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The Police have censored the final scene of Ceci n’est pas… at Baltic Circle Festival

The International Theatre Festival Baltic Circle was forced to censor the final scene of the piece Ceci n’est pas… by Dries Verhoeven at Lasipalatsi square in Helsinki on Sunday November 16. The police denied permission to present the artwork in its original form. According to the police, the scene with a naked elderly woman sitting on a chair in the glass box with a young woman´s mask on is against the law. The scene is perceived by the police as an act of public obscenity (penal code 17 chapter 21 §). According to this law, the artist is equated to a flasher.

Due to the prohibition decision by the police the performer has to wear underwear in Helsinki. Ceci n’est pas… premiered in May 2013 at SPRING Festival in Utrecht (NL) and has since been shown in eight cities around Europe, amongst them Strasbourg, Basel and Hamburg. In all the other European cities the performer has sat in the glassbox naked.

“As a festival festival director, I am ashamed that Helsinki is the only one of the eight cities where this artwork has been censored” – Eva Neklyaeva, the director of the Baltic Circle Festival

The work has been shown at Lasipalatsi square from Sunday November 9th on. The final scene of the piece Ceci n’est pas mon corps (This is not my body) is about how people conceive an aging body.

“The 83 year old naked model with a mask and a wig, sits still for five hours, as if she was a mannequin in a shopping window. In an era where the average age of a model is 19 years old I hope to let people look at an extraordinary representation of the word ‘body’. Can we look without any problems at the naked body of an elderly woman, or is the confrontation with our own aging too big at such a moment? Helsinki is the first of eight European cities where the image is forbidden.

I feel that, while the internet and marketing have the tendency to become more pornographic, rules on how to behave in public space seem to be getting more prude. The censorship of the Helsinki police makes a vulnerable and honest image suspicious. It’s a shameless attack on the freedom of expression.“ – Dries Verhoeven, the creator of Ceci n’est pas…

Baltic Circle is an international theatre festival organised in Helsinki every year. The festival will file a legal complaint against the prohibition decision by the police in the administrative court of Helsinki. The festival sees the criminalisation of Dries Verhoeven’s piece as a violation of freedom of expression. In Finland it is really rare that a public event is prohibited by the assembly act.

Press photos:

Ceci n’est pas… blog: