Art Censorship Essay, Research Paper
From: email@example.com To: QUICKPAPERS@TOTALLY.NET Subject: Submit a paperDate: Sunday, November 09, 1997 5:59 PMTitle: Art CensorshipCategory: EnglishDescription:Body of paper: Everywhere people go they are affected by art. Some persons choose art museums, musicals, operas, or plays for entertainment. A lot of people may not attend events like these, but they will encounter art everywhere around them. Magazines, books, billboards, buildings, movies, parks, and city plazas are just a few of the places where art is located. Society cannot escape art, nor should it want to. Art speaks to our emotions and makes a connection to our lives. For some people movies, music, or books provide this connection, for others it may be sculptures, playwrights, or paintings (Heins 5). Art and entertainment often make political statements and move people to action. Unfortunately these political statements are causing a cultural war in the United States. The place of the arts in society and what role government should assume in supporting them is being questioned. Who is to judge what art is worthy of funding and what art is not? The government is trying to mandate standards of content and taste (Heins 4). The cutting of federal funds that go towards artistic programs, which the government considers obscene, is unconstitutional and a form of censorship. There are three strong point that need to be examined when dealing with art censorship. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Nobody can clearly define obscene art. Second, since the United States is a democratic nation, the government should not be able to instruct artists on which art they can or cannot create. Finally, if society is to expand as a whole, how can it possibly grow when other people’s differences are not accepted?One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. The definition of obscene varies greatly from one person to another. Some dictionaries might define obscene as offensive to accepted standards of decency, or maybe it means having lustful and indecent feelings. The United States Government says that obscenity includes depiction’s of sadomasochism, homoeroticism, the exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in sex acts (William 85). The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the government agency that decides which artistic programs will receive federal funding. The NEA was established in the 1960’s, and has played a highly constructive role in the past. Since its establishment the numbers of major dance companies, operas, and orchestras have steadily increased (Gergen 80). Unfortunately it has come under strong attack recently for funding obscene art. To counterpart its opposition, the NEA announced that some grants would be denied on grounds other than artistic merit (William 85). This statement satisfied the critics, but angered many artists and performers. The obscenity clause is an exception to the first amendment. Basically right now, federal and state governments may censor any form of artistic expression (Heins 4). “Works of art reflect the imaginations, fears, and fantasies of their creators, or of society” (Heins 7). Art is not always comforting and beautiful. It reflects reality sometimes, and surprisingly those images do not make the reality go away (Heins 7). When people look at so called obscene works of art they are not immediately persuaded to go out and imitate the images, yet many small minded individuals disagree. These activists state that government is not restricting free speech, but that it is restricting paid speech (Leo 18). This is true to a certain degree, but it is wrong for the government to mandate funding. Only a communist style government would deny grants to pictures, paintings, or musicals that they did not find appealing, or acceptable to their own personal morals. In this democratic nation, where the freedom of speech and expression are both the backbone of government, congress is imposing legislation that instructs artists and performers what they can create or perform. When many people begin to think about censorship, they probably picture only foreign governments that dictate primordial cultures. Many artists underwent criticism five hundred years ago, yet art censorship has recently reappeared in the United States. The NEA has put new stipulations on dishing out its grants. No funded work may involve obscenity. This new regulation was mainly imposed because of two photographic shows which toured the country (Blucher). Artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano have created art that some myopic individuals do not wish to look at, so they do not want anyone else to see this art either. Serrano was a catholic who thought there were sacred meanings of both symbols and body fluids (Heins 123). He took a wooden crucifix and emerged it into his bodily urine, then photographed the display. He titled the work of art “Piss Christ” (William 85). Robert Mapplethorne took pictures in the religious community. These photographs enraged many people in the religious community. Many artists angrily protest any and all government restrictions on federal funding. There were four other rejections of grants recently. Karen Finley performs scenes on stage that include an act in which she coats her nude body with chocolate and bean spouts. She stated her work was intended to advance her aggressive feminism, and to also decry the abuse of women (Gergen 80). She used nudity for dramatic purposes rather than pornographic. “The naked female body was shown to portray the vulnerability of the female in today’s society” (Heins 107). John Heck’s grants were not permitted because his work includes a scene in which he urinates on a picture of Jesus in a toilet bowl (Gergen 80). Holly Hughes also had funds which were not renewed. She is a playwright who wishes to advance lesbianism (Gergen 80). Her performance includes a scene in which she places her hand up in her vagina and says “Jesus between Mother’s hips” (Gergen 80). Another artist who was discredited was a homosexual named Tim Mather. His work encouraged the education, understanding, and eventual acceptance of homosexual(Gergen 80). All of the artists had been funded before and recommended again by their peers. They all emphasized sexual and political issues. This fear of art made the NEA a target (Heins 123). Religious buffs raised the question “why should taxpayers fund such filth that insults their faith?” This battle was not over dirty pictures, naughty words, or homosexuality. The debate was about whose beliefs were being attacked. A minority that holds a couple of positions in the government should not be able to impose their feelings on the rest of the nation. Artist’s merit cannot be determined by a simple vote (Heins 13). The right of artists to challenge conventional wisdom and values is the basic cornerstone of academic and artistic freedom (Heins 134).
