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Saint-Malo: an exhibition of comic strips, mocking the police, suspended

A few pages were enough to provoke censorship.

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Saint-Malo: an exhibition of comic strips, mocking the police, suspended

A few pages were enough to provoke censorship. As part of the Quai des Bulles festival in Saint-Malo, which was held from October 27 to 29, the open-air exhibition dedicated to the work Koko Doesn't Like Capitalism, by Tienstiens, was to continue. until November 26. However, for reasons "beyond our control, the Tienstiens exhibition was dismantled prematurely", we can read on the official website of the festival.

Born on Instagram on the account of tenutiens.bd, Koko n'aime pas le capitalism, was published as an album by Bandes Détournées, in the form of caustic strips tackling political, societal and philosophical subjects. A few boards criticizing the police have aroused the discontent of the city authorities, notably one illustrating a choir whose members sing “Everyone, everyone, everyone hates the police”. Local elected officials from the RN also reacted on social networks.

“Following a request from the Saint-Malo town hall, which echoes the concerns of the police, we were asked to remove two signs which were perceived as offending the officers,” declared the organizers to our colleagues at L’Obs , November 24.

“I made the decision to shorten an exhibition, which for me had spent most of its time after the three days of the festival and the school holidays, seeing that the annoyances it aroused were increasing to the point that the town hall called me to report the problem. It's censorship, I don't deny it, and it caused debate within the association. But it is also a gesture of appeasement,” explained Georges Coudray, president of the Quai des Bulles association to our colleagues at Télérama, Wednesday November 29.

Also read: Author Art Spiegelman censored by Marvel for making fun of Trump’s “orange skull”

A decision which initially did not fail to surprise publishers who learned the news just a few days after its suspension. “We didn’t expect such a thing as the selection of the boards was made in accordance with the festival. If other boards prove to be more critical, this one is purely humorous playing on the discrepancy between a classic rather radical left-wing demonstration slogan and third republic imagery,” they temper.

If they understand the dilemma of the festival - "this big machine which has every interest in remaining on good terms with the municipality" - they point out the speed with which censorship fell: "In 3 weeks, with an exhibition of a scope far from spectacular, the police and the extreme right won their case. Given the time it takes for the notion of police violence to be accepted as a term in the public space, the balance of power is unbalanced. Faced with pressure from the far right and the police, the exhibition was purely and simply censored, this is the conclusion. We are realistic, there is not much we can do.”

As for freedom of expression, which this suspension implicitly evokes, the publishers have widely expressed themselves on the subject, refusing, like the author whose speech they speak, to use this argument to protest against the censorship of the exhibition. The issue is elsewhere. More ideological: “As part of this exhibition, right-wing forces suspended an exhibition which promotes left-wing critical thinking.” Faced with this observation, editors willingly respond to interviews to convey their ideas, benefiting from the famous Streisand effect (an involuntary media phenomenon), which ultimately reversed censorship by making them more visible. And above all “invite the public to delve into the book to discover much more in-depth critical thinking than a humorous sketch”. A work that has already passed through the hands of 20,000 readers.

Would censorship and its counterpart self-censorship gain ground? “The risk of self-censorship is more on the side of the festivals, estimate the editors of tieniens. As much as we can estimate that for us censorship has been reversed by making us more visible, it is unlikely that an author of humorous comic strips from the radical left will be exhibited next year in Saint-Malo.

Quai desbulles is not the first festival to comply with municipal requirements. Last June, the comic book festival in Dieppe offended the city's sensibilities with its slightly low-cut poster signed Jim that the organizers had to camouflage with a pile of books. “I do not agree with the town hall, but what matters to me is that the festival takes place in the best possible conditions, in calm and good spirit,” considered Jean-Pierre Surest, president of the Norman comic strip association. Faced with the controversy and the media excitement, the City finally reversed course and announced that the “original version” would be maintained.

Also read: Asterix, Tintin, Lucky Luke..., in Canada, schools destroy 5,000 books deemed offensive to Indigenous people

In Champigny-sur-Marne, a fresco by Chloé Wary was covered with white paint in October, reports our colleague from Libé. Even if the city's cultural affairs department claimed an error, "it is indeed censorship," lamented the designer to the daily. “However unintentional and accidental it may be,” she added.

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