Artwork sparks porn row

November 22, 1996

A feminist artist's work was at the centre of a row over censorship at a conference on domestic violence, sexual abuse and women's citizenship held in Brighton this week.

Alison Lochhead's work on "Rape News" and "Telephone Directories 1 and 2", which featured pornographic images and advertisements alongside newspaper articles about rape, was removed from the main hall at Brighton Conference Centre following complaints. It later shifted to a small room at the top of the building.

Conference organisers said that one delegate had threatened to damage the two pieces by Ms Lochead, one of a group of seven women mounting an exhibition on the relationship between pornography and rape to accompany the conference.

The decision to remove the work split delegates, some from overseas, and led to heated debate between those who argued that the conference should provide a "safe space" for women to escape from pornographic images, and those who found the ban unnecessary and patronising to women.

Ms Lochhead said: "I can understand that some women may feel upset by seeing these images, but I did this display to expose porn for what it is and to provoke discussion about the issue. You cannot solve the problem of pornography by keeping it behind closed doors and pretending it does not exist."

Sara Hinchliffe, who teaches women's studies at Sussex University, said: "The fact that feminists are the people calling for censorship on the grounds of certain things being 'offensive' is indicative of some of the problems with trendy feminist arguments today. It's as though we're back in Victorian times, when women were seen as too weak to cope with nasty ideas."

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