Ma Pensée Serielle (My Serial Thought)
Artist: Miriam Cahn
Date of Action: April 14, 2023
Location: Paris, France
Confronting Bodies: France’s State Council
Description of Artwork: Ma Pensée Serielle (My Serial Thought) by Miriam Chan is a semi-abstract painting which portrays forced fellatio. The figure performing fellatio appears small and powerless. The scene is based on the rape and massacre of Bucha by Russian troops, and the artist intended it as a statement denouncing sexual crimes used as weapons of war.
The Incident: The Palais de Tokyo in Paris, France displayed the painting with rules which forbade unaccompanied minors into the side gallery featuring the contested work. Moreover, the museum advised against showing it to children. Nevertheless, four french advocacy groups objected to the work and filed lawsuits, led by Association Juristes Pour l’Enfance (Lawyers for Childhood), which is tied to the French anti-same sex marriage protest movement La Manif pour tous (Protest for All).
Results of Incident: France’s State Council ruled that the painting may remain hanging in the Palais de Tokyo since the “artist’s only intention is to denounce a crime” through the work. The Council's verdict found that the painting does not “violate” the safety of children or human dignity because of the extra measures which the museum had taken to contextualize the “extraordinarily raw quality” of the work. Cahn has reiterated she did not portray any children in the painting, and the contrasting size of the subjects is a metaphor to show “the corporeal power of the oppressor, and the fragility of the oppressed.” That statement is shown beside the painting as displayed at the Palais de Tokyo.