‘They [the conservative elite] were overly terrified, and that somehow in the fluorescent pages of our magazine in which we dealt with revolutionary politics, drugs, sexuality, racism, trying to be much more candid about these matters and very very defined, I think at last they felt if they could shut us up, if the could stop Oz, that they could somehow stop the rebellion.’ Richard Neville, ‘The Oz Trial, Innocents Defiled?’, BBC Radio 4, 17 May 1990
The exhibition, We Are Watching: OZ in London, will explore the creative output of a range of the magazine’s contributors over the six years that it was based in London, where it provided a voice to young journalists, artists and designers. This international network included Richard Neville, Martin Sharp, Felix Dennis, Jim Anderson, Robert Whitaker, Philippe Mora and Germaine Greer. Several other individuals were also fundamental in the success of OZ, their hard work unaccredited at the time, including Marsha Rowe and Louise Ferrier.
As well as focusing on the obscenity trial against the editors that took place in 1971, the exhibition will highlight many of the social and political issues that were addressed within the magazine. Through satire, serious journalism, art and design, OZ was part of the underground press that formed a voice against the establishment, raising awareness, and often controversially so, of issues such as race and gender prejudice, mistreatment of prisoners, homosexuality, and drug awareness.
Curated by Cherie Silver, the exhibition includes material from: the Richard Neville Papers at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (reprinted by kind permission of the Estate of Richard Neville); Felix Dennis Archive courtesy of James Birch and Barry Miles; Andrew Sclanders/BeatBooks.com; and the private collections of Marsha Rowe, Richard Adams and James Birch.
The Reading Room, organised by students from the Chelsea MA Curating and Collections course will incorporate material from the British underground press, OZ Sydney and Spare Rib, with original and archival material from the private collection of Marsha Rowe, co-founder of the magazine, Spare Rib.
*The OZ Obscenity Trial took place at the Old Bailey in 1971, where the three editors of OZ, Richard Neville, Jim Anderson and Felix Dennis were charged with conspiring to distribute an obscene magazine and intent to debauch and corrupt the morals of young children. It was the longest obscenity trial in British legal history. The editors were charged and gaoled but later acquitted on appeal.
A publication including original contributions from Jim Anderson, Philippe Mora and Marsha Rowe will accompany the exhibition.
Special thanks to Louise Ferrier, Jim Anderson, Marsha Rowe, Philippe Mora, Richard Adams, James Birch, Jonathon Green, Tina Mickelthwaite, Andrew Sclanders/BeatBooks.com, Stephen Bartley (Archivist at the Chelsea Arts Club), the Estate of Richard Neville, the Felix Dennis Archive, and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
This exhibition would not have been possible without the kind support and inspiration of Clytie Jessop (nee Lloyd-Jones) who sadly passed away in April this year.