Arts Commons accused of censorship for removing LGBTQ artist’s work

Beck Gilmer-Osborne said they were given a choice to edit their artwork or have it taken down

Artist Beck Gilmer-Osborne said they were given a choice of editing their video art installation, or the piece would be turned off, after Arts Commons said it received complaints about nudity and profanity. (Beck Gilmer-Osborne)

Arts Commons is being accused of censorship after it took down a public art installation due to complaints the organization said it received about nudity and coarse language.

Beck Gilmer-Osborne’s three-channel video piece titled A Thousand Cuts was set to run in The New Gallery’s window in a downtown Calgary +15 walkway until Sept. 28.

But instead, Arts Commons — which owns the window space that The New Gallery curates — sent the gallery a letter on Aug. 29 saying the piece would have to be edited to remove the objectionable content, or it would be taken down.

“I found that kind of strange because for starters there’s not really that much nudity or swearing in the piece,” said Gilmer-Osborne. “I did not feel comfortable with changing the piece … so it got taken down.”

I’m not necessarily saying they don’t support trans or gender variant artists, but I don’t feel supported in the space.– Artist Beck Gilmer-Osborne

The gallery said it also offered Gilmer-Osborne a private space to exhibit the piece instead — just not the public gallery.

The Montreal-based artist said there are maybe seven to eight profane words displayed in the piece, and a three-second, grainy clip is shown of a nude woman wearing a prosthetic penis.

The work is composed of clips from movies and television shows that show transgender characters portrayed by non-trans actors. It can be viewed online here.

Gilmer-Osborne wrote an open letter that was posted to The New Gallery’s website, criticizing Arts Commons’ decision.