shannon-gerard.jpg

Shannon Gerard at TCAF 2007. Picture by Blake Bell.

Visitors to the 2007 Toronto Comic Arts Festival may be familiar with the works of cartoonists Shannon Gerard and Stef Lenk. In addition to both cartoonists (multi-disciplinary artists, actually) launching brand new comics as part of the lead-up to the festival, they also had one of the most interesting displays at the event. Comprised of a life-sized sculpture implying the classic board-game OPERATION and knitted and crocheted pairs of boobs and a penis’ & testicles (alongside promotional images shown here), these pieces (and the brand new books that accompanied them) sat amongst all of their other comics work, and the cartoonists themselves were set-up across from Top Shelf and at an all-ages event with nary a peep of trouble. I did a double-take myself when I saw the handsomely-produced member hanging on the wall at the show, but then I’ve already dealt with my own fear of cock… I thought it was a great display.

Apparently at York University in the North of Toronto? That cock-stuff don’t fly.

boob_dink_main1.jpgAccording to BlogTO.com, after a complaint by an anonymous YorkU professor a window display featuring the work of Gerard and Lenk was removed from the York University Bookstore. The display was promoting both the works themselves and a gallery display of art from both Lenk’s and Gerard’s projects, and while the work is certainly provocative, I don’t think anyone expected this reaction.

Although it’s not mentioned at BlogTO, Shannon Gerard is actually a YorkU alum and may even have taught there, I know that she sat on the TCAF 2005 Comics Academia panel alongside folks like Bart Beaty and Phoebe Gloeckner. I think it’s important that this material not be characterized as the work of a University student still ‘finding’ themselves, particularly because Gerard’s work is quite accomplished and even popular here in town. Also interesting? A version of the display featuring all of the same components hung in the window of bookstore Pages, right downtown on Toronto’s busiest street (and at one of our busiest intersections) for weeks without any notable incident.

dink.jpgI don’t mean to keep stealing all of the good bits from the BlogTO article, but let’s tie the whole thesis together, shall we:

“Although no one knows if it was the nudity or the crocheted Boobs and Dinks, Chhangur suspects, “it was the piercing on the crocheted penis on the cut out male figure and the open discussion about testicular cancer. Breast cancer seems socially accepted as is the depiction, (real or crocheted) of breasts but not penis’ or testicular cancer. Most of the complaints came from grown, white, heterosexual, men.”"
- BlogTo.com

Huh, how about that? Where have I heard about ostensibly straight white dudes having a problem with artistic depictions of male genitalia before?

Where… where could that be?

dink_popup3.jpg

Anyway, let’s keep it positive. Why don’t you go and check out Shannon Gerard’s site at http://www.shannongerard.org/, and Stef Lenk’s site at http://steflenk.com/. Both are solid artists with excellent comics projects, and it’s nice to have an excuse…despite the unfortunate nature of said excuse…to link them.

- Chris


14 Comments on “Cock: TCAF Cartoonists face censorship on University Campus”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Jason Marcy says:

    Well, that whole thing is ridiculous. I remember being more freaked out by the subject matter (as in Cancer…) then at all by the drawings themselves, let alone the funny crocheted items they had for sale. I still find it hard to believe in this day and age that such things offend folks. Maybe the guy in the drawing had a bigger cock then these offended dudes?Maybe (along with ose fanboys in the DC thing…) these guys felt the made up character was “popping” wood at them?
    Strange.
    It’s just cock fellows. It’s just COCK…

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 17, 2007: Fantastic, fun, accessible and educational says:

    [...] Christopher Butcher has further commentary on the subject. (Above: photo of some of the offending items, taken from Shannon Gerard’s website.) [...]

  3. Matthew J. Brady says:

    I don’t know how conservative Canada is, but something like this would NEVER fly in the U.S. Some religious nut would contact Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity and then get the cops to arrest the artist/shopowner for indecency because it would be so damaging to children. So it sucks that it’s being censored, but it could be worse, I suppose.

