Forty Whacks

ASU's museum was forced to censor its political art show, but did its director have to bend over?

Zeitlin asserted that Watson called the original concept for the show "Bush-bashing," when it was Phoenix artist Colin Chillag, quoted in Watson's first piece, who said that. She claimed that Watson said certain artworks had been cut from the exhibition that hadn't been cut -- when the writer never said those particular works were eliminated. She contended that Watson shouldn't have written about the show before the "curatorial process" was complete, when it was her own curator who'd handed out a press release listing the artists the museum originally planned to include. Suffice it to say, Zeitlin's Ninth Commandment (Eighth if you're Catholic) sins are too numerous to list here.

As for Watson's alleged sins, the Censorship Coalition's Mintcheva wasn't buying much of what Zeitlin claimed. "The internal e-mail correspondence we were sent . . . reveals quite a tense process of selection and 'balancing' [before the exhibition opened]," she wrote in response to Zeitlin's self-righteous rant. "In light of this correspondence, some of what you wrote in the present letter appears slightly disingenuous."

Robbie Conal's work wound up in the show, but the bottom line is, art considered anti-Bush was cut and work considered anti-Kerry was put in. The result is that the dinky exhibition even contains editorial cartoons from the East Valley Tribune posing as freakin' art.

So why would Crow be so concerned about putting up such a nonpartisan pre-debate front? Here's a theory:

Conservative Arizona legislators and Bush administration grant purveyors could get all exorcised over what they'd perceive as a pro-John Kerry exhibition at the ASU Art Museum, and Crow's efforts to continue turning ASU into a premier research institution could be affected. Particularly if Bush were reelected.

Also, although I fear it's just an excuse for certain high-handed tactics, ASU officials have cautioned that the Commission on Presidential Debates might pull the plug on the ASU location if it detected campus partisanship.

Oh, here's another thing Zeitlin accused Watson of writing that he didn't write. In her effort to ingratiate herself with Crow, she said Watson contended wrongly that pressure from the Crow administration had forced her to censor the exhibition. Watson didn't say that. He said only that Zeitlin had censored it.

But, Marilyn, I'm saying that now. I mean, if Crow and his cronies didn't censor the exhibition, then why didn't they just leave the selection of art to the experts? Only a frightened fool would contend that the museum planned all along to balance the show, much less that ASU's Dean Wormer wasn't behind it all.

E-mail rick.barrs@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8447.

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