NYPD Wanted to Censor Park Avenue Tunnel Art Piece

July 31, 2013 | Andy Cush

Next month, artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer will turn the Park Avenue Tunnel into an interactive multimedia installation that celebrates free speech. Pedestrians (!) will record messages into an intercom, which will then be broadcast through the tunnel along with lights and other sounds. I can’t wait to try it.

The NYPD, never content not to rain on a good parade, wanted to censor the piece by imposing a time delay and filtering out any messages deemed objectionable, the Guardian points out. Lozano-Hemmer, nobly, was having none of it. “In authoritarian regimes, that can work,” he told the New York Times. “But not here. This is the place for people to express their views. That’s what this project is about. And if you want to censor it — I’ve never in my life censored a work, and I won’t do it.”

The artist held out, and eventually a compromised was reached. A person will monitor the messages in real-time, and “all speech, controversial or not, will be permitted, except anything that could create immense alarm, like someone screaming ‘Fire!'” according to the Times.