  4. stef lenk says:

    Hey Chris,
    I just wanted to confirm for you that yup, Shan teaches at York, AND HOLDS THREE DEGREES FROM THERE. It’s Nuts.

    My game board actually is a functioning one (take the organs out with kitchen tongs and if you touch the sides the board lights up and buzzes), so i have to chuckle ironically and say that now that it’s in the AGYU, people get to INTERACT with the nudity instead of just staring at it.

    And it’s all up close observation of the remarkable dink too. Yessirree.

  5. Shannon Gerard says:

    Thanks for your support Chris!

    I did teach at York, for 2 years! and I hold 3 degrees from there for chrissake– one of them an “interdisciplinary” MA in comics! The first two books that led to this project, Hung 1 and 2 (oh no, another cock reference) were part of my MA Thesis.

  6. AM says:

    I can’t believe this display was pulled at York University of all places, the phallic sculpture capital of Toronto. Why would the bookstore bow to one complaint anyway? Who is one person to say what a bookstore at a progressive university displays? Ridiculous. I personally thought the display was educational with a twist of humour that helped to lighten the message. Well, one *more* reason to tell York to get off my phone the next time they call.

  7. Joe says:

    Chris, maybe we’ve got the wrong end of the stick here – perhaps the offended Prof has no problem with nudity or discussion of medical conditions but has a deep-seated phobia of knitting, the result of a childhood trauma involving his Great Aunt’s knitting circle, a pair of outsized needles, a hideous home-made knitted cardigan and a bare bottom.

  8. Josh says:

    Shannon’s the best person in comics in Toronto! The only good thing about all of this is that maybe some people who wouldn’t have known about her work will check it out now. I have one of Shannon’s penises on my bookshelf.

  9. Luke P. says:

    So, apparently if you’re a straight white guy, people should be suspicious of your objection to obscene imagery in public spaces…
    I mean, really, if this material wasn’t indie-friendly and “artistic” ( awww, cute..) but instead took any other tone/form and depicted genitalia in public, the general response around here would no doubt be along the lines of “Well, [i]duh[/i]..”

  10. Chris says:

    And yea, we did look upon The Simpsons Episode where Marge doth paint a nude Mr. Burns, and we did find it good. For artistic depictions of nudity in the context of a personal artistic statement or a larger cultural movement are both good and protected.

    Don’t be a jerk, Luke.

  11. Luke P. says:

    [Note: The following remains uneditted, I just wanted to jump in here and mention that I get to decide who posts here and who doesn't, and Luke's asshole tone has earned him a trip to the spam filter. But this post was so paranoid and full of self-righteousness that I wanted to leave it here for you, my readers, to read. Enjoy!]

    I’m not. Don’t try to Degrassi me into your group-think, Commie.
    It just seems that the kind of criticisms levelled against “the straight white guy”- as though they’re all one mass- would never be acceptable if they were about any other of these manufactured mass groups of people that apparently share the same sets of biases and concerns.
    -Maybe the guy was motivated by things that many other individuals outside of his cultural-measurement might share?
    -And to use these race/gender/sexual orientation demarcations- assuming the guy who complained was “of” the kinds of associations we’re fed ( that he’s obviously “homophobic”) – to attack something that we’re supposed to believe represents something that guy is opposed to – I just find that pretty absurd.
    Are we really surpirsed that somebody complained about depictions of dongs being displayed in public? Are we to assume this means something beyond a general sense of decency?

  12. Joe says:

    So, Chris, when can we look forward to you starting the first International Cocks In Comic Art awards :-)?

  13. Deborah Townsend says:

    I have been looking for a pattern for crocheted penis’s is there any way you could send me a pattern of the one above in the picture? I would really apreciate it. Thank you. Deborah

  14. april says:

    I too am interested in the penis pattern, in the above photos.
    even a link for a pattern would be appreciated. Thank you April

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