“To see or not to see?” That is the question.
The artist’s quest for self-expression is a highly personal journey but is often plagued by restrictions placed on him/her as a result of the society in which he/she lives. This now leads us down a very convoluted road that now forces the answer to the question of not only “What is art?”, but “Who defines it?”.
As an artist myself, I define what I do as art, based on my definition. An Artist is an individual that chooses a medium to express an idea, to communicate a personal vantage point. This vantage point may exist solely as a creative exercise or as a means to evoke change by emotional or intellectual stimulation. The artist is motivated by the circumstances in which they live, and therefore, the artist becomes a direct reflection of the times in which he/she lives. Civil unrest in a society, for example, will evoke artistic interpretations which communicate thoughts or ideas that pertain to the current events; the artists’ role in society can be one in which the artist exists as a voice for the people.
Censorship runs counter to the artist’s purpose or goals which require the freedom to express one’s views without restrictions. This is indeed a slippery slope where we must ask several questions such as “Can a civilized society exist without some measure of control or rules in place?” “To what degree should art be controlled, if at all?” and “Who in society should or has the right to dictate what can or cannot be seen?” What history teaches us is that there is no clear answer to these questions and that art exists due to the human need to communicate regardless of rules.
Throughout history, each era has placed restrictions on the artist concerning what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate. Repeatedly, what was once deemed inappropriate in one era quite often is seen as totally acceptable in another. I have personally experienced this dilemma and frustration as a creative artist on platforms that are in place for visual artists such as Instagram. The vast majority of individuals that view my work, whether artistically inclined or not, rarely see it as distasteful or inappropriate. What all artists come to realize very quickly is that you cannot please everyone. Extremes will always exist. No matter how good your intentions are how “good” your work is, there will be those who will not like what you do. Such is the nature of art. Being true to one’s vision is the artist’s principal objective because there will always be an audience for what you create.
Instagram has been a blessing in this era of social media and has made the task of sharing one’s artistic vision worldwide easier than ever. That being said, it also exists as a business that allows the use of its platform under governing rules. These rules define what can and cannot be shown while using this platform. The question now is who came up with these rules and what are these rules based on? In other words, who or how was it deemed appropriate or not, and ultimately what should be censored? I have personally had one image in my gallery flagged and removed multiple times. The image is very well loved as seen by the number of likes it has acquired so clearly, the vast majority do not see it as inappropriate or offensive. I then undertook the frustrating task of trying to understand why it was deemed inappropriate and came to understand that the impropriety of the image was simply a result of a visible nipple; this offended someone enough to flag the image.
My creative work exists under the heading of photography however, the hypocrisy that exists on Instagram is that a painting, drawing or sculpture of a nude figure can exist untouched as “art” but my image cannot because a nipple is showing. After numerous attempts to keep my image in the gallery, I discovered that after blurring the “offensive” areas, the image was now deemed appropriate. Naturally, I saw this as not only hypocritical but absolutely ludicrous. If an image that is adored and seen as art by 1000+ people and is heaped much praise as such, is it right that one person flagging it as inappropriate is given the power to have it removed? This is a debate and fundamental argument against censorship. Who decides what is appropriate in society? More often than not, it is a small body of individuals who makes the decisions for “the people”, but is that right? I have written this blog not to offer any solution, but simply to remind the artist that their prime objective should and must always be “to thine own self be true”.
MONTANO ST. JULES (theartof1)