A Response to Aylesbury High School for Censoring my Artwork…

Dear Aylesbury High School,

Despite the fact you claim not to be censoring my A-level artwork by taking it down from display, this is in fact exactly what you have done (please find the definition of ‘censor’ below) by removing three items of underwear that form part of my Final Piece .

Censor

    verb

    1. examine officially and suppress unacceptable parts

However, firstly, I would like to thank you for doing this, as by removing components of my work that are deemed, “too sexual and inappropriate”, you have only served to reinforce the message of the piece; that women, including their underwear, are sexualised by society and that they need to cover up ‘appropriately’ in order to be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts.

[Please note: Images cannot be used until it can be confirmed whether this will cause me to be disqualified by the Exam board]

Secondly, I would like to highlight some flaws in the reasoning behind the censorship of my artwork.

  1. I was asked, “How would you react if Year Sevens started to produce work similar to yours?”. ***Side Note: If the school was more invested in and supportive of creative subjects, they would know Year Seven Art lessons follow a curriculum that doesn’t include Portraiture, as my work does, and that doesn’t involve a 15-hour-exam or requirement to produce a piece of this scale.*** My reaction to this question was that 11 and 12 year old girls using art as a platform to explore and comment on issues relevant to them is empowering and should be encouraged, not shunned and censored. Additionally, if Year Seven students at AHS felt the need to create artwork similar to mine and to comment on the sexualisation of young girls, the problem would clearly be much bigger than I had originally thought and my reaction would be to take more action to tackle this issue. Furthermore, to think that the only way younger students are going to be exposed to artwork “similar to” mine is through an exhibition at school is naive considering their access to artwork on the internet, which is where I found inspiration for my project, and their exposure to sexualised depictions of the female body in the media and in advertising.
  2. I was told that two Year Sevens had been asked what they thought “the message of [my] piece was” to which they answered that they thought it might be telling girls that they needed to cover up their bodies more. Based on the answers of two Year Sevens the work was then taken down to, “avoid misinterpretation”, as this was clearly not the message behind my work. The first issue I would like to highlight here is that to be informed by a Maths teacher the school were using a sample of two students from the same year group as the basis for taking my work down, raises concerns that they don’t know what a representative sample is when they are supposed to be teaching this to students for their impending exams. Secondly, if my work was taken down for not wanting girls to think they have to cover up and hide their bodies, there lies huge hypocrisy in this argument as the school’s dress code sets out rules as to how much girls must cover their bodies, perpetuating societal attitudes that girls will not be taken seriously in a ‘professional environment’ unless their bodies are concealed and that how they dress is more important than their education. Lastly, if the first line of action when a student’s artwork is interpreted differently to the creator’s intentions is to take it down, you may as well take the whole A-Level exhibition down as art is subjective and everyone interprets it differently.  In addition to this, censoring controversial artwork achieves nothing and is an oversight. A better alternative  to “avoid misinterpretation” would be to encourage discussion of the piece and to ensure the correct message is understood.

If my work will not be shown at Aylesbury High School, I will continue to share it through less short-sighted institutions as I have done before at the Ashmolean Museum and Cambridge University.

cambs
National Articulation Final – Clare College, Cambridge

As an all-girls school, it is both a shame and a failure that students are not encouraged to speak out more on their position in, and treatment by society, and I hope going forward significant changes are made to better “Prepare, Challenge and Inspire” girls for the incredible futures they will undoubtedly achieve, as currently censorship of students’ artwork is failing to meet any of the school’s three aims.

28 thoughts on “A Response to Aylesbury High School for Censoring my Artwork…

  1. Bravo!! What a wonderful, passionate response. I would hope they reverse the decision, congratulate you on your amazing talent and the amount of effort it took to produce! Whether they do or not you’ll go far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, I had something similar done to my photography where I took photos of models naked but with something wrapped around them, I did all the correct things like ask for their consent and cover their privates up but my school also asked me to censor my work.

    Since I also go to an all girls school I was told to remove my photographs from adobe bridge and cover the photographs from that shoot in my sketchbook, although my teachers liked the work they said “this is to keep the school’s reputation stable”. I am lucky that my final piece is able to be presented since I had to figure things out but I am annoyed that some of my coursework will be removed.

    However my teacher told me that even though the school will censor it the examinor will still look at the work that I had to censor (they know that schools are different) and no marks will be changed because of the presentation.

