In April-May of 2017 an art installation, “Effects” [The Enthronement], proposed by James Oberhelm was censored from public exhibition by Glasgow School of Art. Research indicates that this was the first time a student’s work had been censored on the MFA Programme at GSA. The proposed installation work considered the geopolitics of the Middle-East, exploring the relationship between bereavement, bureaucracy, and the semiotics of political control. It included propaganda video material produced by Al-Hayat, the media wing of Daesh/ISIS, addressing the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, which led to the current borders of much of the Middle-East region.
Following concerted attempts to avoid providing a written explanation for the decision to censor the work, a Freedom of Information request confirmed information from a previous email that the ‘Prevent Duty’ was involved in scrutiny of the work by the Senior Management Team at GSA. Prevent appears to be a key factor in why this work was censored, when challenging artwork in previous years had gone ahead to exhibition; it was the political content of the work that was the determining factor in its being censored.
Prevent is a UK government initiative, established under the ‘Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015’, requiring UK teaching staff in schools and colleges to monitor and report on signs of political radicalization of the pupils or students, effectively making UK educators government spies. Following the legislation GSA established a permanent Prevent Committee as part of its administrative structure (see link below).