Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
mussel

Censorship!

25 posts in this topic

Mayor Giuliani is at it again!! Unbelivable! He's got to be kidding!

Mayor calls for "Decency Committee" to oversee exhibits at museums that receive city money:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/16/arts/16MUSE.html

Also, a related critique to the subject from the Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2001/02/16/arts/16EXHI.html

Since NYCB also receives city money, it's not far-fetched that NYCB's works would be subject to the same scrutiny. Furthermore, the State Theater is legally owned by the City, if City Hall finds NYCB's or NYCO's works offensive, would City Hall try to evict them from their building as it did to the Brooklyn Museum over the "Sensation" fiasco?

Share this post


Link to post

This is the kind of thing that would MAKE some artists do something "censorable" just to prove the point! (In D.C., during the Mapplethorpe flap, an earnest young modern dance company decided to perform naked. One mother, accompanied by her two elementary school daughters, walked out, shielding their fascinated eyes. Unfortunately, the dancers hadn't rehearsed the piece naked. . . .)

Share this post


Link to post

...and so some of them blushed? blanked out? collided? So, what happened, alexandra? And did the authorities take notice, or action? You've left us hanging over a cliff!

Share this post


Link to post

Well, there were some awkward moves that probably wouldn't have been choreographed in a Nudie piece. The star of the evening turned out to be an adventurous cockroach, who took center stage and never left it, skittering this way and that. Since there was a lot of floor work (i.e., stretches and somersaults on the floor), this was not an incidental element to the work -- very Cunningham, in a way. The cockroach remained intact for the bows, but it got dicey every now and then.

The authorities didn't interfere. The audience understood why it was done, and sympathized.

Share this post


Link to post

Mussel:

I rather hope he's NOT kidding.

And I'd very much like to think that there really was a "decency committee". But if there was, all this stuff would be in private salons.

I'm just a little curious. Does anyone think that ANYTHING should be off limits for public funding, if it is passed of as "art"? If so, what would that be?

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 17, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

What! They've amended the constitution already? smile.gif

Seriously, in addition to the constitutional prohibitions on censorship of freedom of speech and expression, there are very good and practical reasons to avoid it. There's the "who guards the guardians" question. Do we trust politicians to appoint censors? There's the censorship-guarantees-sales question. Censorship controversies give the artwork at their center more press than they could ever get otherwise--which may well encourage people to think, "What could I put with Christ in a bottle to get people really mad?"

Finally, as tastes and standards are so variant, supporting censorship -- in arts, politics or religion -- is suicidal, to me. Today, they're after a naked girl Christ. Tomorrow, some idiot thinks that classical ballet is an outmoded, effete entertainment fit for only the depraved. It's too slippery a slope.

The individual has the ultimate power. Go to what you like or support, stay away from the rest. And always keep an open eye and an open mind, because yesterday's target of censors is very often tomorrow's great artwork.

Share this post


Link to post

All that is fine and good Alexandra.

My question is does just "anything" that is "STATED" as "art" earn the right to be hung or performed at tax payers expense? Where do you draw the line, or do you draw one at all?

Sure those photo's upset us Christians. They tickle some other folks.

But let's pick another example.

I'm almost 49 years old. I was raised by guys that went through WWII. I have been told my entire life that Hitler was the worst thing that has ever hit this planet. I kinda believe it too.

Let's just say (for the sake of argument) that there is some tormented soul out there that REALLY believes that the world "missed the message" that Hitler brought us. That HItler was IN FACT the Messiah, and we didn't recognize him.

Let's say this guy is "gifted" in the visual or performing arts. What if he draws (out of absolute personal conviction) a very artistic depiction of Hitler "in the ascension". Ascending bodily to heaven as Christ, while underneath him, the victims of the holocast are depicted as agonizing in hell. Or he wanted government grant money to commission a dance piece to make SURE that the world "thought about the message" and "questioned themselves" (that first article stated that the responsibility of an "artist" is to make people "think".)

Do you really, honestly think that tax payer money should be spent to hang the art work, or commission the performance piece? Or even support the theatre it is performed in?

Even though you KNOW that it will be hurtful and insulting to a good percentage of the population of the earth?

Personally I don't. A great deal more tax payer money was spent on my dad and other servicemen to make SURE that the idiot was remembered for exactly what he was. A devil.

My question is where do you draw the line?

I think that is the big problem with taking money from "everybody". Then you have to support "everything".

There just ARE things, that people with good concience can't support. And should not be forced to.

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 17, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

I'm a strict constructionist as far as the First Amendment goes. I don't think anecdotes -- what I like, what I don't like, what shocks me, etc. -- are relevant to the discussion.

We don't get into detailed political, and certainly not religious, arguments on this board. Further discussions should reference the articles that mussel posted.

