Last week I had a small gathering chez nous to show my Freeport friends the pieces ”Psyche Pollution’, ’21 Religious Thoughts…..’ and ‘Disparity Reality – Woman’ . The point of the evening was to incite conversation about some of the issues raised in the work. For example carbon footprint, what does it mean to be a woman, and our inner psychological reality affecting our outer environment.
Upon setting up the work “Psyche Pollution” in our dinning room cove, (this work was a response to the concept of world wide pollution possibly being the result of inner pollution) I enjoyed seeing it returned to the place where I created it- being too large even for my studio. However, the work feels different, and returned from Nassau the work has been marked, well, disfigured. Just before the opening, the then director stuck some masking tape over parts of the work on pornography/making love/sex. Effectively censoring the piece but in a subliminal silent way. The tape looking similar enough to the work, such that it was not overtly noticeable.
Having anticipated that there may be some ‘response’ to the work, at the time I was not too surprised. It was only later that I was stunned that the censorship had happened within the art community, not as I might have anticipated, by religious factions or even a governmental body.
Contrary to popular belief, my work is not created to be inflammatory. It is created to expose a truth. I am always aware of the audience and will make concessions in consideration of that audience. For “psyche pollution” I did consult with the curator regarding keeping the essence of what I wanted to say but maintaining respect for the audience before presenting the installation. So for the piece regarding sex/pornography/making love, I used decorated pieces of semi opaque paper to cover the more provocative parts. Also, in the piece dealing with self image, there are photocopies of my body – in graphic and intimate detail….however those were not censored.
I don’t want to go into defending my position or demonizing the gallery’s position, what I am interested in is the message that this censorship brings.
Ironically inner censorship was an issue I had neglected in my inner expose!
So, somehow unwittingly the Director brought to the work an important aspect. I am curious about this issue – censorship, this unexpected addition to my work. What does censorship mean to an individual or to the collective? What at root, beyond the obvious, is its function?
My first thoughts are that we censor ourselves because we don’t want to reveal our dark thoughts – aspects of the truth about ourselves that we would prefer not to face or reveal and we may also censor ourselves to not hurt other people. The truth often being hurtful to others.
We are censored by others when they want to control how we act and what we say, to fit their expectation of who they think we ‘should’ be.
I think communities censor due to the belief that if everyone does not conform to the expectations of that community there will be conflict. Censorship, is believed to keep us safe from immoral content and there is an undercurrent of fear from negative influences that may have a provocative power over us.
Governments who censor are known as dictatorships, but the benefit of dictatorships, is the clarity of the situation, more disturbing is discreet censorship by democratic governments. A little like the masking tape that censored my work – it is silent and insidious. Other reasons for governmental silent censorship may be an almost archaic fear of the people having too much information. Information is power, so they say. And an ignorant, fearful society is easily manipulated.
But beyond this easy definition I want to imagine what at root the censor is resisting. It’s easy to label censorship for our morality, to say we censor pornography because it corrupts us, but as I debated earlier, I believe it is only our distorted thoughts about sex that creates dysfunction and that belief is, in itself perpetrated by censoring. Violence is, to me, a more heinous act against society and “morally corrupting”, yet somehow violence is acceptable. So if truthfully what we are censoring is not in actuality for our moral benefit what is it we are suppressing?
Of course it is a “no”. And it is a “no” that is inflicted without choice. And a “no” that is so emphatic would seem to exist due to fear. Fear from what?
At essence what I believe we are suppressing and saying “no” to is a “spontaneous, creative/ loving action”. And I believe the reason this is seen as so threatening is because of the unpredictable energy of this spontaneity. I think at root, as a collective, there is a deep fear of this free-flowing energy. Somehow there is some unconscious understanding that it can be a powerful force of change. Its honesty may break down and through human structures of ‘polite and acceptable behaviour’. There seems to be a collective understanding that if allowed, this spontaneous pulse, may look, to our socially acceptable conformity, like chaos.
And chaos in this world of bureaucracy and rules and laws is perceived as the anti-christ.
I don’t want to get lost in my theories of natural structures and man made structures but it may be relevant to understanding why there is such a silent yet virulent need for censorship of something/ anything that is a natural pulse. A natural energy.
In society as a whole I belive if I were to ask the majority of people if they believed there was censorship in American/ British/Bahamian society most would disagree, labelling communist countries and dictatorships the bad boys of censorship. But interestingly censorship has become part of society and we have an almost uniform understanding of what we believe is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ what is acceptable and what is not. The taboos are so well-integrated in society they are not even mentioned. Yet that is exactly what I want to challenge.
I want to test those held beliefs that say what is ‘right’,’wrong’, ‘acceptable’ and ‘bad taste’. I want to challenge those beliefs because I believe passionately that it is only by breaking down all the inner suppression and dictators that we can taste freedom and creativity. Does that raise a prickle of fear? Does it sound like anarchy?
But I’m not suggesting we abandon compassion, love or caring. I am suggesting a fresh look at the beliefs that we have been fed by society, and make choices, make conscious choices that honour ourselves. And honouring self cannot hurt others.
The other issue that seems to run as a river deep in the unconscious, feeding censorship is judgement. The inner critic that so fiercely comments on every thought and behaviour of self, then leaks outwards and criticizes others, and becomes like the judge and jury who prohibits any spontaneous action. Again the role of that inner voice is clearly created to keep us safe…but what if we gently challenged its authority or its supposed wisdom….is there some other energy or feeling underneath that is longing to be expressed?
Young children are so pure in their expressions, if they are excited they move, if they are sad they cry. If they want to sing, they sing. of course, yes, they are without adult understanding that the world does not revolve around them, and so if upset they may need to learn its better to hit a pillow than hurt a person, but by hitting a pillow the energy, the movement, the spontaneous pulse is still honoured, and as adults we have the wonderful ability to make conscious choices that can honour the pulse without inflicting pain.
ANd maybe my passion to represent the spontaneous creative loving action, is that its the same energy that creates art. Brilliant art is rarely created in an environment of censorship, control, inhibitions, or judgements. (Though ironically the pulse for genuine creative expression is so strong that it often violently pushes through such inhibitions and demands to live by destroying the structures containing it).
I want to choose not to see the censorship of my work as a fearful attack, and I want to choose not to respond to it as such, but instead I want to hear it as a rally cry, a longing for my inner spontaneous loving/ creative pulse to be expressed genuinely and freely. And I would hope that we can all open our hearts and minds to see this world clearly and respond to it with genuine compassionate spontaneity, not conditioned by rules, expectations or unrealistic images of people or life. There is an enormous energy that resides in us all, and taping into it and allowing it to flow, might be scary and unknown, but it is the essence of life and cannot be denied, suppressed or ultimately nor can it be censored!