Darling, Our Baby is Handicapped. (photographs)
Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion
Artist: Mat Vaassen
Confronting Bodies: Occupants and visitors of the city, the mayor of the city
Dates of Action: 1998
Location: Maastricht, The Netherlands
Description of Artwork: Three posters. Size appr. 3 x 4.50 m. One poster shows a woman giving bith to a handicapped child. The baby's head is visible. The father of the child has an axe in his hand, threatening to cut off the baby's head. The second poster shows a clown giving birth to a handicapped child and swinging the axe. Poster three shows clown Cuckoo's group of mentally handicapped children (their heads being vegetables and fruits).
The Incident: For the exhibition Make-up Maastricht (a biennale with 25 visual artists, film, fashion, music and literature in around 100 places throughout the city in public locations)I put 3 posters on a wall over the river Maas, next to a bridge that was crossed daily by a great amount of people. Already after several hours people protested, called the police, etc. Since the mayor of Maastricht had cleansed the local parc of dealers and junkies , these people moved their territory to the centre of the city and to the bridge. On of these junkies decided to throw one poster and one partly into the river, because he felt that these artworks would attract too much attention to their area where their drug deals and drug use took place. The police was widness of this violation. Their only comment was that the knew this person, that I wouldn't see any money if the posters were damaged or lost and that I had to remove my posters soon but when I had time to do this. I was gone 15 minutes, came back and found all of my posters in the river. The police informed me that a local government official had thrown my posters in the water by order of the mayor.
Results of Incident: Someone from an artprogramm on local radio offered to present the posters to the art museum (Bonnefantenmuseum)to have them exhibited for the remaining duration of the biennale (5 weeks). The museum took four days to reply that they didn't want to tell the local government that they were wrong. The didn't also want to be an asylum for censored art. They did however bragg about an exhibition by Benneton that they were going to have in three months time. Because Benneton was interesting, since it caused so much discussion. Benneton was however by the time the museum was going to present this show well accepted. This cowardly and hypocritical attitude from the museum was addressed in the press but unfortunately this never had any real consequences for them. The smallmindedness of the mayor and the people in the streets (although I received also a lot of positive responce)is almost acceptable when viewed against the reaction of a professional cultural institution. How can the public accept art that demands their openness, when the art institutions are so smallminded?
Source: Personal history.