Share this post


Link to post

OK, then getting back to the first article.

The fact that "something makes you think" constitutes art?

Is that a premise we are working with?

And under your guidelines, I guess it's just impossible to discuss the subject as the nature of the art in the article was in fact religious in nature, and I really don't see how you can discuss constitutional basis without getting "political".

So I'll turn the floor over to you guys. Won't post on the subject anymore, but I'll be interested in seeing how others approach this particular subject without mentioning EITHER smile.gif

'Cause the Mayors BIG objection was that it wasn't going to be done at tax payer expense (referencing back to the article).

So in effect, we can't discuss the article, right?

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 17, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 18, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

Discussing the article is fine. I wanted to send up a flare, because the last time we discussed arts funding, about two weeks ago, the discussion quickly diverged into a discussion of politics and religion generally, and that's not what this board is for.

Share this post


Link to post

I think we have a certain amount of common sense in decisions about free speech. Oliver Wendell Holmes didn't do a bad job when he said shouting "Fire" in a crowded room isn't protected speech. In the same way, if the object in question advocates or incites dangerous or even murderous behavior, we step in.

There is a problem with saying that "taxpayer money is going to support people making offensive/indecent" art. Taxpayer money is supporting a museum, or a dance company, or a performance series, or what have you. It's usually important support, but it isn't sole support. The curators and directors of these programs are then running their institutions and making choices.

Some of them you may like, some of them you'll question. You should tell them so (you should also see what they have done before doing so!) I think culture should be accountable to its audience, but there is accountability, and then there's line item vetoes. Their job is to run a cultural institution, not to be an arbiter of seemliness. I'm not going to go rushing out to buy the photos Giuliani objected to, but I didn't find them offensive. To answer Jane's question of the "Hitler Ballet" I think that's a call for the curators, not the legislature. Chances are if I were a curator I might look at it and go "I think we have better places to put our budget."

On the other hand, a stunning example for the other side of Jane Gray's question is Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia. It's a poetically beautiful movie made in both sympathy and propaganda to the Nazi regime (it's a chronicle of the '36 Berlin Olympics). I may be Jewish, but if a museum offered it on a free screening paid for with a government grant, I'd be on the line to watch it. (Olympia deserves an off topic conversation all its own though, it's far too complex a film to term as "good" or "evil".)

------------------

Leigh Witchel - dae@panix.com

Personal Page and Dance Writing

Dance as Ever

Share this post


Link to post

I see lots of flaws in your argument Leigh.

But I "Said I wouldn't" so I "wont'" smile.gif

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

Share this post


Link to post

Let's just say (for the sake of argument) that there is some tormented soul out there that REALLY believes that the world "missed the message" that Hitler brought us. That HItler was IN FACT the Messiah, and we didn't recognize him.

"Attention! This audition is for singing Hitlers. Dancing Hitlers are the studio next door!"

--- Zero Mostel (The Producers)

[This message has been edited by Manhattnik (edited February 18, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

When I was in college, our film teacher had to write a petition to the State Department to show us "Triumph of the Will." It was banned from schools because it might corrupt us.

I think "Olympia" is worth a word because it's a good example of beauty (or bad art, or censorable art) is in the eye of the beholder. I saw that for the first time a year ago, and had read for years about how repugnant it was because of Reifenstahl's obsession with Aryan youth. Putting aside whether it's really a crime to photograph blonds, I was struck, as a woman, watching the ending sequence of the divers, where beautiful body after beautiful body plunges into the water, that she was looking at males as sex objects -- not in a lascivious way, but in the way men have always depicted women. Had a male filmmaker shot the same sequence with a bunch of blonde Esther Williams, I doubt that it would have struck the (male) censors in the same way.

I agree with Leigh's point that the money goes to the museum not the artist -- I think most people don't really understand that. I also agree that we have every right to put pressure on museums to be careful what they show. I'd like to have the same amount of pressure put on them to have strong artistic standards -- no, Jane, I don't think that "making you think" is a necessary and sufficient condition of art -- as to appease which special interest group is on their case this week.

I think the problem with Giuliani is his attacks are so personal. He hears about something he doesn't like and then wants to ban it, or withhold funding. That presents an odd definition of art, too -- "The Mayor don't like it."

Share this post


Link to post

Let's just say (for the sake of argument) that there is some tormented soul out there that REALLY believes that the world "missed the message" that Hitler brought us. That HItler was IN FACT the Messiah, and we didn't recognize him.

"Attention! This audition is for singing Hitlers. Dancing Hitlers are the studio next door!"

