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Binghamton University Censors graduate student, Azuka Nzegwu

 

On Friday, October 20, 2006, university access to a digital exhibition I curated and hosted on the Binghamton university server was shut down. In addition, my university email account, which is a direct point of communication for all my university matter was disabled. Anyone accessing the website ( http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/~anzegwu1/ ) will receive an error (see explanation below). I should state that disabling my computing accounts makes it difficult to do my academic work as a graduate student since I am unable to utilize the resources (email, web account, etc), which I pay for, and which is provided to all students.

My exhibition, “Engaging the Camera: Portraits of White Women -- Acebes Other Show” is a direct response to the official exhibition hosted by Dr. Gamwell at the university art museum. I challenged the idea of representation from the perspective of the “other” by creating a digital exhibition that accomplished what Acebes was doing in his representation of African women. The only catch was that I was representing white women. I purposefully choose to host this exhibition on the university server to limit the conversation to the campus.

It is instructive to note that university officials, who do not object to the voyeuristic and racist images of African women find it problematic when the “other” challenges the same principles on which the Acebes exhibition was based. To put it bluntly, it is fine for Dr. Gamwell to present these images of Hector Acebes as intellectual activity, but when I, as a student, an African woman, and the “other” address the very same issue in my exhibition, I am censored, silenced, and to put it crudely, obliterated from Cyberspace.

And yet, Dr. Gamwell’s exhibition is still up for all to marvel about. Meanwhile, the campus newspaper, PipeDream, sings the tune of support for these depictions. In their editorial, they defend the right of free speech, the issue they claim at the center of the discussion. Ironically, as the call to close the Acebes exhibition has fallen on deaf ears, I find it remarkable at the speed that the university shut down my exhibition and email account by eliminating my freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech is something that is granted to all of us by the constitution. And yet, my freedom to express my thought as a graduate student is censored by the university. In shutting down my digital exhibition, the university has taken a disciplinary action to sanction my action. Not only have they disabled my access to my web account, they have taken the extra measure to disable my email account, thereby making it difficult to do my academic work while silencing my voice. It is disheartening that the message that is directly communicated by the university is that freedom of speech only applies if you are white or in this case, if you are Dr. Gamwell and are reproducing racist depictions of African people and culture. Unfortunately, as a female African graduate student, who have challenged Hector’s exhibition by creating my own, it has become a problem to speak and act.


Thank You,
Azuka Nzegwu
PhD Doctoral Candidate
Philosophy, Interpretation and Culture

 



* For those that may not understand these messages, a 403 error is a mechanism for restricting public access to web pages. Getting a 403 error is like accessing a website you have no RIGHT to access. A 404 error occurs either when a website is removed, deleted, or its name changed. No matter how many times you switch computers or browsers, you WILL never have access. All in all, a 403 or 404 error, in this case, was a calculated means by university officials to restrict access to my digital exhibition, and to silence my communication.

 

 

 

Art Exhibition

art exhition: engaging the camera: portraits of white women -- acebes other show
>> Engaging the Camera: Portraits of White Women -- Acebes Other Show


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Acebes Buyer

lynn gamwell
Lynn Gamwell
Director of the University Art Museum at Binghamton University

Curators

andrea barnwell
Andrea Barnwell
Director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art

isolde brielmaier
Isolde Brielmaier
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
at Vassar College