People have always had a huge fear of the unknown. Throughout history, change has required much work. People are not easily persuaded to change their minds in this country. Civil Rights is just one example of how difficult change can be. Another style of change has been the acceptance of different lifestyles. Different religions, sexual lifestyles, and political feelings are not accepted easily here. Many people are even unwilling to communicate with others who do not follow accepted norms, or possess the same morals. That, of course, is their choice. They have that right, but they have absolutely no right to suppress the lifestyles of the “different” people. Just because Bob does not like Bill, that does not mean Bob can burn down Bill’s museum or library. Tolerance is one item people are not born with. It must be developed. The people which oppose federal funding of certain styles of art are basically unwilling to let others express their opinions or beliefs. Some claim that their money should not be allowed to support such filth which they do not agree with. On the average each American contributes a measly sixty-eight cents per year towards the National Endowment for the Arts (Heins 130). Taxpayers have also helped fund the government by buying $600 toilet seats and $400 dollar hammers. They also pay the salary for someone who studies the flow rate of ketchup per day (Heins 130). This sixty-eight cents is certainly not a crucial blow to the pockets of many Americans. The upset taxpayers do not understand that nobody is making them look at the “filthy” art. All they have to do is close their eyes when the bad parts are shown.People fear most of all the concept of nudity. Kenneth Clark sums up the problem with this following statement. “Since the human body is the most perfect of all forms, we cannot see it too often” (Heins 95). “The body is the mirror of perfection, but now it has become an object of humiliation and shame” (Heins 95). There is a terrible fear of the unclothed for some reason. Even Donatello and Michelangelo have both faced censorship for painting works of art that contained nudity (Heins 109). Why is the naked human so frightening to many people? The United States is one of the few countries on the planet where nudity cannot be seen. Movies receive R ratings for it. Television cannot show any form of nudity. It is almost considered a sin to view a naked body. Statistics were compiled in a survey by Time magazine. When people were asked why they fight art, fifty percent answered it was because of the nudity. Thirty-one percent said political content was why they opposed some art. Sixteen percent complained about some of the religious viewpoints. Another sixteen percent did not like any homosexual content in art, which contains nudity. Seven percent opposed the racist, insensitive content of art. Another six percent complained about sexual harassing content. This is more nudity. The leftover people said some art was just downright ugly (Farley 12). There is definitely a problem here. This society must overcome a mental block which is hampering its ability to expand. A free society is based on the principle that each person has the right to decide their own interpretations. People have the ability to choose what art is to them. People also have the ability to create what art they want. Acceptance is the key to a society which expects to continue its growth. Sandra Day O’Connor is a current Supreme Court Justice. She was the first woman ever appointed to the land’s highest court. She has a quotation that supports the ability to create free art. “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and the mystery of human life” (Sandra Day O’Connor). Who is to argue with her? Art is a very important factor in society. In every city and state, when the Chamber of Commerce puts out a brochure, invariable they mention the arts (Heins 121). Local orchestras, theaters, and museums are usually pictured on the brochures. The NEA is one of the few government agencies that has been free of fraud over the years. It should be allowed to continue its funding of art, but without regulations and stipulations. The cutting of federal funds that go towards artistic programs, which the government considers obscene, is unconstitutional and a form of censorship. This is true for many reasons, but there are three strong points which can sum up what is wrong with censoring art. Nobody can clearly define what obscene really means. The word may be interpreted in many different ways; therefore, it is impossible to enforce regulations that involve such abstract titles. In a democratic nation the government has never had the power to instruct artists and performers on what to create, but the United States is attempting to accomplish this. Finally, the only thing that is constant is change. If other people’s differences are not accepted, or even attempted to be accepted, our society will never expand and advance in a positive direction. Art refreshes and enhances the human spirit. Art has always pushed on the perimeters of social convention and only by seeing it in new ways can society advance (Gergen 80). Trying to imagine life without any artistic influence is almost impossible. The government must not be allowed to continue its restricting of federal funds which go towards merited programs. This form of censorship undermines the basic principle of the Constitution. This censorship has already overlapped into other areas of society. All types of music and literary works have come under attack every single day. Sidney Yates has given some insight to what art censorship could lead to. “Shakespeare can be kind of bawdy. The NEA’s contract could encourage people to criticize grants or the presentation of his plays” (William 85). The NEA’s new language could lead to a ban on anything involving religion, social issues, or politics (William 85). When Congress created the NEA, the idea was to advance artistic freedom and creativity, not government approved , officially acceptable art (Heins 117). Censors claim to be defending American values. “All censorship does is stir the emotions of people and spark an intellectual swill of comments and debate” (Reichman 3). This paper was written by Matthew Sproul and they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.