Art, creativity and the imagination
Freedom of expression
The legitimacy of censorship of culturally sensitive works of art/pieces of writing
Censorship is an issue we face in our everyday lives, as we live in China. To me, in particular, it has been a concurring motif in our lives as it was also one of the main themes in the book that we just read, Balzac and the little Chinese seamstress by Dai Sijie. Such censorship might seem like it was left in the distant past, but it is really astonishing how abundant the lack of freedom of speech is for people in some places in the world in the current era. Being a giant art & literature nerd, I really wanted to focus on the hardships people face when trying to publish their work, but also the distribution of pieces of work that might be inappropriate, and even culturally insensitive. The sole thought of: “Should titles that might be offensive to a specific group of people be published?” thrilled me and drove me to continue researching this topic.
This theme intrigued me further as this theme is also a recurring theme in literature. In a recent book I just finished, Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill, the main protagonist, Neal, is a shy and and introverted character who decides to stand up when the local Christian activists accuse his favorite fantasy series of containing immoral themes and heresy and tries to get them banned in the local library. Although from the exterior this story might even seem foolish; however, the message the author is trying to convey regarding censorship propelled me to really think about whether it is okay to publish works of sensitive topic to a certain group of people, and if it isn’t, whether the work should be refrained from publishing or not. Before I turn this topic into a political discussion, I wanted to move onto the piece that I wanted to analyze for this post.
The piece of text I wanted to analyze for this post is a news article from the New York Times, titled Displaying, not Hiding, the Reality of Slave Labor in Art by Alina Tugend. I happen to be a big American History nerd as well, and I actually stumbled upon this article before I started writing this post, but it fit perfectly, so I decided to bring it here. The article starts off by demonstrating that many of Thomas Jefferson’s artifacts actually belong to his slaves, and further down focuses on how museums around the world have been hesitant when displaying such artifacts, and admitting to slavery and events that occurred regarding slavery. Luckily, the museums have been able to be more open about such topics as of recent times, and instead of obscuring the actual history behind slaves, they decided to display what the artifacts are really representing and where they actually came from. This includes even the slightest hints of slavery in paintings whether or not they were actually portrayed in the work itself.
I personally thought this was a perfect article, as slavery is a very culturally sensitive topic, and it is evident that people often deny and refuse to acknowledge its existence. Although it is true that being more open and historically accurate seems to be the right decision and a morally correct thing to do. However, overly explicitly stating the brutal details might come out as insensitive for some people. The author of this article actually advocates for the accurate representation of history through museums. Through multiple examples, of various museums, she listed examples of certain museums and specific curators that argue for the accurate representations of slavery in history.