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Britain’s Hawkish Censorship in Venice

Jeremy Deller's "A Good Day for Cyclists" at the 2013 British Pavilion for the Venice Biennale (via the BBC)
Jeremy Deller’s “A Good Day for Cyclists” at the 2013 British Pavilion for the Venice Biennale (via the BBC)

The British pavilion at the Venice Biennale has a rather direct engagement with the country’s current war efforts, and yet the piece that was recently deemed too inflammatory and effectively censored was actually aimed at injustices against endangered birds.

A banner and posters with the words “Prince Harry Kills Me” splayed across them were part of artist Jeremy Deller’s installation for the pavilion, a jab at the royal figure for his alleged 2007 violence against an endangered avian. Unfortunately, the banners are now resting in London while the remaining works get their time in the international sun.

As the Guardian reports, the British Council decided that the pieces were best omitted from its global art showcase because of fear they would be interpreted as referencing the 2011 fatal attack on Britain’s Kabul headquarters, and that more attacks on soldiers would be encouraged. (It should be noted that this decision came before a soldier was brutally murdered on the streets of London, although tensions about such incidents are continuously high.) A council spokesman reportedly said: “We asked Jeremy to reconsider the banner and poster […] on the grounds that it could potentially be misconstrued in environments where the British army is currently deployed and perceived to be disrespectful of those who had lost their lives.”

So the banners had to stay home in England, even if Deller’s stated meaning had nothing to do with the incident. Deller said that the work actually refers to when Prince Harry was blamed for killing two protected and endangered hen harriers at Sandringham House. There’s still a mural of one of the protected and endangered birds in the installation, though, which transitions into a look at Britain’s involvement in recent wars. So in a way the birds get their Venice tribute, although without the textual vitriol.

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