April 30, 1997
AN ART student at San Francisco State University says the university administration censored his final master's degree project, a parody of a well-known corporate advertising campaign.
Andy Cox's controversial project is a series of posters lampooning New York-based Citibank's "In Your Dreams" billboard campaign. University officials removed the posters from a display case at SFSU's Muni stop some time during the night of April 23, Cox said.
"This is a blatant act of censorship," Cox told the Bay Guardian April 25. "The university just folded under Citibank's corporate pressure."
The posters featured such familiar figures as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Timothy Leary, and Che Guevara. Cox replaced the bank's ad copy with his own slogans.
"In your dreams everyone is treated equally," the Guevara piece reads. "And your bank sponsors socialist revolutions."
The posters were to be displayed through May 22. But, according to Cox, SFSU president Robert Corrigan ordered their removal after receiving a call from Citibank threatening a lawsuit.
Derek Hunt, associate dean of SFSU's College of Creative Art, confirmed that Corrigan had requested the removal of the artwork but would not comment further. Corrigan's office did not return Bay Guardian telephone calls by press time.
Cox maintains that the university had signed off on his proposal to place five color posters in display cases at the SFSU Muni stop April 20. The posters were removed without Cox's permission.
The fake ads are legal under the "fair use" exemption of copyright law, which exempts forms of parody from copyright infringement rules, Cox said. On advice from a copyright lawyer, he said, he had changed the name of the corporation from Citibank to Citybank and created a different logo.
Cox said the university's action underscores one of the themes of his project: the undue influence of corporate power over our culture.
"It speaks to the ever increasing corporate control of culture and also the links between universities and corporations," he said.
Cox's posters are on display through May 22 at the SFSU Art Department Gallery, SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway, Arts and Industry Building, Room 238, S.F.
In your dreams...