Local Social Network for the Arts Community in Central Valley
Should paintings or nude statues be shown in a public setting such as a Library or Mall? As a visual artist who sets up art displays in public places, I am very aware of our American society’s standards of what is considered acceptable for public consumption. All societies have these standards of behavior and yes, the standards do
evolve with society. 60 years ago, Tarzan of the Apes was considered too sexy for the libraries! What is acceptable in Europe is quite different than what is acceptable in America also. American standards are usually much more conservative than those prevalent in Europe. In this financially strapped time, Libraries are very dependent on donations to purchase their materials. Let’s face it; donors are simply not going to purchase materials they don’t like and they won’t give money to organizations that do. Just as a person isn’t allowed to scream “fire!” in a crowded area for fear of causing panic, as a society we will always need to make judgments as to what is appropriate for our public libraries to spend their money on. And yes, in the past governments havebeen very heavy handed on what was considered appropriate. On that subject, the right of Private adult individuals to decide what they will read and see must always be defended. The internet has virtually ensured that free speech will be protected; As long as it exists, artists and book publishers will be permitted to sell these items (in the appropriate venues), and I don’t think we need to be too worried about government imposed censorship.
Is there a difference between a Rubens classical painting and Playboy? Most of us think so. And yet some of his art is probably more graphic than a Playboy centerfold and this image certainly shows violence toward women. Nevertheless most museums would have no hesitation in displaying it in a public venue.
A great many "women’s romance" novels do contain what used to be called soft or “vanilla” porn (sexual situations which are sometimes graphically described although I find the authors usually use euphemisms). These novels ARE purchased by libraries; I have checked them out myself. The main difference between hard pornography and these novels is women’s romance books usually don't also contain profanity in describing the sexual adventures of their heroines, and although the libraries do purchase books, videos and games containing graphic sexual themes or graphic violence, these materials usually aren't kept in the juvenile section. Most county libraries require a parent’s permission for a child to check out materials from the adult section. Is this censorship? Absolutely. Is it appropriate? As a parent, I have think so. Children often lack the maturity to put what they are reading and seeing in context and require adult interpretation to help them do so. If an adult is there to provide an explanation of, oh—visuals of the Nazi death camps or the Manson murders or the books “Helter Skelter” and Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, then it can be appropriate for a child to see those images or read those books. Only a parent can truly judge whether or not their child could handle such graphic images, or if the child has enough of a grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy to be allowed to play a video game that is rated “mature”, read an explicit book, look at a Rubens painting or watch such a movie. For myself when setting up a public art display I find the following criteria helpful in judging whether or not reading matter or an art display will be acceptable to the general public: 1) the context in which it appears; i.e. A painting, recording or a book containing graphic sex or violence will be much more likely to be acceptable if it contains historical facts. 2) The age of the audience the video game, book or display is intended for. I agree with the view held by most Americans’ the subject matter should be age appropriate. So Yes, Censorship can be a positive force if used properly.