landscape and shows disrespect to the numerous Ottawa-area artists who work with both text and visual elements. I think, for example of Michèle Provost, Guillermo Trejo and Dennis Tourbin who incorporate text into their art. Such work has been displayed in the City Of Ottawa gallery. I was at a recent exhibit in Montreal at the Museum of Contemporary Art where cut up texts were on display. There are also many poets who work with text as visual art. Some with direct messages, some without.

Clearly much needs to be done to educate our bureaucrats, since they are being allowed to act as the cultural arbiters of this city. I suggest that the bylaw officer in question work with the visual arts community and the City's own cultural liaison officers to avoid this kind of nonsense in future.

Amanda Earl

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