"There should be curbs on artistic freedom." Discuss.What is artistic freedom? Why should we put checks on artistic freedom?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I know that artistic expression should not have limitations—in an ideal world. However, if someone is offensive (like art that borders on pornography), then I believe there have to be limitations. However, this is a pretty controversial topic. Video stores have had "back rooms" for years, where kids under a certain age could not enter. If there is a back room for movies, perhaps we need a back room for art. No one can ever say as an absolute what art is or is not. We know what we like; we know what is generally acceptable within our society. So if we put limits on things, I think they should follow the letter of the law as it is written. If violent, inhumane behavior against humans is illegal, I don't think it should be presented to the general public in the form of art. I would think that the rule of thumb here should have children and young people in mind: if we limit who can watch an "R"-rated movie, then I expect we can limit what young people see in an art exhibit. However, if there is a picture that simply makes us uncomfortable: nude sunbathing or the picture of slaughtered animals in a butcher's window in Chinatown (or whatever), we can find a way to personally avoid these things without censoring the work of the artist—we can choose to walk away.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There should not be any curbs on artistic freedom so long as artistic freedom does not entail physical harm to human beings (or their property) or cruelty to animals.

One of the hallmarks of an advanced democratic society is that it can handle the expression of distasteful ideas.  A democratic society does not react violently to offensive depictions of its religious figures.  It can look at such "art" and simply shrug it off.

There is no real good that can come of curbing artistic expression.  Whenever we say that some ideas or some ways of expressing ideas are unacceptable, we put ourselves on the proverbial "slippery slope."  We start to have problems drawing the line in ways that prevent us from censoring people's ideas and imposing one set of moral and political ideas on all people.

Therefore, I see no good reason to curb artistic expression unless it causes actual harm to living things or to property.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is clearly a very massive question. Whilst we can all agree that placing curbs on artistic freedom in the way that the Soviet Regime did during the Cold War was wrong, at the same time there is a sense in which art and the often offensive forms it can take provokes something in us that questions whether artistic freedom should be curbed. Take a recent example: in London, an art exhibition on the theme of cannibalism has attracted much comment for the way in which it includes a video of an artist apparently eating her own breast (it was actually a watermelon). Is this the kind of artistic freedom that should be curbed?

For me, one of the central questions occurs when we consider where art ends and where pornography or graphic violence begins. There are no firm boundaries, making this a hugely controversial issue.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would agree with post 2.  The boundaries between art and things like violence or other issues can be blurred.  A simple example is graffiti.  Is it art or defacing public property?  Should we allow anything that can be seen as art?  What defines art?  The wonderful thing about art is that it has no true boundaries.  It is difficult to keep potentially harmful or offensive things out of the art world.  I would agree that most art should not be censored.  In a civilized society, we should be able to allow something that is offensive to us to be displayed without taking it personally.  Of course, human nature is rather against that idealized opinion.

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think mwestwood has a point. I think before we can tackle this question, we need to define art....which is also a tough thing to do.

Is art submerging a crucifix into a jar of the artist's urine? Is it a splash of random color on a canvas? Is it realistic portrait-painting? Is it the Sistine Chapel?

I think until we can come to a consensus on what art is, we cannot fully address the censorship issue. While I think it is wrong to silence anyone's voice, I cannot see myself condoning a piece of "art" on public display for children to see that is overtly sexual or blasphemous.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Given an individual's definition of art differs as greatly as ones appreciation of art, censorship cannot exist. One person may be very comfortable with something that another would have no problem burning.

The line of censoring and not censoring is a fine line to consider. Who decides where the line lies? I believe that the line should be defined by the individual. If you see something you do not like, ignore it. By "you" infringing on the rights of another, they have the right to infringe on "you".

Basically, do not infringe.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post #3 has absolutely identified the problem of censorship:  Where can the line in the sand be drawn? The only move to make is to prohibit certain things from minors.  After that, the individual must be his/her own censor.

Unfortunately, in a society in which many no longer hold the ideals of its forefathers, nor is there a national sense of morality, what is now conveniently labeled "art" is nothing but subcultural perversion of what is decent.  So, the individual must be his/her own censor.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One could make the argument that public tax dollars should not be used for art that the public in general finds obscene.  Another argument could be made that artistic freedom is important to protect, up until the point that it demeans other groups or denies the rights of other people to safety and equality.  Anti-Semitic art is legal, as is hate speech and other forms of art that might be considered hate speech, but you could argue that tax dollars shouldn't be spent on that.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Those who hold the view that there should be restrictions on what constitutes art are those who see that unrestrained art often violates otherwise socially accepted moral bounds and, in cases, religious bounds. In a society that wishes to maintain cultural moral and/or religious codes, there must therefore be restraints. Restraints are not a pressing concern for a society that has no concern in maintaining cultural moral and/or religious codes.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't believe in the censorship of art because it is a form of personal repression. People who object to a work on moral grounds do not represent the entire population, and what is objectionable to some can be stimulating or pleasing to another. Art is meant to appeal to the senses, and even the most questionable piece of work is bound to elicit different responses in different people.

alleychan | Student

I don't necessarily believe that art needs to be censored in order to maintain moral and/or religious codes, as stated by kplhardison, but rather where we allow certain types of potentially offensive art to be displayed.  For example, most people probably would not want anti-semetic art on display at a government building, or sexually explicit art work on display in a public library. Therefore, the art work, itself, does not need to be censored to be appropriate for the viewing audience, but the location where the art is on display.

I don't care if someone creates an image of, say men torturing animals, but I don't want it to be put on display at the local elementary school.


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ginamarielael | Student

We like what Steve Jobs says about innovation and artistic freedom and that is the world and path we live in today was created by people just like us or just as smart as us so basically you can mold the future and how those of use live in it.



beefheart | Student

I'm reminded of a story about Hitler and art. Obviously, Hitler banned 'degenerate' forms of expression like jazz and modern art because he thought they were depraved (this from a guy who murdered 6,000,000 in cold blood, but hey)

Anyway, he was looking through the confiscated pictures of a modern art exhibition and it contained a retrospective of Paul Klee's work. Amongst the cubists and abstract paintings that Hitler hated so dearly, were also some of Klee's very talented non-modern works (landscapes, portraits etc).

Apparently Hitler, a failed, mundane landscape painter was very shocked, disappointed and confused, "I don't understand it," he said,"this man can actually paint beautifully." I love that story and hope it's true.

I am always deeply suspicious of anyone who wants to control other peoples' artistic expression to protect society's morals. (Below is the wiki on the Nazi's policies and activities relating to art. It's a fascinating read.)