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Should there be censorship of certain artworks and to what extent should works be...

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monique06 | Valedictorian

Posted August 3, 2011 at 8:59 PM via web

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Should there be censorship of certain artworks and to what extent should works be censored?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 3, 2011 at 9:49 PM (Answer #2)

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Your question more properly should be "what constitutes art?" There should be little discussion about works of art being censored; universally they are considered appropriate for display. Works such as Michelangelo's or Donatello's statues of David, both nude and both anatomically correct, are not considered censorable.

So what constitutes art? The U.S. Supreme Court has said that works which are patently offensive, have no redeeming social value, or whose dominant theme appeals to sexual excitement are not entitled to First Amendment Protection. So, the issue is, does it constitute art? If so, then it should never be censored. If it is not art, then it is an entirely different matter altogether.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 3, 2011 at 10:45 PM (Answer #3)

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I tend to agree with larrygates. I think before we can adequately answer this, there has to be some kind of definition of what art is.

For example, in 1987, "artist" Andres Serrano submerged a crucifix in his own urine, photographed it, and won an art award for it. In my opinion, this kind of work is done specifically to inflame and/or attack a cherished belief of one segment of our society. It is designed not for aesthetic beauty, but to to spark controversy.  I would have no problem censoring this type of artwork.

However, censoring a legitimate piece of artwork is a bit scary. Censorship can be a slippery slope leading to the erosion of first amendment rights...but again...the line is blurry and subjective.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 3, 2011 at 11:20 PM (Answer #4)

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I think we also have to consider what we mean by "censorship."  The Serrano piece mentioned above was not censored in the sense of being banned.   There has been little serious talk about actually banning "art" like that.  What has happened is that such pieces have been refused government funding.

So, the question then becomes whether the government should be able to refuse to fund certain works because it disapproves of them.  I would argue that it should be able to.  There is no obligation, in my opinion, for the government to fund any art at all and it should therefore be free to choose not to fund art that is offensive to many people.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 12:35 AM (Answer #5)

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I think some kinds of art work are considered unsavory to some people. Censoring art is a dangerous slippery slope, however. Like all censorship, it is not good to censor just because something makes us uncomfortable. Art has to be able to make a statement when it needs to, offensive or not.
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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 1:23 AM (Answer #6)

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As the other posts mentioned, some art will offend people, and some art is even meant to offend and inflame the passions of people. Some examples of art and literature deeply offend me; however, I support the author's right to produce their work and am against nearly all forms of censorship in art and literature, so I can't offer much support when it comes to outlawing creative material.

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 11:24 AM (Answer #7)

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I have to say that I agree with 4; the government should not be funding art. Let the viewers and collectors fund what they like; allow the free market to function, and I suspect this question will lose a lot of its impact as artists who produce ridiculous, offensive, or just generally not very artistic work quietly starve to death.

That being said, obviously some artists go to great lengths to be offensive specifically to provoke thought and discussion. As long as the art is displayed in such a way that children cannot be exposed to it unintentionally, there is no excuse for censorship; just as it should not fund art, the government should not regulate it.

I would probably never go see an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe's more controversial photos, but that is my own business. I can vote with my feet and my wallet, I don't need anyone to shield me or interpret what I am seeing for me.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 4, 2011 at 12:55 PM (Answer #8)

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Art, to me, is not about supply and demand or what the market dictates, though, it is about expression.  It is the cultural reflection and history of a society.  Art that was offensive in 1965 might be considered tame by today's standards.  Art that is "cutting edge" or explores taboos provokes discussion, dialogue and reflection, and these are valuable contributions to our nation.  I believe in government funding for the arts (much more than I believe in government funding of wars and nuclear weapons, but those are widely accepted and even encouraged by society.  We can support those, but not support a painter or a theater actor?  What does that say about us, if true?).  I do not believe in government censorship of the arts.

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lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 4, 2011 at 8:19 PM (Answer #9)

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As an artist, I have to disagree with the statement that the government should not be suppoprting art. Art is a critical aspect of our culture, and we need to maintain it. We can learn more about who we are as human beings through our art than perhaps through any other medium. That said, the question of what constitutes obscenity has long been debated, and the problem is it is not possible to even say what should and should not be censored when we cannot establish a true definition of what ois obscene. It's not for lack of trying, either! In the 1950's, obscenity trials became common as artists sought to argue for ptotection of the right to free speech and freedom of expression. During one of these trials (against poet Alan Ginsburg) a supreme court justice made this very apt statement:

“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime . . . .” — Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, dissenting Ginzberg v. United States, 383 U.S. 463 (1966)

 

I coudn't agree more!

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truthseekah | Salutatorian

Posted August 4, 2011 at 10:00 PM (Answer #10)

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Art is an expression of culture, politics, emotion, self, etc.  It cannot be defined, just as an individual cannot be defined.  We categorize as best we can, but it is folly.  Plus, as soon as we present a spectrum of what art is, the boundaries are intentionally crossed.

Therefore, government funding of art is a totally subjective thing and is usually driven by the current view.  The right or wrong is debated much like any other political issue.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 5, 2011 at 3:43 PM (Answer #11)

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Banning art is kind of an odd concept, really, because if one art gallery refuses to display the work because it's too outrageous or offensive, someone somewhere else might. But even if no one does, nothing is stopping the artist from creating. Plenty of people are "banned" from galleries for all kinds of reasons--most probably having to do with not being good enough to sell--and no one but the artist cares much about that. It's the same principle as music--not everything that is recorded ends up on the radio and that is generally not seen as banning. There are other venues for both music and art than galleries and radio, so the term just does not seem apt.

