March 8, 2007

Censorship in Art

Administrator’s note: Katie Brownell tackles the difficult issue of institutional censorship, posing some pertinent questions for this week’s discussion.

In her articles, "Feminist Fundamentalism: Women Against Images" and "The War on Culture", Carole S. Vance brings up various cases of censorship, including at the University of Michigan and the Corcoran Gallery of Art. In the first case, law students de-installed the exhibition "Porn'im'age'ry: Picturing Prostitution," claiming it was pornographic. A similar claim convinced the Corcoran [Museum] to cancel a retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe's photography [“The Perfect Moment”] shortly before it was to open. Vance refers to both cases as outright examples of censorship. However, especially in the case of museums, is it always right to immediately condemn the institution for censorship when they rely on public and private funding that could drastically decrease depending on the museums' choice of exhibitions? Is it more important to condemn the museum or would it be more productive to look at the system of funding that museums rely on? As Vance points out, the NEA's budget must be re-approved every few years, putting pressure on museums to choose shows that will not put this important source of funding in jeopardy.

Also, at what point in the decision process does the term censorship apply: as soon as any show is rejected, even if during the earliest stages of planning, or does the planning, or even installation, of a show have to be underway and then be rejected, as in the above cases, in order for it to be censorship?


Reading for 21 March: Ch. 14, "Cornered: A Video Installation Project" by Adrian Piper.


8 comments:

M. Cameron Boyd said...

For further reading and research, read this.

Tiffany Mamone said...

Everyone has a differnt opinion on what they think should be consored. From the reading and class discussion, i feel that just because there is a photograph of a child and their mother naked together it doesnt deserve a "peverted" label. I think that the way a photograph is composed make a differnce on weather it is precieved as a pornographic image or art. Any artist could say that their picture is art, but i some may have a hidden sexualy charged message that i dont think is apprppriate and needs censorship.

Nicholas Carr said...

Katie makes a good point about holding the museum responsible. Ultimately you have to please the people who are filling your purse, but there has to be a line drawn. just because someone has the money to put into "art" doesnt mean that have a good opinion on it. do we want a conservative christian to control what a museum can or cannot show? i think not. someone has to step up for the integerity of potentially offensive works. its is a fine line to walk, but we cannot let the funders stifle artistic voices.

Antea Roberts said...

When certain people are in the position to deem whether a work of art is offensive in any way, that is automatically censoring an artist. Unless everything is allowed to be shown, someone, somewhere will find something offensive. Should the NEA be comprised based on political beliefs? Would it make censoring obsolete? Is it really straight down the middle; Democrats vs. Republicans when it comes to the censoring of art? The only way a museum would be able to rely on public or private funding and still be able to avoid censorship would be to find seperate individuals with a crap load of money and an open mind.

Anonymous said...

This is Jackie
It is a difficult position that museums have been in due to funding. In these cases, the removal or rejection of these shows are just extensions of conservative figure-heads who probably don't let art affect them anyways, but they see the potential infiltration of people's minds that art can have, it may be a sort of social control. But if the broad spectrum of art is to always have a social focus, then why did we let these people, who only have money, get away with hindering any kind of social evolution these shows may have caused? I feel that it's important for people such as Vance to be writing about these situations and bring attention to them. I think that we will discover that censorship starts much earlier on then just the rejection of shows.

Jessica said...

Katie:
Generally we seem quick to judge the museum when a work or show is censored. But your right to point out that they rely not only on private funds but public funding as well, which includes money from the government. This can prove tricky for the museum and definitely informs what they do and do not show.

mm said...

Censorship starts early. At some point every institution must decide whether they are going to let the funds that may be available effect the exhibitions they show. This is a sad story, that donors do not have enough faith in museums to let them make curatorial decisions. A viewer, due to their personal sensitivity to the imagery sometimes considers cutting edge or graphic art to be bad art. Whether the work is deserving of a show should be up to the museum without the funds or plans of contributors creeping in.

Liana said...

I think that no matter what we do to try and neutralize censorship in museums and art, there will always inevitably be that censorship there. There is no way to allow everything into the art world. This is what creates the standards that are so important to museum/art's credibility with the rest of the world. drawing the line on what to censor will always be an issue, no matter who is doing the funding.