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Social Media and the Artist's Freedom of Expression

Where sensitivities can juxtapose a high and holy calling

(SNN) - A few weeks ago a distant acquaintance of mine, (look at this...even I want to ensure some distance from this) posted a picture on Facebook that depicted a pencil drawing of a rape scene. Subsequently, he was censored by the social medium and the pic was taken down. I may be wrong, but I am assuming that the notice sent to him was in a private message as that would be the way I would do it. Nonetheless, the message was posted and there was a lively discussion about the nature of art amongst his “friends” much to the delight of this man.

I have to admit to a divided mind about all this. While I am no fan of censorship, I recognize that there must be some community agency to uphold standards of decency when someone decides to override self-control and do something contrary to those standards. My dilemma stems from a fundamental distrust in the bureaucracies of Man as we have no example of one that is in some way, not broken. We also are in the midst of a wholesale shift in the moral definitions of our culture with no clue where it is heading or when we will get there. From all this we need to continually and with decided force remember that those who refuse to exercise self-control will be controlled by others.

Most of the posters in my friend’s thread were in favour of ...well I am not sure. Their arguments were a little shallow. They want free expression to the artist but don’t want to view some of the fruit that comes from that freedom. I think that what they are struggling with is the definition of “freedom”. They have been told ad nauseum that freedom is having no restraint. What they don’t recognize is that freedom carries a great weight of responsibility. This is not a popular message and so is relegated to the back benches most times.

Much of the art produced today in the name of artistic freedom attacks fundamental decency and is a sophomoric and simple-minded rebellion. It carries no other purpose but to bully the sensibilities of average people. Easy- shmeasy. I can hang aborted fetuses from a tree and call it art. I can draw a picture of a violent act and feel that I have spit in the eye of my world. I can do porn and call it “erotic art” (nudge-nudge wink-wink) and disregard all the studies that show porn’s negative effects. What we need are artists who can crystallize a movement towards right and good and proper relationships. We need more than three stripes of color on a canvas. We need depictions of heart-grabbing Truths that can start revolutions.

I have a higher opinion of art and freedom and all the related stuff around a discussion like the thread in question. In my opinion (however humble) an artist, usually self-defined, takes on a high and holy calling. I would contend that art has a higher purpose and place than some subjective pursuit. Art needs to be responsive to the holy calling to the artist, framed in the context of the cultural stew, and radical in the proper sense of the term that signifies an attempt at changing the world for the better. Anything less is a hollow shell of what art is supposed to be. Since art is evocative, the artist must bear the responsibility to direct his efforts towards positive change. Make no mistake... that may put him in opposition to the power structures of the status quo and make him a target of their ire. That kind of art comes with a cost far beyond the aborted fetuses.

We need artists that refuse to throw their elevated and noble position into the toilet in the name of art. That is the stuff of artistic legends.

Photo: Some rights reserved by andres musta flickr photostream, The Sage nor this article endorsed.

DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.
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