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TEDx Brussels loses licence due to censorship

14:35 06/03/2018

The international TED conference has revoked Brussels’ licence allowing it to operate events under the TED name because of what it calls “a deeply inappropriate response” to one of its talks. The incident occurred during yesterday’s annual TEDxBrussels event in Bozar.

TEDx organisers forcibly removed Brussels-based artist Deborah De Robertis from the stage during her talk. De Robertis is known for her guerrilla performance art in which she mimics museum paintings.

Her most controversial acts involve nudity, including mimicking the spread legs of Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde” (The Origin of the World) and Edouard Manet’s reclining nude “Olympia”, both at the d’Orsay in Paris. While visitors seem to appreciate her work – leading to spontaneous applause in the case of “L’Origine” – museum staff are less enthusiastic, and De Robertis has been arrested on more than one occasion.

The artist, originally from Luxembourg, has explained different performances in different terms, including pointing out that many of the women who posed for paintings were also artists – but you won’t find their work in the d’Orsay. Her work also questions voyeurism by confronting visitors with a nude who can meet their gaze.

Broken promise

De Robertis’s TEDx talk was performance oriented, but she did not remove her clothes. She did show images of her performances. She refused to walk off stage and was pulled off the stage lying on her back by organisers.

According to Focus Knack, TEDxBrussels – run by a group of volunteers – was told by De Robertis that she would not show images from her performances as part of her talk. When she did, they decided to shut it down. The New York-based Sapling Foundation, which owns TEDx, did not agree with the move.

“We have reviewed the situation and spoken with the organiser,” wrote TEDx on its blog yesterday. “While we know there are moments when it is difficult to decide how to respond to a situation, this response was deeply inappropriate. We are immediately revoking the TEDxBrussels licence granted to this individual.”

Photo: Deborah De Robertis, just before being removed from the Bozar stage