30 April 2001
For immediate release
Books and images once deemed too shocking or subversive for public consumption are to go on display at the University of Sussex Library as part of the Brighton Festival this year.
Saucy tales by the grand master of pornography, the Marquis de Sade, homo-erotic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and a 1967 edition of Lady Chatterley's Lover are among the works selected for the exhibition, Subversion and Censorship, in the library's foyer from May 8th.
The display, which spans six centuries of censorship, also includes a 1939 copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf, a signed copy of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (signed the day before the fatwa was imposed), and an original issue of the underground press magazine 'School Kids' Oz, which became the subject of an obscenity trial for carrying a strip cartoon depicting a sexually excited Rupert Bear.
All these works, once considered by moral leaders to be too dangerous for the masses, are now either on the library's shelves or available for viewing from the library's special collections.
Tim Graves, assistant librarian and exhibition organiser, says the purpose of the event is to highlight the role libraries play in the debate over freedom of access to information. "It's always been a battleground," he says, "either in acting to restrict which books could be accessed by the general population, or to increase access to written ideas. The questions have been, is it the duty of libraries to act as religious, philosophical and sexual guardians? Or does their moral duty really lie in providing unbiased access to all information?"
Graves first came up with the idea after police attempted to prosecute the University of Central England under the Obscene Publications Act for loaning out a book of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs. The Crown Prosecution Service eventually decided not to go ahead with the case against the university, or the book's publishers, as it was acknowledged that the sexually explicit images could be defended as being "for the public good" as a contribution to art or learning. "It made the police look foolish," says Graves.
The Internet is also brought into the debate, with a display of a PC running a Web browser. "The Internet may prove to be the winning blow in the struggle against censorship, " points out Graves. "Existing outside of real space, it is not under the jurisdiction of any particular governing body. For the first time, information has broken free from the territories of the social elite."
Notes for editors
Tim Graves can be contacted on 01273 877098. For further information, please contact Jacqui Bealing or Alison Field, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678209, Fax 01273 877456, email J.A.Bealing@sussex.ac.uk or A.Field@sussex.ac.uk.