    As long as my work is marked as part of the coursework I’m fine, but I am as annoyed as you are since I can’t show my particular shoot to other people. And screw your school, when you do art at uni you can be as creative and open as you can! They want to censor your work so their silly reputation doesn’t concern new parents.

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    1. So frustrating when this happens, after putting so much effort into it your work does not deserved to be covered up – it completely ignores the issue being explored as well! I don’t know how your school would respond to this but if you felt it was appropriate, I just put mine back up on display again and refused to comply with their rules, don’t back down X

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  3. Challenge them using Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. The Right to Freedom of Speech. I successfully used this some years ago when the art school I attended wanted to stop me exhibiting some of my pieces on the grounds that “someone might take offence”.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow! What an eloquent speaker you are! Well done! I believe in non-aggressive, intelligent, well-thought out responses to ignorance. And this certainly ticks those boxes.

    Carry on the good work!

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  5. Well done! Such an articulate response to your schools actions. I hope they reverse their decision and show your work. Even if this doesn’t happen I’m sure you will go far 🙂

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  6. Good for you! As an ex-AHS girl myself, I’m pretty disappointed that they’d do this (although more disappointingly, I’m probably not that surprised). Keep fighting, we need people like you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a brave, passionate, articulate, logically argued and critically nuanced argument you make here! Oh the sheer privilege to teach and nurture a sharp activist mind like yours! Bravo!

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  8. Hi, so I don’t know you but I went to AGS until 2008 and a friend of mine posted this and I wanted to show my support.

    First of all I’m impressed with how maturely and eloquently you’ve expressed your opinions and that you haven’t held back in your criticism of the school.

    Secondly I wanted to express my full support, I think its rather shameful what the school have done but I can’t say I’m too surprised either.

    Good for you for speaking out on this, and whilst it’s a shame that your fellow schoolmates are being deprived of the opportunity to see your work and discuss this very important topic, it is admirable of you to post this response.

    I’m a man so I’ll never truly understand your struggle, but as a POC I find that I can at least identify with it a little. In my experience people are very uncomfortable with being called out on their problematic behaviour and at times it can seem like it isn’t worth the trouble because you’ll end up losing friends or relationships and its quite exhausting fighting all the time. But its important to keep up the fight in order to change attitudes and bring our society closer to being the one we want it to be.

    Having been shown at the Ashmolean and Cambridge university at your age is incredibly impressive and I hope you’ll go on to achieve great things and continue creating outspoken work that will do its part to help smash the patriarchy!

    I wish you the best in your endeavors, keep up the good fight, and one day when I see your name on a sign at a gallery exhibit I’ll tell my friends that I once rambled on one of your blog posts and it’ll be my claim to fame.

    Good luck!

    Lav

    PS. I apologise if this or a similar comment gets posted twice, my WiFi is messing up and I have a million WordPress accounts from countless blogs set up over the years so I had to rewrite the first comment after my internet screwed it up

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As a fellow artist, I had a similar experience, with regards to my home country of Zimbabwe in which I was forced to change my A level art final piece as it was “deemed political and inappropriate” I had drawn and painted the country’s flag with a sign saying OUT OF ORDER. As a symbol of its economic instability. They would not let me take my coursework home and destroyed it.

    Art should be a medium to translate the issues that we deal with on a daily basis it’s what fuels our creativity. The school to me sounds like a coverup to avoid press related troubles and complaints from sensitive parents. You stick to your creative guns and take this as far as you can to empower those who may not understand the importance on your work. Good luck. Phillip,Krytanphotography

    Liked by 1 person

  10. It is a shame the school didn’t take the opportunity for you to hold an open forum and invite pupils and staff to come and discuss the piece with you – this would have been a much more ‘grown up’ and interesting way to handle the issue.

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  11. Things clearly haven’t changed!! Over 20 years ago an art teacher at Sir Henry Floyd literally whitewashed over my final GCSE piece, as it portrayed a model (Naomi Campbell) under a street light, showing how the female body was being misused in media at the time. Because it reflected prostitution he didn’t know how to handle it and whitewashed over the top of it, resulting in my final piece being ruined and a huge battle with the school. Eventually I resat my exam at Aylesbury College.
    Well done for speaking out and addressing a very important issue!

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  12. You are a credit to your school.
    It is a shame your school isn’t a credit to you.

    Just remember art is very subjective, and it is far worse when your art isn’t getting noticed.
    The fact it has shocked some of those at your school seems to show there is an underlying problem that they wish to keep quiet.

    Well done and good luck.

    Like

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