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The best publicity around…

Posted By Kulvinder On 25th September, 2007 @ 3:29 pm In Current affairs | 6 Comments

The apparent [1] seizure of one of Nan Goldin’s photographs in Tyneside is one of the funniest things i’ve read about in a long time. There is really little more one can do other than laugh at the righteously dull who get upset at what they consider to be obscene. We may as well open a new [2] Secretum or [3] Secret Museum and fully take on the Victorian distaste for art we consider disgusting.

The Crown Prosecution Service is now thoroughly examining a photograph that shows a young girl with her legs apart so that we may not be appalled, challenged or forced to think by a piece of art. Mary Whitehouse would have been proud. We need more artistic censorship.

Obviously this is brilliant publicity for the exhibition. For what its worth i’ve never considered Nan Goldin’s work to be all that shocking - or interesting to me. But though I’m not a fan she should have every right to display her art as she wishes.

Sunny adds: The same could be said about the news that the Royal Gala for the film Brick Lane [4] has been cancelled amidst fears of protests. Here we go again…

6 Comments To "The best publicity around…"

#1 Comment By El Cid On 25th September, 2007 @ 4:17 pm

The public display of naked children in a sexually suggestive format may merit censoring Kulvinder.
To make an exception just because some people call it ‘art’ or ‘artistic expression’ is discriminatory against those who might do it for different reasons.
It’s not exactly comparable with this, which was far more shocking:
[5] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1299

Art that shocks (yawn)

#2 Comment By Kulvinder On 25th September, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

That is an interesting point; from my pov obviously there wouldn’t be any distinction since the very admission that a dichotomy is needed renders the entire thing obsolete; if an artist is complaining that the government shouldn’t use nonsensical arguments to censor art then by rights the rest of us should complain that artists shouldn’t use nonsensical arguments to justify a special exemption for themselves. It should be all or nothing.

Allowing only the CPS to view those images makes about as much sense as only allowing people to create them in the name of art.

Having said that limiting intellectual scope because of public morality isn’t the way to progress society and is the very antithesis of what art should be. It exists at the edges for a reason and depriving it the ability to explore those edges neuters it to the level kitsch banality.

If we don’t want an intellectually free society then we should have the courage of our convictions to say that, but espousing freedom whilst practising the opposite is just dishonest.

#3 Comment By Sunny On 25th September, 2007 @ 5:01 pm

If we don’t want an intellectually free society then we should have the courage of our convictions to say that, but espousing freedom whilst practising the opposite is just dishonest.

We’re in danger of regurgitating the same arguments here. An intellectually free society may also mean popularising hateful ideas like ‘paedophilia is good’ or ‘racism is inevitable’ etc… For obvious reasons people will want a stop to that because every society wants moral limits to what ideas should be perpetuated.

#4 Comment By Kulvinder On 25th September, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

Ah but theres a difference between an idea being discussed or explored and an idea being practised. The point of art has always primarily been the former.

Every society may well want limits, but every society that wants progress also needs the ability to - at the very least - explore and discuss those limits. My concern in this case isn’t that society is preventing something from happening, rather that society via the CPS is preventing it from being explored.

This is all conjecture since that image is now censored, but my point is that as a form of artistic expression that image isn’t doing anything other than exploring whatever it is the artist wishes to explore. There is absolutely no obligation on society to agree with what the artist says, and arguing that the simple act of producing that art somehow necessitates or subverts society in a specific direction flatters the amount of power an artist actually has.

Society is only revealing its own insecurities by limiting the scope of the artist’s ideas. Its about not trusting yourself to make up your own mind and think for yourself.

#5 Comment By Katy Newton On 25th September, 2007 @ 6:15 pm

The problem is that it’s impossible to judge without seeing the picture. I mean, I find those awful child pageants in America where pre-teen girls are plastered in makeup and squeezed into skimpy adult dance suits pretty pornographic. And yet I can watch a Channel 4 documentary which shows those children gyrating sexually in front of a load of slavering adults for a cash prize but I can’t have a look at this photo to decide for myself whether it’s pornographic or not.

#6 Comment By Arif On 26th September, 2007 @ 9:28 am

Seems to me there are two different levels of the child pornography debate in general - the first about protection of children involved, the second about the sensibilities of society and its values.

If a child is not being mistreated, then the issue about the sensibilities of society can be put into the usual context of censorship versus responsibility. In my view, art is an intervention into society and people involved in it have a responsibility in my eyes (whether they accept it or not) for the values they are espousing through it. If the values they are espousing are misunderstood, then they can apologise and withdraw the art, as it has failed in its supposed purpose. If the values they are espousing are well understood, then they should take responsibility as much as any social commentator.

What I mean by taking responsibility is just to accept the consequences of your art or other social comments (as long as those consequences do not include loss of inalienable human rights - themselves a set of social values) and either defend your message (again within the framework of human rights) or withdraw the art work voluntarily.

I don’t think censorship - in itself - removes an inalienable human right. So I agree with Sunny to the extent that somewhere somehow someone has to take a judgment of what limits need to be placed on speech to protect human rights and welfare. As long as those limits themselves can be discussed responsibly, I think censorship protects all of us.

But what about limits to protect other social values (not human rights and welfare)? Although the line between speech which threatens people’s safety and threatens their sentiments is very blurry, here we wold be discussing the etiquettes of speech. For example, there are many things I wish to say but do not, because my experience is that it upsets people to the extent that further rational discussion becomes impossible. Sometimes it seems people even probe my opinions so they can get the satisfaction of feeling righteous anger towards me!

Personally, I would feel protected by censorship because I don’t enjoy angry confrontation. But if someone does seek such confrontation and maybe finds them productive, why should they be censored? I think they should not, as they seek the controversy and are willing to take responsibility for it. But as the police are responsible to the State for protecting public order, I guess the police have decided it is easier to protect human rights and welfare by removing artworks than by patrolling art galleries. The discussion about it (the art and actions taken) goes on uncensored.

So I can persuade myself that all is best in the best of all possible worlds … in this case.

Article printed from Pickled Politics: http://www.pickledpolitics.com

URL to article: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1402

URLs in this post:
[1] seizure of one of Nan Goldin’s photographs: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/09/25/nbaltic125.xml
[2] Secretum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretum_(British_Museum)
[3] Secret Museum: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_Museum,_Naples
[4] has been cancelled: http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2176729,00.html
[5] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1299: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1299