--- Zero Mostel (The Producers

Share this post


Link to post

I think Giuliani is just doing the politician thing. It's not a party matter -- it's easy to imagine Schumer, for example, doing the same number. I doubt that NYCB or any other ballet company is in any danger, as they're not going to put on anything for the Mayor to object to.

Re "Olympia": I didn't put the same construction on the male divers. The glorification of masculine strength was a cornerstone of Third Reich propaganda -- think of the mass calisthenics showcased in "Triumph of the Will" -- and I can see a straight man shooting the same sequence. But it's not as if Riefenstahl is suggesting that these men are the sum total of their physical attributes; she's saying, Look at what they can do; look how beautiful they are, isn't it awesome, what the human body is capable of. They're not the water bimbos in an Esther Williams opus, grinning vacuously in the chlorine.

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by Leigh Witchel:

I think we have a certain amount of common sense in decisions about free speech.  Oliver Wendell Holmes didn't do a bad job when he said shouting "Fire" in a crowded room isn't protected speech.  

Just a note on one of my favorite misquoted lines. Mr. Justice Holmes did not write that "crying 'fire' in a crowded theater is not protected speech", but rather something more along the lines that "FALSELY crying 'fire' in a crowded theater" was not protected. Indeed, not to so alert the crowd should the subject be actually aware of real fire could be criminal negligence.

Hizzoner may be falsely crying "fire".

Share this post


Link to post

I was humming "Springtime for Hitler" right from the top of this one. Meanwhile, you know what really depresses me? That the art people have these arguments over is so incredibly crappy.It reminds me of Salmon Rushdie and that unreadable book called The Satanic Verses. You might say the fatwah did him a favor, from a p.r. point of view. But to return to the topic at hand? I haven't been to Brooklyn, and thus cannot venture an aesthetic appreciation (or not) of the latest art to offend our Mayor. However, the photos of the art didn't bother me--not that I would want them censored if they did. But the Catholic Church has a nice tradition of speaking out against art, right along with their tradition of inspiring it. So where were we? Oh, right. First, I don't think the work is really about what it is accused of being about. Second, even if if were, I would't want it censored.(Speaking of bothered, there are NO cockroaches in the works of Merce Cunningham, no matter what Alexandra has implied.) A final note on censorship: Ironically, there is a" Lady Jane Grey" in a once censored work: Lady Chatterley's Lover. She isn't a person; she is a body part.You might want to rethink your signature, all things considered!

Share this post


Link to post

Just to clarify, Nanatchka, I meant the cockroach was like the pillows in "Rain Forest" -- an unpredictable element that changed the work smile.gif

Someone write an email to me that I wish s/he would post smile.gif It's a good point. That if the offensive artwork were deemed offensive to blacks, or another minority group with a loud voice that's listened to by the current Mavens, this would be a different story -- Giuliani may well want it censored, but the left of this controversy would be screaming for it. I do think there's a real bias among many defenders of freedom of artistic expression -- Christian symbols are fair game, much else is not. I think you're either for or against censorship, period. Once we get down to, "This offends me, but not you" it becomes too problematical. But continuing to ignore the concerns of nonprotected minority groups -- Catholics, fundamental Christians, etc. -- doesn't help anything and just makes one "side" think that everything is horribly unfair.

Share this post


Link to post

We dig on Our signature.

Not a chance baby. Not a chance.

There are other perfectly good names, and good words for that matter, that have conciously been sabotaged.

BTW, I when I was 19 (1971)I worked with a woman that was roughly 20 years older than me. When she had "gyn ailments" she referred to the fact that she had problems with her "tutu".

Far as I know, it never kept anyone from wearing one. But it did make her sound a little silly.

As far as this statement:

First, I don't think the work is really about what it is accused of being about.

Per an article in the Washington Post the photographer (Renee Cox) made the statement:

"Get over it" "Why can't a woman be Christ?".

Well, that makes her sound dumb as a box of rocks, doesn't it? She (the lady in the pic) can't possibly be him, because she ISN'T physically like him. Just like she can't be ME. I claimed this skin first. He did by about a few thousand years.

That's as silly as taking a picture of a tall bald white man and telling everybody to "get over it". Why can't he be Harriet Tubman as well as anybody?

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 18, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by JaneGrey (edited February 18, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by alexandra:

Someone write an email to me that I wish s/he would post   smile.gif  It's a good point.  That if the offensive artwork were deemed offensive to blacks, or another minority group with a loud voice that's listened to by the current Mavens, this would be a different story -- Giuliani may well want it censored, but the left of this controversy would be screaming for it

I can'y speak for my fellow liberals, since we don't march in lockstep, but I, for one, would not be.

