The File Room. Chicago Cultural Center, United States. 1994

The File Room is a temporary physical installation and a permanent, expandable database on the internet, with all the information referring to artistic or cultural censorship. Visitors can view the site and add censorship cases. The black-metal-cabinet-walls and the darkness in the space evoke associations with oppressive institutional memory and authority. This installation, like many other Muntadas projects, brings with it in its execution, evolution and maintenance a collective spirit that is open to a public and a social space of dialogue, discussion and successive contributions. The File Room does not presume the role of a library, an encyclopedia, or even a copyeditor, in the traditional sense. It claims no scholarly, editorial or scientific authority, but instead proposes alternative methods for information collection, processing and distribution, to stimulate dialogue and debate around issues of censorship and archiving. Censorship is a crude, blatant realisation of social restraints. Such repression when public, forced and obvious is censorship. When internal, automatic, and unconscious, it is ideology.

The File Room is now considered one of the classic early works created for the internet. Muntadas’s TVE: Primer Intento; was one of the first cases posted on the site, when the artist himself was confronted with censorship. Muntadas also described it as a reaction to the political and cultural controversies in the US around artists like Mapplethorpe and Serrano, in addition to the public debate about the internet and freedom of speech in the public domain. A significant aspect of the initial installation presented in Chicago was the visitor’s access to the internet at a time when a relatively small percentage of the US population was online.