public art sex violence and artist s intentions

ASSIGNMENT 7: Public Art, Sex, Violence and Artist’s Intentions

Increasingly as media progresses (television, Internet, and even newspapers) social media creates faster paths of communication and and perceived incidence(s) of censorship of the visual arts comes with a heightened awareness. Cartoons and art sometimes contain (to some) problematic subject matter (some times subject to interpretation or misinterpretation) and this is an age-old issue. Your professor was censored and asked to pick up a piece from a show in Philadelphia. According to the director: “It poses a threat to some of our more sensitive patients.” (It was for a show in a hospital’s gallery and later a patient sought me out to buy the piece because it was meaningful and full of life: Irony at its best.

In “I Love Lucy” the couple’s beds were separate and her “with child” announcement could not include the word pregnant and was brilliantly integrated into one of her husband’s musical shows. Naturally television and motion pictures have come a long way. Television and movies more closely parallel with social progression and artistic freedoms but fine art (including art with text) seems to be lagging far behind.

Famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe’s work nearly closed a museum (chronicled in the great film Dirty Pictures) and numerous arts hows have been picketed or threatened with reduction of state funding. Art shows have been closed or works removed from exhibitions so as not to offend, cause tension, create negative press or protest. Such questionable art has been fodder for programs like 60 Minutes or the evening news cast. Often in exhibitions artists are asked NOT to show works that could be considered offensive and nudity is often not permitted in community art spaces. In fact, the most common request is that artists not show artwork of nude subject matter. All of these controversies become disseminated in television and Internet-based news media but are they reasonable?

Since the book addresses photography and its controversies on page 211 which inspired the film Dirty Pictures, it might be an interesting diversion to discuss art not intended to offend (but it did) but either intended to express or educate:

Media Clips and Articles

Here are some links about artworks censored and removed from shows due to subject matter that was violent or threatening (implied, perceived or overt):

Alaska High School Controversy

Art On Trial

Here is a link from Stephen Colbert who pushes the censors to their limits with this little 6 minute piece. Watch the whole thing:

Stephen Colbert’s “Is It Porn?”

From Everyone Loves Raymond, a segment from when Ray’s mom makes an inappropriate sculpture (sorry for the film quality – Warner Brothers had YouTube remove the original footage):

Marie’s Sculpture (Segment from Everyone Loves Raymond)

Here are the questions for part 1 of this assignment:
  1. Does censorship of artwork (even a photograph used for a news story) violate the artist’s right to free speech? Why or why not?
  2. If an artist unintentionally creates a work of art that is perceived as sexual, should they be censored the same way as someone who intentionally makes a work that is meant to sexual? Does it matter? See above links to the Alaska High School sculpture and since we are studying TV this module, let’s include a video clip from Everyone Loves Raymond.

  3. Should themes or subject matter of sex and violence in art (perceived, implied or overt) be treated the in same way as nudity in mass media such as television by censors? Consider the way Colbert addresses the subject matter, pushing the censors and what he says at the very end.
  4. Do galleries and museums have the right to put limits on what an artist may submit for exhibition? AND should exhibitions come with a rating system like films? Why or why not?
  5. If a teacher is taking young students (let’s say K-6) to a museum for a class trip should the teacher or school ask parents to sign a permission slip/waiver based on their approval of the subject matter that might be seen (intentionally or unintentionally) at the museum? Why or why not?
  6. If an artist is asked to substitute a work that has been censored in an exhibition and it is a good opportunity to gain notoriety, should they “be a good sport” and realize the opportunity for personal gain and bring a different artwork OR should they stick to their beliefs and remove the work in question and not submit something else? Why or why not?

Scoring Guide for Assignment 7

Discussion #2
  • Answered the 6 questions thoughtfully and in detail (Up to 10 points)
  • 2 paragraph minimum (A paragraph is 1 topic sentence and 4-5 or more supportive sentences.) (Up to 5 points)
  • Responded to another’s posting WITH substance and intensity (Up to 5 points)
  • Spelling and grammar (Up to 5 points) NO texting shortcuts. Spelling and grammar count!

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