LAWRENCE BROSE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND


The Issues

The issues here are fundamental: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and artistic freedom. The case is precedent-setting, and will help determine whether anyone exercising their right to free speech can be criminalized merely for their ideas—a fundamental violation of the United States Constitution.

The case of Lawrence Brose is a prime example of the contemporary abuse of power by Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The charges brought against Brose essentially make engaging a difficult issue a criminal offense and recall the government’s tactics during the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. Like that infamous challenge to Democracy, this case questions how far the government can reach, unopposed, into artists’ studios, galleries, museums, and even our homes to silence free speech, thought, and inquiry.

Case For Support

Lawrence Brose is not a criminal, he is an artist, doing what artists do best: asking difficult questions about our life and times in order to illuminate a new perspective as we struggle to move forward as a culture. His experimental cinema has a distinguished track record of engaging issues that affect the gay community, such as AIDS and hostility from certain segments of the public. Facing problematical subjects is precisely the job that people like Brose carry out in our society – they explore unexamined dilemmas and present them for our contemplation. It is truly tragic to see him attacked with the blunt, and misguided legalistic weapon of pornography prosecution.

Lawrence Brose is working in a well-established tradition of image appropriation, drawing specifically on images of masculinity in home movies, old films, Gay erotica and documentaries. Brose collects found still images, which he then processes and re-processes to find more depth in the picture, producing complex layers of imagery that are highly conceptual and offer a poignant commentary on normative conventions of gender and sexuality. The final product is as abstract as the paintings of Willem de Kooning, and a seizure of source material entirely misrepresents the final outcome.

As experimental filmmakers Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol before him, Brose’s work pushes the envelope to create space for new expression. For our society to remain open and vibrant, the answer is not to criminalize that space for investigation, but rather to welcome it into the marketplace of free ideas for examination.

The case against Lawrence Brose demonstrates an inappropriate application of laws intended to protect children, and in the process victimizes an experimental artist seeking to comment on societal woes. The fact that he is under indictment for using images made by others to examine the taboos that the laws are meant to prevent--is as overreaching as it is troubling. It is so far from the intent of the law, that it serves only to create a climate of fear. The result is censorship and a chilling effect on the free expression of all artists and all people. Censorship of this nature, and in all of its many forms, occupies a realm of self-righteous presumption that abjures complexity and results only in contradiction. It is very important that as individuals living in a democratic society, we contribute to and speak out openly in Brose’s defense, in essence defending our own lives and our fundamental rights to think, work, and create freely.

This is the first time a case of this nature will be taken to trial. It is important to note that Brose was not searching for the alleged images nor is he accused of producing, distributing, buying or selling pornography. This suit will be a protracted and expensive ordeal; one that will have a profound impact on all artists. Your support is greatly needed and much appreciated.