Artists against censorship and blasphemy: the first Festival for Freedom of Expression is born

The first arts festival for freedom of expression against censorship and accusations of blasphemy is born in Naples. It will be held in the Campania capital from September 10 to 30, 2021.

The first Festival of Arts for Freedom of Expression is born in Naples: it is titled Ceci n’est pas un blasphème and will take place in the Campania capital from September 10 to 30, 2021 at PAN.The festival is curated and directed by Emanuela Marmo, who has brought together artists, authors and exponents of secular culture around a few questions: “Is denouncing the financial powers of churches or their support of dictatorships and paramilitary organizations blasphemous? Challenging the custom of child brides or is the headscarf requirement unjust? Is exposing gender or role stereotypes constructed by traditions illegitimate? Dictatorships, child abuse, sexual discrimination-isn’t all this much more dangerous than blasphemy?”

The festival enjoys the support of several organizations, and the Naples Department of Culture, in the form of moral patronage, has granted space. The event, however, does not benefit from financial contributions, so a crowdfunding fundraiser is underway on the GoFundMe platform, which will support set-up, production and hospitality expenses. Proceeds from ticketing, on the other hand, will be donated toward the legal expenses of people on trial for blasphemy.

Festival sections and exhibitions

The Festival revolves around five exhibitions. One section is dedicated to Don Zauker, a satirical creature by Daniele Caluri and Emiliano Pagani. Don Zauker is an accomplished, accurate caricature of a priest, but he is not a ridiculous character in the manner of Don Abbondio. Physically, and thus in the behavioral framework, he embodies the kind of man the average Western male would like to be: Don Zauker is indeed violent, sexist, blasphemous, and does nothing to hide his vices, although he is an exorcist and, as such, should be pure and steadfast. The selection of images offered, curated by the artists themselves, allows a journey through the vicissitudes of the character and offers a repertoire of visions and memories of the creative experience of the Caluri-Pagani duo.

The subvertisers Ceffon, DoubleWhy, Hogre, Illustre Feccia, Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives will present a collective project: in fact, Hogre and DoubleWhy have been denounced for vilification of religion because of two works, Ecce Homo erectus and Immaculata Conceptio in vitro. The first is a violent yet effective satire on the concept of innocence, purity, mediated through the image of a white, Western, handsome teacher who “preaches love, but... ”, while the second hypothesizes a similarity between the immaculate impregnation of a virgin by the holy spirit and in vitro fertilization. Illustrious Scum and Ceffon confront religion repeatedly, clearing the fables of sanctity and transforming expletive into a pop pose. The charge of vulgarity is transfigured into an emancipatory “consumer” effect in an anti-propagandist key. Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives, in 2018, sarcastically took a stance on an initiative by Bavarian minister Markus Söder, who mandated that Christian crosses be hung at the entrance of every state building. This obviously repudiated the separation of church and state and the principle of neutrality, according to which the state should not favor any religion. The artist, therefore, thought of making his own contribution, sending crucifixes to dozens of state buildings, along with instructions on how to hang them: having placed the suspension hook on the bottom edge, they were to be hung upside down. For Ceci n’est pas un blasphème Ceffon, DoubleWhy, Hogre, Illustre Feccia, Spelling Mistakaes Cost Lives will develop a site-specific project.

One of the rooms on the second floor of the PAN will be dedicated to Abel Azcona: videos and objects will mark the stages of the judicial persecution suffered by the artist because of the work entitled Amen, with the word “pederasty” composed of 242 hosts he received at masses and religious services at the churches of his childhood and adolescence. The artist thus retraced an actually lived experience of pain, but he also wanted to go beyond the biographical dimension: 242 were, in fact, the cases of pedophilia reported that year in northern Spain. The author was challenged by several Catholic organizations, several denunciations followed, and although the trials were successful, the detractors proceeded to initiate others, until the artist, as a sign of civil disobedience, refused to appear in court and went into exile in Lisbon.

Finally, Giorgio Franzaroli, Malt, Pierz, and Yele Maria share a section devoted to the relationship between graphic satire and religion: Franzaroli’s repertoire, carnal and expressive, returns a portrait of a cynical and businesslike clergy. Malt is an anonymous artist who experiments with different communicative strategies: he donated to the Dioscotto campaign an urban installation in continuity with what has already been done by the subvertisers, and a sculpture, exhibited only once, on the occasion of the large square exhibition organized in 2019 in Piazza Dante in Naples. Malt is the author of the Festival’s logo, while Pierz tells us that God is “man’s best friend,” and Yele redesigns the Madonna, restoring to woman an absolutely subjective space of choice and expression. The artistic journey is completed by a documentary exhibition that transforms court cases, victims’ stories and reconstructions of events into objects and exhibition material. This section also hosts the collective realized with the illustrations and cartoons that are being received by the organization in the form of moral support for the Festival.

Events, meetings and live

The Festival also features meetings, events, live performances, and lectures. Every Friday, curated by satirical comedian Daniele Fabbri and in collaboration with TheComedyClub, stand-up comedy performances are scheduled. Theatrical and musical performances, readings, will offer evocative and hilarious opportunities for encounters. Space will then be given to talk-shows hosted by Luca Iavarone, who will alternate between entertainment and in-depth analysis through interviews, video links with the outside world and musical or satirical-theatrical performances by the guests scheduled on the program. There will also be talk: guests include Rana Ahmed, Raffaele Minieri, Maryam Namazie, Adele Orioli, Cinzia Sciuto.

Again, Ceci n’est pas un blasphème asks art and human rights activism to meet around a crucial issue, which often sees the secular world itself divided and hesitant: since “religious sentiment” has become a political object, the issue of respect has been diluted in rhetoric, but also in fear. According to the organizers, the claim that religious matter is excluded from any critical discourse exploits a general incompetence in recognizing and reading the codes and semantic levels that are layered in an artistic work. The inability to grasp cross-references and contextualize artistic interventions therefore contributes to the criminalization of creative manifestations that are often simply satirical or anticlerical. The artists present, therefore, on the one hand claim an opportunity for freedom, and on the other participate in the debate by demonstrating the cultural and social relevance of secular and anticlerical thought, providing a solid framework to promote and support the activities of the organizations that, in addition to the Pastafarian movement, support the Festival: Atheist Refugee Relief, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, Ex-Muslims of Italy, Secular Initiative, MicroMega, One Law for All, Uaar. Media-partners: LaTestata Magazine,, GaiaItalia Magazine. For all info you can visit the

Artists against censorship and blasphemy: the first Festival for Freedom of Expression is born
Artists against censorship and blasphemy: the first Festival for Freedom of Expression is born

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