The Censorship of Art

There is an article on the Deviant Art titled Good Nude vs. Bad Nude that caught my interest, particularly with the Questions for the Reader at the end. I wanted to see what my current answers are, so…

  • Do you think there is too much nude subject matter on deviantART or is it a non-issue for you? How much do you think your gender or sexual preferences might influence your answer?

For me, it’s a non-issue. I’m not very sexually expressive myself, but some people are, and I’m not above appreciating it – be it in a sexual way or simply for its beauty. Aside from whatever the artists intent might be in creating an art piece – whether to express sensuality, evoke lustful thoughts and feelings, or even to simply portray a beautiful form – I don’t see a problem.

I know some women who would jump on my answer and say, “well yeah, but your a guy”, but that’s bullshit. If a piece of art speaks to me, then it speaks. Nudity isn’t a good thing or a bad thing – if it’s an aspect of a painting or a photo, then it’s an aspect of the artwork, it just is. There’s other factors to though, and in the absence of a naked body, I don’t automatically think more or less of it. And hell, if you want to talk about film and moviemaking as an art form, filthy dirty sex can be a profound element, adding depth to the characters, to the relationships, to the storyline, etc.

That a person would have a problem with it in most contexts tends to speak more to the person than it does to the art. Though some would argue a presence of femininity within me in this respect, I don’t believe my gender plays much of a role in my ability to appreciate art. I’ll grant that there are male/female stereotypes based around feminine and masculine archetypes that are often close enough to the mark, but I look at the Individual first. If gender is a factor at all in their approaches, outlooks, or inclinations, its usually secondary.

  • When is censorship of art permissible? Where would you draw the line? What rational rule could you offer as a practical guideline?

When is censorship permissible? Age restrictions would play a bit of a role I guess. Other than that, censorship should never be taken to the level that, if I wanted a completely uncensored version of something I’d be unable to get it. That’d just piss me right the fuck off. If people want to listen to chopped up versions of a song and set age restrictions for the uncensored versions – of movies, music, novels, paintings, etc. – then fine, but there also needs to be an uncensored, pure version (i.e. pure expression, presented as it was meant to be) for the people who want it.

That’s where I draw the line I s’pose: censorship goes to far, if or when it permanently alters original works of art and restricts any and all access only to chopped up, corrupted works of art. The only upside to being censored that I can see is the idea that it offers artists a challenge, a limitation to overcome, boundaries you can learn to push in clever ways – and idea I was introduced to watching a youtube video of Marilyn Manson acting as a guest speaker/teacher at some college a while back. That can actually add to the effort, quality, and admirable elements present.

  • Have you ever had a work of art you created censored or banned in any way?

Actually, yeah. In elementary school when I was pretty little. I liked to draw swords, guns, zombies, and things like that. The teachers were never to fond of my tastes. *shrugs* As far as censorship at home… well, there really wasn’t any such thing with my Dad. I remember Rob Zombie’s album artwork was something I liked to replicate on my own; I remember that I associated swords and guns with bad-ass demons, half-breed vampires, and things of the like, I remember that werewolves were fucking awesome (still are, actually)… Blood and a little bit of gore just came with the territory. Furthermore, he took me on terribly long-walks, during which we’d shoot trash with BB guns and (later on) slingshots, we’d go to his friends houses and the only thing I didn’t really do with ’em was smoke pot – that far back anyways. He also taught me virtually every ‘bad word’ he knew when I was around five or six; in place of censorship I got exposure, and because of that I learned where, when, and with whom it was appropriate (at least as a starting foundation, which I later changed up a bit and explored) – this applies to cussing, obviously, but other things to.

  • If an artist really believes in what he or she has created, how should the artist respond to censorship of that art? Have you been made aware of an instance of “art suppression” via the Internet?

lol, Maybe with violence – seriously. Obviously that depends on the context… whether the artist is being realistic, whether there are ways around it, and whether he’s willing to deal with he consequences, and so on. But generally speaking, I think it’s important for artists that are being pressured with slander and attempts at censureship to protect their right to expression… what that means, ultimately, is that the appropriate response is to exercise the creative freedom, not just saying it’s there, but demonstrating it.

  • Would you ever suggest to another artist that he or she should tone a work of art down or agree to the censorship of an art object in a specific situation?

I’d need a context, and I’d also assume a given person can consider my opinion without their decision hinging solely on what I say. But generally? No, a persons art is his or her own. I’ll speak my mind, it’s a natural thing for me to want to influence things towards what I want them to be, but I hardly have a problem with essentially getting a middle finger in response to an attempt at censorship from me. I have an appreciation for the conflict, the genuine exercise of personal power from other people, the interaction of influences.

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2 comments

  1. I actually wrote a poem in high school for a competition… and although my english teacher wanted to give me first place, the principal wouldn’t allow it because it was “inappropriate subject matter for a high school”… it was about self-harm, and apparently was too disturbing to be let loose on my peers…

    I remember I was always kind of proud of that. I wrote something too shocking to be read, lol. Being censored made me want to speak even more; it was like, why do you have a problem with this? Why do you *need* this swept away? And now whenever I see censorship, that’s what I wonder. I personally think artists should express as they want to. DeviantArt is great cuz you can put the mature filter on, and leave it to the viewer’s discretion. Just cuz someone else doesn’t want to hear it or see it – why infringe on someone else’s right to say it? If you don’t like cuss words in music, then don’t listen to the radio channels that play those songs, keep your Google SafeSearch on high, Parental Controls, etc.

    And as for nudity, lol, well, as a woman, I’m completely in love with the visual aspects of female body – including my own. I take so many nude photos of myself, and they are publicly available in a few discreet places as art. Somehow we fell into thinking our bodies are dirty, wrong, things to be ashamed of… if I could master a photography that expressed how stupid that way of thinking is in the same way I feel able to talk bluntly through poetry, that would be awesome.

  2. “Being censored made me want to speak even more; it was like, why do you have a problem with this?”
    I think that is one of the most valuable qualities of controversial art. If it bothers someone, then it’s all the better for that someone to be exposed to it. Besides, someone’s always going to bitch about it.

    If you still have it around, would you mind sending that poem my way?

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