The Cross Art Projects. Artist Exhibition, Debra Phillips, A talker’s echo. 2023

Mehmet Adil / Elizabeth Gertsakis / Michael Jones: The Wording of Police Charges — 14 September to 13 October 2007

The Wording of Police Charges: Mehmet Adil, Elizabeth Gertsakis & Michael Jones (Sedition)

The Cross Art Projects

14 September to 13 October 2007

Many find the suppression of freedom of expression under the government’s Terror Laws unacceptable. But the suppression is spreading. The government is utilising its legislative armory in more and more mainstream ways.

Artists Mehmet Adil, Elizabeth Gertsakis and Michael Jones consider how restrictions to freedom of expression have quickly spread from remote legislative meeting rooms into civic and private realms.

The circle of ‘suspects’ now includes journalists, scholars, students, lawyers, unionists and Aboriginal communities who disagree with authoritarian intervention legislation. Post-APEC, suspects include jay-walking accountants and accredited press photographers.

The exhibition title The Wording of Police Charges is one of fifty book covers adopted by the American artist RB Kitaj for his print series In Our Time (1979). Police Charges was a bestseller of its day.

Elizabeth Gertsakis’s installation is based on a censored newspaper Police News (or The Citizen), produced over three years from 1875. Her new prints take up the crude graphic style of Police News and poetically reinterpret the newspapers’ burlesque and pathos. Each is accompanied by a newspaper-style interpretative poem.

The popularity of Police News threatened the sales of Melbourne’s Age and Argus newspapers. Richard Egan-Lee, a radical writer and agitator, devised the paper and drew on the political tradition of William Cobbett’s Political Register to advocate radical, social and parliamentary reform.

Egan-Lee’s weekly diet of illustrated voyeurism focused on local criminality and corruption as a form of social and political criticism. Egan-Lee demanded the ‘unlocking of land’ from squatters and forecast the direction taken by free selection laws in the 1860s.

Egan-Lee’s success in producing an illustrated weekly for the masses led to the Age and Argus pressing charges on grounds of obscenity. This resulted in changes to censorship legislation, creating a legacy of strict control lasting into the 1970s.

In contrast to public advocacy, Mehmet Adil’s installation, Envy of the Visible-Invisible, captures fragile moments in an intimate process of thinking and writing. His images and objects act as connectors between a transitory thought and the recording of it. Here, thinking and writing are in transition toward a more crystallised form of a concept.

In a more pragmatic sense, the artist responds to a rhetorical question regarding art and its place in a broader social and cultural context. Any given answer is contingent on the cultural, social and political variables of its own time and space.

Michael Jones has cut words from the banner headlines of our daily newspapers, a daily diet of illustrated voyeurism and terrorist criminality, for his series of Apostasy collages. Like Egan-Lee before him, these images have a furious political intent.

We have seen the sort of society politicians will tolerate to gain their own ends: a society that on a daily basis accepts people being held without charge, and, in court, evidence heard in camera, the use of pseudonyms and the suppression of evidence from publication (and its selective release by the government). Increasingly, it is the Attorney General who tells us what we can read and know.


Michael Jones, Sedition, 275 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst.
Jones curates Apostasy, a weekly series of improvised encounters. 

If you see something, say something: a discussion, exhibition and publishing project in Sydney in January and February 2007. The project, involving a small number of international and Australian artists, looked at politics and aesthetics in the context of the Terror Wars.