Self-censoring of artists

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One thing that every artist worries about is self-censoring their creations. There’s nothing worse than hours of painstaking work having to be taken down or covered because there’s a threat of someone being upset or it being deemed inappropriate.

In the last few years self-censorship has been on the rise within the art community and it’s oddly ironic that a medium that’s supposed to be about self-expression is being limited in such a way.

But why exactly do so many artists have to self-censor themselves in such a way?

Well according to the Director of the Tate Galleries, Sir Nicholas Serota, these artists are taking it upon themselves to cut their work down in order to avoid upsetting their sponsors or the media which could in turn see them losing their sponsorship or worse.

For some artists unless they self-censor they run the chance of having their reputation dragged through the mud so that they can never showcase another piece again.

According to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei the main tool to encourage an artist to self-censor is intimidation as he said in an essay: “Censorship and self-censorship act together in this society to ensure that independent thinking and creativity cannot exist without bowing to authority.”

For example Weiwei regularly has threats of imprisonment from the Chinese Government when he creates an art installation. This has led to either crafting it under a pseudonym or outright removing his art from a show that he spent weeks on.

Then there’s the women artists in Iran who are being threatened with legal action if anything they paint is un-Islamic, for example women not wearing veils or impressionist nudes, so they have to limit what they can actually paint.

In reality we can’t do anything about this. Censorship is part and parcel of our society; it’s always a vocal minority that sways the vote towards banning something in case it causes public outrage or upsets someone.

Trying to change what is considered offensive and inoffensive, especially in art, is quite a minefield. It isn’t as difficult to decide as say something like finding the best bingo site as that’s fairly straight forward, but with art there are a lot of shades of grey as one person’s masterpiece is another’s monstrosity.

Going by current trends it seems that self-censorship in the world of art is on the rise and if it starts to play an even bigger part in our lives it will be detrimental to us all as we won’t be able to experience fine works or be inspired to create our own masterpieces.

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