Censorship is a product of what makes somebody uncomfortable and produces a reaction. Art cannot be successful if it does not provoke a response. Usually though, someone trying will to get a reaction may step beyond the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. People love art, but people hate to be challenged. Humans do not accept criticism or denial of one's own personal beliefs. This leads to limiting what we see. It is also a natural human trait to want control. Censorship is as much a part of deciding what the public should be allowed to see as an expression of power.
In places like China and Russia, politicians use their ability to any art that is critical of the government. Actually, all of these readings showed how censorship is an expression of power. In Russia people creating critical pieces, like German Vinogradov and many others get arrested or fined. In Russia, art that is critical of the government is considered terrorism and is a political crime. In Brooklyn, the show "Sensation," caused huge controversy over certain pieces, like Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary," that offended the mayor and his religion. A common thread across issues of censorship is that it offended someone in a high level, so with the power they had, they were able to do something about it. This raises the issue that if something is offensive to someone with political stature, but is not offensive to others, does the official have the authority to remove it from the public rest due to his personal opinions? The answer is no.
Another connecting thread across controversial pieces is the issue of religion. I think there should be a division between religion and how people interact, but because of the nature of religion, this cannot happen. Religion can be very personal, but since it is so personal, people feel the need to reflect their religious views in the way they act. A central issue in many of the readings was the removal of a blasphemous piece, as in "Sensation" at the Brooklyn Museum or "Forbidden Art" in Moscow. Insult to a religion is something people will not stand for anywhere in the world which is somewhat shocking. "Blasphemous" art will spur controversy and sometimes removal anywhere in the world. Religion extends to the social issues and societal issues explored. This includes the homoeroticism of Mapplethorpe, the experimentation with culture and material of Ofili and the criticism of consumerism and Christianity in Russia. It does not matter if it is in as rigid and controlled a nation as Russia or a nation who prides itself on the separation between church and state and free speech as in the US.
For the most part, the articles gave good examples of censorship around the world and how it affects different nations differently and how it is handled. However, the articles did not really provide lots of different perspectives on similar events. I think that censorship is wrong, but the articles did not provide a counter argument. There were basic reasons given for why something was censored, but there was not a definitive argument from the side of those doing the censoring. This is a weakness especially given the audience. The people discussing the issue are for the most part socially liberal and open minded artistically. Because the articles are for the most part this way as well, it is not building upon the discussion, rather just giving a list of examples to support the opinions we already have. We will for the most part agree that most art should not be censored. If articles with valid points as to why something would be censored, it would create a much more varied discussion with acknowledgement of varying viewpoints that cannot be had now due to the inherent bias of the articles. A complete statement from the Chinese or Russian government, from the previous mayor of New York City or Smithsonian would add a level of understanding to the discussion and it would probably strengthen our opinions. There is a higher level of understanding of the complexities of censorship in the arts, but the answer to the overarching question has not changed.
I am an art student at Maggie Walker and this is the place where I talk about what we're making and what we're learning... Through this I can pour out my heart about my artistic experience.