An Open Letter to the Museum of the Moving Image, June 2019
I am writing this letter in response to the censorship of my work Summer Hit 2014 (2014) from an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image. The independent curator, Antonio Ortuño, who has included Summer Hit 2014 in exhibitions in Cuba, Germany, and the United States as part of his Under The Subway series, invited me to again include this work in a group exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image, but was told by an unnamed staff member that my work could not be exhibited “for reasons of rights.” As I am the copyright holder of this work I believe that this censorship is in fact due to the controversial nature of my work, which is critical of America’s complicity with war in Palestine.
After alerting me that the museum would not allow the exhibition of my work due to “rights” I asked Ortuño for the responsible party’s contact information in the hopes that a quick email would clarify the situation. Ortuño refused to tell me the name of the museum staff member on grounds of “privacy” and asked that I “respect the decision of the museum.” I cannot, however, respect a decision that asserts that I am not the creator of my own artwork, and so after having my work censored, and any possible appeal denied, I am compelled to write this open letter.
Summer Hit 2014 is a work about the objectification of women, representations of violence in popular media, and the indifferent Western viewer. Stephanie Weber, curator of Contemporary Art at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau München writes, “In this short video Cindy Hinant juxtaposes an excerpt of US pop singer Ariana Grande's music video Break Free with a CBS news clip of a bombing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Playing on the double-meaning of the expression "summer hit," Hinant provocatively addresses the viewer's passive relationship with and enjoyment of violence.”
I should not need to explain to an institution titled The Museum of the Moving Image, that appropriation has been an essential tool for political critique throughout the entire history of video art. In New York New Wave: The Legacy of Feminist Art in Emerging Practice (I.P. Taurus, 2019), Dr. Kathy Battista compares my working method to Martha Rosler’s Bringing the War Home series (1967-72) wherein Rosler juxtaposes interior design magazine pages with appropriated news footage of the Vietnam War.
My work has a direct and clear relationship to this political tradition of appropriation. I spent four years working as the archivist for the pioneer conceptual artist Dan Graham, well known for his experimental film montage Rock My Religion (1983-1984). I was also an assistant to Dara Birnbaum who is known for the seminal feminist work Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-1979), a video comprised of clips taken from television. These apprenticeships gave me a comprehensive understanding of re-appropriating found media and you will find that my work passes all definitions of “fair use.” I refer you to the College Art Association’s publication Code of Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Art.
Beyond the three exhibitions curated by Ortuño, Summer Hit 2014 has been included in two-dozen exhibitions, screenings, and publications. This list, below, comprises a large number of international cultural intuitions that have acknowledged me as the creator and rights holder of Summer Hit 2014.
However, I do not believe the issue here is about rights or appropriation. The bootleg Mickey Mouse painted on the wall by Red Grooms and Lysiane Luong on permanent display at the museum is evidence enough that the museum accepts appropriation as a legitimate method of expression. I can only assume that my work, and the curator’s original vision to include this work, has been censored because of the feminist political content of my work.
I ask that the Museum of Moving Images reconsiders the censorship of my work, acknowledges that I am the creator of the artwork Summer Hit 2014 (2014), and provides an explanation for the work’s exclusion from this forthcoming exhibition.
Selected Exhibitions and Screenings of Summer Hit 2014
Wiseman Gallery, Rogue Community College, Grants Pass, OR 2014: Group Exhibition: The Subject is War
HomeBody Gallery, Chicago Illinois, 2014: Group Exhibition: Hide and Seek, organized by Happy Colors Theatre Company
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA, 2014: Group Exhibition: You Should Not Be Here
The ANNEX Art Social Space, Brooklyn, NY, 2015: Screening: Under The Subway Video Art Night, curated by Antonio Ortuño
Project Space Kleiner Salon, Berlin, DE, 2015: Screening: Under The Subway Video Art Night, curated by Antonio Ortuño
Lenbachhaus Kunstbau, Munich, DE, 2015: Screening: What’s Next? New Works in Video,
Apiary Studios, London, UK, 2015: Group Exhibition: Modern Panic
Interstitial, Seattle, WA, 2015: Artist talk and screening
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), Los Angeles, CA, 2016: Femmes Video Art Festival
The Situation Room, Los Angeles, CA, 2015: Femmes Video Art Festival
Texas State University, School of Art & Design, San Marcos, TX, 2015: LUMA Screening
NEWD Art Show, Brooklyn, NY, 2015: Gendered Expectations: The Representation of "Girls" in Contemporary Art, Panel discussion with Alex McQuilkin and Kathy Battista
Herron School of Art and Design, Echo Gallery, Indianapolis, IN: Two Person Exhibition: Oops I Did It Again
Powrplnt, Brooklyn, NY, 2016: Screening: What Happens When
The Low Museum, Atlanta, GA, 2016: Fall Line Projects Screening
New York University, New York, NY, 2016: Screening, visiting artist lecture
Galería Pixel, Camagüey, Cuba: Under the Subway, curated by Antonio Ortuño
Interviews and texts about Summer Hit 2014
Ruth, Kimberly. “Interview with Cindy Hinant.” Art Uncovered, January 17, 2017
Deskins, Sally. “Cindy Hinant.” Les Femmes Folles. 2015
Roman, Dora. “Ill Jornadas de Videoarte de el Escorial” Arte y Cultura Visual, September 2017
Weber, Stephanie. “What’s Next: New Works in Video.” Lenbachhaus Kunstbau, Munich, DE, 2015.
Hytone, Dave. “Interview with Cindy Hinant.” The Makers Podcast, Episode 13, 2014.