Censorship tries to condemn artists and their artworks to absence and invisibility. In cases that attract widespread public notice, artists can actually gain prominence when their works are censored. In the majority of cases however both the artists and their work disappear soundlessly from the public discourse, with artists fearing negative consequences if they challenge the censors.
“Shades of Absence: Governing Bodies” is the fourth work in a series on censorship in the visual arts, which premiered at an intervention into the 2011 Venice Biennial. Images of contemporary artists whose works have been censored by (or due to threats by) members of the US government are reduced to silhouettes and surrounded by terms of transgression. The erased figures stand for countless lesser known artists who face censorship or persecution with no public support.
Its physical manifestation in the Gallery 31 references Robert Mapplethorpe and Paul Cadmus; the virtual manifestation additionally references (among others) the NEA 4 and Andres Serrano. It is visible all throughout the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Capitol Building and the NEA offices at the Old Post Pavilion, an axis of fierce public battles over censorship in the arts.
The augmented reality (AR) component of this work uses the ability of AR to penetrate walls and invade protected spaces, and manifest its presence at a site that gives the work added meaning. Viewers can touch the work on the display of their own smartphones to see information on these censored artists.