Angoulême Festival Cancels Bastien Vivès Citing Physical Threats

Earlier this year, French comic book artist Bastien Vivès was to receive a retrospective exhibition at next month's Angoulême comic book festival. This caused a storm amongst the French comic book community and media, as his 2018 series for Glenat, Petit Paul, received increased scrutiny, given that it features a young boy being repeatedly assaulted by adults. Vivès has also been criticized for using online pseudonyms to attack and insult feminists.

Angoulême Festival Heavily Criticised Over Bastien Vivès Exhibition
Petit Paul by Bastien Vivès

Creators such as Emma denounced the Angoulême exhibition, joined by Marie Bardiaux-Vaïente, Jul Maroh, Pénélope Bagieu, and more. A petition criticising the exhibition has attracted over 110,000 signatures, though come creators, including Catel Muller came out in favour of him. And now The Angoulême Comics Arts Festival, which has seen its fair share of controversy, has dropped the exhibition, saying (translated)

"The Angouleme International Comic Strip Festival recently announced the programming of an exhibition dedicated to Bastien Vivès. This announcement has given rise, over the past few days, to many comments from Internet users. Some feel defamatory with regard to the author concerned and the Festival, others, measured and argued, attest to the sensitivity and commitment to the cause of childhood and women, among those who are involved in it. Originally, it was the latter that the Festival wanted and wanted to hear, and for this reason it undertook to consult with its partners in order to consider a position that would take them into account. In this very short period of time, new facts have radically changed the nature of this situation and now impose on the Festival the need to cancel this exhibition. Thus, physical threats have not been made against Bastien Vivès. It is therefore not possible for the event to envisage that its programming could pose such risks to an author and, potentially, in a few weeks, to its festival-goers. Other precedents demonstrate this to us. In addition, intimidation appears against members of the Festival team.

It is now up to the competent authorities to deal with the situation. In this context, the Festival wishes to clarify the following points:

• the exhibition he had planned to dedicate to Bastien Vives was based on the presentation of unpublished original creations and not – as many fanciful comments suggest – content taken from his work (the press kit sent to journalists on November 28 attests to this).
• The Festival considers that the work of Bastien Vines, as a whole, falls within freedom of expression and that it is up to the law to draw the boundaries in this area and to justice to enforce them. The Festival recalls in this regard, that to its knowledge, the author, currently incriminated on social networks, has not been the subject of any complaint of any kind whatsoever. He also emphasizes that several works by Bastien Vives have been and will be the subject of adaptations of different kinds – in the cinema, on platforms, in the form of animated series… – by different artists and that many prizes have been awarded to him for years by all kinds of juries

On this subject, the debate at stake concerns questions as old as art. Those relating to the freedom of expression and creation, to the responsibility of artists, to social evolutions, to morality, to the barriers between fiction and reality, to censorship, and to self-censorship . So many questions that constantly cross an Event like the Festival, involving very diverse audiences – families, children, teachers, pedagogues… – of whose vocation is also that of highlighting the creations of artists questioning our societies.

It seems essential to pose this debate in serenity. The Festival will lead it through the time of its unfolding via its treatment within the framework of a prospective forum — where it will not fail to invite some of the internet stakeholders who have expressed themselves recently by questioning it.
• Bastien Vivèsmade various remarks – stale in time – which may seem to some and in absolute terms, very shocking and/or out of place: the Festival was not initially aware of many of them. Given the situation, it is up to the author to explain, in the manner he deems appropriate, their meaning, their reason for being and to specify the circumstances in which they were pronounced.
The Festival hopes that its announcement will contribute to bringing serenity to a situation that now requires it, and hopes that invectives and threats will give way to debate.
The Festival recalls that it has precisely been intended, since its origin, to be a space for dialogue and that culture is an essential factor in bringing together the citizens of the world.

The petition now states in part(translated),"The BebraveFrance Movement welcomes the deprogramming of the exhibition dedicated to Bastien Vivès at the Angoulême Festival… We would like to thank the more than 100,000 people who signed our petition and the cartoonists who took a stand. It is a victory that we snatched together," but also, "We strongly condemn any threats made against him."

The Angoulême Comics Arts Festival will be held in Angoulême, from Thursday, the 26th to Sunday the 29th of January, 2o23.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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