PROTECTING & PRESERVING FREE SPEECH & PUBLIC SPACE

Archive for June, 2012

LETTER TO UCLA HAMMER MUSEUM OF ART RE: “VENICE BEACH BIENNIAL”

June 29, 2012

Topic:  Venice Beach Biennial

Dear Sir/Madam,

Your promotional material on your proposed “Venice Beach Biennial” the weekend of July 13-15  has come to the attention of myself and several colleagues, and raised several questions and concerns.

First, what does Venice Beach Biennial mean?  Is this something to be scheduled at two year intervals?  Does it have any meaning at all other than some reference to Venice, Italy?

Second, the outlined proposal is extremely vague in how this event is to be orchestrated.  How are “artists” chosen to participate?  How are spaces to be allocated?  LAMC42.15 indicates first come, first serve.  Is this to be observed?

Third, as LAMC42.15 makes clear, the Boardwalk is a Free EXPRESSION zone, not an art walk.  There are first amendment people on the Boardwalk who do not do art whatsoever but use the opportunity afforded by this public venue to exercise their constitutional right to free speech.  Your event focuses exclusively on artists (?) with no allusion to, acknowledgement of or accommodation for these Free Speech individuals.

Further, as stipulated in LAMC42.15, the standard for art on the Boardwalk is nominal utility.  That means art for art’s sake.  Crafts are generally not considered first amendment protected activities. Also, the sale of stones, oils, incense, sage are explicitly prohibited.  Some of your proposed artists, I submit, fall in a gray area with questionable legitimacy, if not outright prohibition.  The ceramicists, the miniature Mexican sculptures, the two-headed bicycle, the metal detector treasure display, are examples.  The photo booth is also of dubious merit.  LAPD already has a challenge enforcing the current ordinance with some of its unfortunate ambiguities and a population of determined illegal commercial vendors..  Your proposed event has just made their job (and protection of true Free Speech individuals and groups) that much more difficult.

Let me add that I know some of the artists currently on the Boardwalk.  I will also submit that some are being less than candid with you when they describe their “art.”

Ridding the Boardwalk, the traditional “Free Expression Zone,” of aggressive commercial vending and keeping it open for truly First Amendment protected speech has been and continues to be an ongoing struggle.  Please consider carefully the consequences of your proposals to that end.

Thank you.

Therese Dietlin
Free Speech Advocate on the Boardwalk

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