Culture

Sydney University Has Been Accused Of Censoring A Pro-Queer Mural

"It's censorship of our queerness, our identities and our love."

The University of Sydney is under fire after staff painted over a mural that formed part of an art installation called Queer Attack.

The work was painted by visual artist Samuel Leighton-Dore in the university’s Graffiti Tunnel during the university’s Verge Festival, which is organised by the University of Sydney Union.

The curator of Queer Attack, Lucy Le Masurier, wrote in a Facebook post that “the point of this work, and all the works in the tunnel, was to provide queer and LGBTI+ awareness. Even more so it was about visibility of our bodies and experiences.”

Last night the work was defaced and today Campus Infrastructure Services (CIS) contractors painted over it entirely.

In a tweet, Leighton-Dore said the mural had been removed “allegedly due to a staff member finding it offensive”.

“I just think it’s a great shame,” Leighton-Dore told Junkee. “The mural was intended to bring joy, laughter and reflection, and all those who passed while I was working on it did so with big cheeky grins.

“There needs to be an outrage triage system. Is a mural depicting naked cartoon queer people loving each other really that offensive in today’s social landscape of violence and overt discrimination?”

On Facebook Le Masurier described the decision to paint over the mural as “censorship of our queerness, our identities and our love.”

“The erasure of Sam’s work speaks volumes to the level of acceptance around our LGBT+ identities,” she told the University of Sydney’s student paper, Honi Soit. “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.”

“It’s a sweet irony that their attempt at censorship might result in more people seeing the mural than would’ve if it had been left up,” Leighton-Dore told Junkee.

Sydney University’s Graffiti Tunnel after the mural had been painted over. Credit: Siobhan Ryan

In a statement provided to Junkee, the University of Sydney Union said “It has been brought to our attention that artwork in the Graffiti Tunnel, which was part of the Queer Attack exhibition for Verge Festival, has been removed by CIS contractors. Through no fault of their own, CIS were unaware that the artwork was part of the Verge festival.

“As far as we know this was done in line current University policy for the tunnel which allows for the removal of work that ‘are offensive or cause complaints’. 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.”

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