Ruling Out Art

9780774837088: Hardback
Release Date: 15th May 2019

9780774837095: Paperback
Release Date: 15th November 2019

9780774837101: PDF
Release Date: 15th May 2019

9780774837118: EPUB
Release Date: 15th May 2019

31 b&w photos

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 264

Series Law and Society

UBC Press

Ruling Out Art

Media Art Meets Law in Ontario’s Censor Wars

This fascinating account of Ontario’s 1980s’ censor wars shows that when art intersects with law, artists have the power to transform the law, and the law, in turn, can influence the concept of art.
Hardback / £60.00
Paperback / £21.99
PDF / £27.00
EPUB / £27.00

In the 1980s, the Ontario Board of Censors began to subject media artists’ work to the same cuts, bans, and warning labels as commercial film. This innovative exploration of how art and law intersected in the ensuing censor wars turns a spotlight on the powerful role that artists can play in the administration of culture. When artists and their anti-censorship allies mounted grassroots protests and entered courts of law, they impacted how the province interpreted freedom of expression. The language of the law in turn shaped the way artists conceived of their own practices.


1 Historicizing Censorship

2 Misunderstandings between Art and Law

3 Competing Anti-Censorships and Mixed Legal Outcomes

4 Defining Communities with Uncertainty

5 Media Artists Mobilize, Mobilizing Media Arts


Appendix: Censorship Jurisprudence and Landmark Legal Challenges

Notes; Bibliography; Index

Taryn Sirove is an art historian and independent curator based in Toronto. Her research focuses on contemporary art in Canada, particularly new media work and policy frameworks for the regulation of media art.

Ruling Out Art is an engaging history of arts censorship in Ontario during the 1980s and early 1990s. Taryn Sirove clearly understands the relationship between those who engage in civil disobedience work, protests, and public awareness campaigns, and those who undertake strategic litigation and law reform. To her credit, she does not privilege or denigrate one type of work over the other.

Karen Busby, professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba

For artists and institutions directly involved in the censorship struggles of the 1980s, Taryn Sirove’s Ruling Out Art is a well-researched study which demonstrates that their efforts were not completely in vain. This book is an excellent addition to the media and censorship historiography in Canada and will introduce a new generation to the culture wars around censorship and gay rights that were central to artists’ concerns of the late 1970s through to the 1990s – many of which persist today.

Bruce Barber, professor of media arts, art history, and contemporary culture, NSCAD University