Lori Steinbach

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kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted August 5, 2011 at 4:52 PM (Answer #12)

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I agree that censorship through works not being funded by groups who represent those who could be offended by a work is a fairer way of managing contraversial art than an outright 'ban'. I do not think it is appropriate for governments to fund works which are designed to be offensive or obscene. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and those works considered to be flexing the boundaries of decency should be supported by those who wish to use art for this purpose, not by generalised funding from government.

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epic-art-time | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted August 26, 2011 at 12:49 PM (Answer #13)

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An artist can create anything he or she wants in the name of art as long as no law is being broken in the process.  An artist does, however, have an obligation to consider where he or she is exhibiting the work.  It would be wrong, for example, to show work with extremely frightening imagery in a children’s’ museum, or work with sexual content in a high school library.  Warnings with details about the nature of the work should be posted in public exhibition spaces where controversial art is being exhibited, to insure that the public has the choice to view the work or not.

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janeblue | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted September 13, 2011 at 6:14 AM (Answer #15)

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Your question more properly should be "what constitutes art?" There should be little discussion about works of art being censored; universally they are considered appropriate for display. Works such as Michelangelo's or Donatello's statues of David, both nude and both anatomically correct, are not considered censorable.

So what constitutes art? The U.S. Supreme Court has said that works which are patently offensive, have no redeeming social value, or whose dominant theme appeals to sexual excitement are not entitled to First Amendment Protection. So, the issue is, does it constitute art? If so, then it should never be censored. If it is not art, then it is an entirely different matter altogether.

Very interesting commentary.

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janeblue | Student , Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted September 13, 2011 at 6:28 AM (Answer #16)

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I think that not all art should be censored.

larrygates said, “The U.S. Supreme Court has said that works which are patently offensive, have no redeeming social value, or whose dominant theme appeals to sexual excitement are not entitled to First Amendment Protection”

However, when I think about One Nation Under God a painting by Jon McNaughton I feel like it would be heavily censored just because people feel it is “patently offensive”.

http://www.mcnaughtonart.com/artwork/view_zoom/?artpiece_id=353

The reason I feel that this should not be the case is because it has redeeming social value. If people censor art with a message that may be offensive to some but redeeming to others then how can we expect to push the boundaries of society?

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shizza123 | Student , Grade 10 | Valedictorian

Posted September 16, 2011 at 4:58 AM (Answer #17)

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I think people have the right to know and see everything that is or will be, or was a part of their heritage......

Plus, someone else's opinion shudn't be forced on them..... They should be allowed to tink and feel whatever they want, without being given an impression of what others think.

there should be a vote. if ppl thin it is not worthy enough to be deisplayed in public, or if it mocks something important, then it should be banned.

 

but, at the same time, if u know people are OBVIOUSLY going to be upset and start killing each other, or are going to be tempted to kill the artist, then it should be distroyed or something......

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 22, 2011 at 7:25 AM (Answer #18)

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Art is entirely subjective. There is no real, non-biased standard for "art" that can justify the incredibly wide array of literature, music, drawing, performance... it's just not possible. One person's awe-inspiring, boundary-pushing experience is another's meaningless, self-indulgent tedium. I think Terry Pratchett is the world's greatest living writer, but I'm sure die-hard fans of Chuck Palahniuk or Margaret Atwood would disagree (note: three very different authors, and the fans probably have little overlap, and may easily consider works by the other two to be senseless drivel).

With that said, there should never be censorship of anything, ever. The truest path to knowledge is choice and the freedom to make our own decisions about what is appropriate for us and our families. I do think it would be a good idea for "art" of any stripe to be properly described in a manner which allows people to make informed decisions; if I put down my five bucks to see A Brutal and Misanthropic History of Human Taxidermy with Sound Effects I should be expected to know what I'm getting into.

Censorship is a paving stone on the path to dictatorship; gentle but very, very powerful. Remember the Hays Code for movies in the '40s and '50s? It's still around, but hides under the "Moral Authority" of the MPAA. Watch the movie This Film is Not Yet Rated for more information. Ratings and explanations are one thing; forcing filmmakers to alter their works to fit an undefinable standard of morality (and theater chains that won't accept unrated films) is quite another.

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naturalinsanity | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 14, 2012 at 4:54 AM (Answer #19)

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Your question more properly should be "what constitutes art?" There should be little discussion about works of art being censored; universally they are considered appropriate for display. Works such as Michelangelo's or Donatello's statues of David, both nude and both anatomically correct, are not considered censorable.

So what constitutes art? The U.S. Supreme Court has said that works which are patently offensive, have no redeeming social value, or whose dominant theme appeals to sexual excitement are not entitled to First Amendment Protection. So, the issue is, does it constitute art? If so, then it should never be censored. If it is not art, then it is an entirely different matter altogether.

I would have to say that i agree with larrygates to an extent. correcting just one slight comment. There are many of Michelangelo's painting that have been "fig leafed" in which case any private parts seeable in the painting are covered up with figleaves. Fig leaves have also been added to the statue of David in london. Art is meant to be controvertial. Art is by most definable by ones singular opinion. Who is to decide where or not art has ''redeeming social value", not to mention how many nude statues and paintings were created with the artist's intent to stimulate? very few. that is open to interpretation. And so art should not be censored. It is not fair to the artist, or its viewers.

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