TEDx Brussels loses license due to censorship

Summary

The parent TED organisation in New York has revoked the license granted to a team of volunteers in Brussels to stage TED talks after it pulls performer from stage

‘Deeply inappropriate response’

The international TED conference has revoked Brussels’ license allowing it to operate events under the TED name because of what it calls “a deeply inappropriate response” to one of its talks. The incident occurred during yesterday’s annual TEDxBrussels event in Bozar.

The Bulletin reports that TEDx organisers forcibly removed Brussels-based artist Deborah De Robertis from the stage during her talk. De Robertis is known for her guerrilla performance art in which she mimics museum paintings.

Her most controversial acts involve nudity, including mimicking the spread legs that feature in Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde” (The Origin of the World) and the reclining nude in Edouard Manet’s “Olympia”, both at the Museum d’Orsay in Paris. While visitors often appreciate her work – leading to spontaneous applause in the case of “L’Origine” – museum staff are less enthusiastic, and De Robertis has been arrested on more than one occasion.

The artist, originally from Luxembourg, has explained different performances in different terms, including pointing out that many of the women who posed for paintings were also artists – but you won’t find their work in the d’Orsay. Her work also questions voyeurism by confronting visitors with a nude who can meet their gaze.

De Robertis’s TEDx talk was performance oriented, but she did not remove her clothes. She did show images of her performances. She refused to walk off stage and was pulled off the stage lying on her back by organisers.

Artist broke agreement

According to Focus Knack, TEDxBrussels – run by a group of volunteers – was told by De Robertis that she would not show images from her performances as part of her talk. When she did, they decided to shut it down. The New York-based Sapling Foundation, which owns TEDx, did not agree with the move.

“We have reviewed the situation and spoken with the organiser,” wrote TEDx on its blog yesterday. “While we know there are moments when it is difficult to decide how to respond to a situation, this response was deeply inappropriate. We are immediately revoking the TEDxBrussels license granted to this individual.”

It is unclear if a different group of organisers would be able to get a TED license back again. It’s an unfortunate situation for expats especially as many of the TED talks featured international speakers and were in English.

Antwerp also hosts an annual TEDx talk, also in English.