In the turbulent wake of public violence aimed by radical Muslims against the religious satire artist Lars Vilks last month in Uppsala, the World Culture Museum in Gothenburg ignored pleas for free expression and denied space next year for an exhibit of photographs by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin. Named "Jerusalem," the currently canceled wing was sponsored with a contribution of nearly $5,000 (SEK 40,000) from RFSL ("RiksFörbundet för Sexuell Likhet" - the Swedish federation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights).

As a perplexing notation, the Gothenburg museum was also among the initial sponsors of Wallin's exhibition. "It is very surprising that the World Culture Museum in Gothenburg decided not to show the Jerusalem exhibition. They are obviously cowards and do not dare to host the controversial subjects that they claim to welcome," said RFSL's league president Ulrika Westerlund.


Consisting of 13 photographs taken by Wallin in Israel and Palestine earlier this year, the exhibit associates religious repression and homosexuality. In assessing the images' potential to evoke violent reactions, museum officials gathered Christians, Jews and Muslims who judged that some of the photos could be perceived as insulting to their fellow believers.

As a defused compromise, the World Culture Museum considered watering down the impact of the images by showing them only in single file succession using a computer presentation program or by imprisoning them in what they termed a "safe space" where visitors could be restricted in numbers and behavior. In rejecting these proposals, Ohlson Wallin said that the museum was avoiding the risk of violating religious representatives wrath by, instead, opting to violate the civil rights of homosexuals.

RFSL's Westerlund hopes now that a backlash to the World Culture Museum's ban will lead to greater interest to host the exhibit from museums and galleries around Sweden and internationally, and the artist states that she plans to show her photographic images anywhere exhibition space is adequate to accommodate audiences.

One of Ohlson Wallin'sprevious photo exhibitions, called "Ecce Homo," brought the Christian religion into focus and evoked outcries from clerics and worshipers due to its depictions of Jesus and the Disciples in scenes that contained clearly homosexual overtones.

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