Several years ago (at the time that Jesse Helms was first attacking the NEA, I attended a production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible -- the best production of that play I've ever seen -- at a Christian theatre in Houston. After the performance there was a"talkback" and I asked, "How do you, as both Christians and artists, view this play (for those who don't know it, it uses the Salem Witch Trials as a thinly -- and I mean very thinly -- veiled metaphor for the McCarthy hearings) in light of recent attempts by the Christian right to use federal funding to inhibit the content of artistic works?"

The first person to answer hemmed and hawed, but the second attacked the question right between the eyes -- "I do not approve of censorship in any way, shape or form, ever."

I agree with him.

. . .So if someone makes art that reflects badly on Blacks, Jews, or for that matter Texans, I won't like it. I won't pay to see it. . .but I also won't censor it.

------------------

Jeffrey E. Salzberg, Lighting Designer

This Day in Arts History: www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg/arthist.htm

portfolio: www.suncoast.quik.com/salzberg

email: salzberg@suncoast.quik.com

Share this post


Link to post

I don't imagine I have as much of a problem with anyone creating ANYTHING as much as I do with issuing invitations to EXHIBIT itat tax payer expense. Because the invitations are given hit and miss. And yes, some groups seem to be game for insult while it is entirely off limits for others.

There is statuary coming down almost daily, because this group or that finds it offensive.

A very large old mural at the Pentagon was recently brought down because some American Indian group found their depiction insulting.

I doubt that any of them are any less works of art today than they were when they were created.

------------------

'God grant you all your desires and accept my own hearty thanks for all your attention to me. Although indeed, those attentions have tried me more than death can now terrify me.'

Lady Jane Grey

Wife of Guildford, Lord Dudley King Consort

Daughter of Henry Grey Marquis of Dorset, Duke of Suffolk

Share this post


Link to post
Originally posted by alexandra:

I think the problem with Giuliani is his attacks are so personal.  He hears about something he doesn't like and then wants to ban it, or withhold funding. That presents an odd definition of art, too -- "The Mayor don't like it."

When I lived in NY (I left at about the time that the first Brooklyn Museum controversy was starting) I thought of him as "Il Duce"; the parallels with Mussolini are striking, including the justification that he's "made the trains run on time".

If Nixon can be the subject of an opera, could we make a ballet about Giuliani?

[This message has been edited by salzberg (edited February 18, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post

Why not, Jeff? I once had an almost-brilliant libretto for a ballet about our Mayor, Marion Barry, during his drug difficulties. . . .

I'm going to close this thread now. I think the various positions have been stated, and we're just going to keep rehashing old ground. We've had several discussions about censorship recently. It's interesting to keep an eye on things in the general arts world, because they probably will affect ballet in some way, but right now, this isn't a ballet issue.

Share this post


Link to post

A Frequent Poster sent me an email with his views on this topic, having not been on the board during the time the topic was open. Since the responses have been so one-sided, and since his (very articulate smile.gif ) views express the underrepresented side, I thought I'd post them before reclosing the thread.

---------------------------------

kfw (Kenneth Wilson) writes:

On the one hand, I’m willing to believe Andres Serrano when he says that “Piss Christ” wasn’t intended to offend and even had religious meaning for him. But in general, as you noted, the feelings of uncool groups are ignored (mocked is more like it) and that ties in with something else you noted -- the eagerness of some artists to flout rules just for the sake of flouting them. When it comes to publicly desecrating an image other people revere just to shock or make a point, I don't think that's worthy of the name "freedom." I think it’s juvenile bad manners. It’s a kind disrespect akin to racism or genuine, disdainful “homophobia.”

Also, while Guilliani was pretty clumsy in the "Sensation" affair (and I don’t think the Brooklyn Museum should be defunded over an exhibition or two), he wasn’t trying to prohibit the work from being shown at all, only from having it shown at the city’s expense. So I don’t think the stock “censorship” charge is accurate. The issue is whether or not people should have to pay for work that – as in the case of the Cox piece -- is intended to offend them. And really it’s more than that, although I don’t quite have the words. The city rightly takes pride in its cultural institutions and sees them as serving and representing the people of New York. But this is divisive, partisan stuff.

There are many ways to criticize that don’t gratuitously offend, of course. It’s hard to believe Ms. Cox seriously thinks she’s going to change conservative Christian minds with this photo. So I say, 'let her be rude at her own expense.' And to reference the anonymous writer’s point, would those Brooklyn curators who talk about defending free expression exhibit a painting of M.L. King, Jr. smeared with elephant dung and plastered with porno cutouts? I doubt it. I think they’d call it hate speech, something not worthy of their museum. (I first saw and fell in love with the work of Jacob Lawrence there, in ’88. He was an artist who knew how to challenge stereotypes.)

[This message has been edited by alexandra (edited February 18, 2001).]

Share this post


Link to post
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0