University paints over mural celebrating queer visibility

The mural was part of an installation in the graffiti tunnel exploring queer rights as part of Queer Attack.

Campus Infrastructure Services staff member painting over the mural. Image courtesy of Kim Kemmis

The University has removed a mural in the graffiti tunnel that was painted as part of Queer Attack, an art installation curated in collaboration with the University of Sydney Union’s (USU) Verge Festival.

The mural was painted by Samuel Leighton-Dore as part of a larger collection of works, curated by Lucy Le Masurier, described in a USU brochure as “Looking at themes of current LGBT+ rights (that Marriage Equality situation…), homo-history and politics, and all things regarding queer visibility and representation”.

Leighton-Dore told Honi, “My orgy mural was intended to bring joy to those who viewed it … At a time of so much violence, anger and overt discrimination, the removal of a harmless line drawing of naked people — particularly as part of a larger curated queer art project for Verge Festival — feels petty at best and suppressive at worst.”

Le Masurier said, “This action disappoints me immensely, but does not at all surprise me … We’re talking about an institution that has done very little to support the arts in their academy, particularly in the past five years with the closure of the SCA Callan Park campus and extensive staff culls.”

“The erasure of Sam’s work speaks volumes to the level of acceptance around our LGBT+ identities. The fact that a cartoon of queer love, of body and gender diversity, could be deemed offensive to the point of censorship is so typical of our political state at the moment, that Sam and I have to laugh. It’s laugh or cry,” she said.

The University’s Advertising on Campus policy states that the graffiti tunnel “is the only site in the University where paint may be used” for graffiti, and that “The Facilities Management Office is entitled to refuse or remove at its discretion any sign which is offensive, conflicts with University objectives or has been the subject of a complaint.”

A University spokesperson told Honi, “Campus Infrastructure Services was alerted to this graffiti during a routine sweep of the campus for graffiti by a grounds person. Due to the sexually explicit nature of the graffiti (in a public space) it was removed.”

USU President Courtney Thompson told Honi, “We believe strongly in artistic freedom of expression; unfortunately the current policy for the tunnel may not reflect this. Perhaps, what this tells us, is that it is time to review the current Graffiti Tunnel policy and we will be speaking to the University about this.”

The removal comes one day before a “USyd Say Yes” rally, during which students plan to march along Eastern Avenue to Vice Chancellor Michael Spence’s office in response to the University not taking a stance on marriage equality.

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