Censorpedia: An Interactive Database of Censorship Incidents

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Featured Case: Sewol_Owol_(painting)


Artist: Hong Seong-dam

Year: 2014

Date of Action: August, 2014

Region: Asia

Location: Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, South Korea

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Painting

Confronting Bodies: City government of Gwangju, South Korea

Description of Artwork: A 32-foot-wide painting, which portrays, among other elements, Korean president Park Geun-hye as a maniacal scarecrow facing off against angered parents of children who died in the sinking of the MV Sewol ferry in April, 2014, a national tragedy that has had huge political repercussions. Park is being held back by former president Park Chung-hee (her late father), and her chief of staff Kim Ki-choon.

The Incident: The Biennale Foundation initially claimed that the work’s exclusion from the exhibition had nothing to do with politics and was purely logistical—Hong simply submitted the work late. But it was later revealed that the decision to withhold the painting from the 20th anniversary exhibition was in fact prompted by the city of Gwangju, which sponsors the exhibition to the tune of $2.4 million for this year’s Biennale. The city government had asked that Hong change the painting.

Results of Incident: In response to the censorship of Hong’s work, other artists featured in “Sweet Dew” removed their works from the exhibition and its curator, Yun Beom-mo, resigned. The president of the Gwangju Biennale Foundation, Lee Yong-woo, also resigned. The case has provoked international protests and has been covered widely.


What is Censorpedia?

Censorpedia is a crowdsourced online database of censorship cases within the arts and in culture. It is aimed at those researching censorship, at activists working for freedom of expression, and at artists and other cultural producers whose expression has been subject to censorship or attempted censorship.

Censorpedia documents censorship incidents by providing the who, what, when, where, and why. By providing a repository of information about what is vulnerable to censorship and about the strategies and tactics that have defeated previous’ censorship attempts, Censorpedia aids the fight for free expression.

Researchers can search for a specific case, year, or keyword using the search box, as well as browse by medium, by grounds for censorship, or explore a random case.

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