Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Free Speech of Art

I'm going to write more in what I'm calling "Chain of Thought" style, where I'm bringing up a subject I've been thinking about, and just let the writing process crystallize as I type. Meaning I will have come further (hopefully) by the end of the post, and you can see my path through my reasoning.

Here's our initial question: Should Art depict real life, or should it promote new, different, and/or "better" ideas?

Easy answer: both. Not necessarily at once. But in a non-offensive way, while provocative is fine. It depends on how it's done. If it's done with good form and common sense. Okay, maybe it wasn't that easy.

My problem with this question is the same as the Free Speech ideal. If I truly, madly, deeply hate person X, then telling everyone how terrible this person is, while not lying, is theoretically perfectly fine. Lying is not okay, but everyone's got bad sides, bad days, mistakes and skeletons in their closets. Where does the line go then for invasion of privacy? Where does my rights to free speech end, and his/her right to her own person begin?

(If marketing is everything, and it often is in our modern world, then bad publicity is still publicity, so should X just shut up about it? It's perhaps a bit bad mannered to speak ill of other people, but it's basically an entire business these days so we can't expect younger generations to be more restrained than we are(n't) now. Anyone working with information and marketing knows how powerful just a suggestive seed is, when well planted. And what's seen can't be unseen.)

I have seen people argue that Art should strive for a higher ideal, most recently a reader complained at a graphic novel aimed at teenagers and young adults that it begins with a young woman waking up after sleeping with a man she's just met. The writer argued that that's reality, the reality these teenagers are already living in.

I have seen people argue that Art should depict reality, be grounded in situations people can recognize and relate to, that if it's too esoteric and abstract it has no value, it's just paint splatter. David Lynch comes to mind. And the depiction of Dali in Midnight in Paris when he's obsessed with rhinoceroses.

And I've struggled with a story I want to write, which touches on pedophilia. I have written about rape and murder, torture, incest, genocide, the list goes on, and to me personally pedophilia is just another subject on the long list of complications life can include, crassly seen. But that is another discussion. My problem lies in that the subject is so stigmatized that I'm afraid even to write about it alone in my room. This should not be true for any subject, of any type, for any person. If something is hidden away and not spoken about, we can't make democratic decisions about it. Even writing this, I'm worried that if/when anyone reads it they'll judge me as a person writing about these things not having experienced any of them, but this is how we learn, by communicating, exploring, discussing. This is how we become a more enlightened, understanding, nonjudgmental, progressive people.

So do I believe Art should have no boundaries? If someone wants to paint a vagina on a square in Germany, that's fine, if someone wants to hang paintings with beaten women on their living room walls that's fine, if I want racial slurs on my wedding invitations that's fine.

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: in a perfect world, none of these things would be offensive. Eccentric, perhaps, but not offensive. The problem with them lies in the context. We live in a time when certain parts of the body are supposed to be private, when violence against women is a societal problem in I think every culture on the planet, and where race have been used as an excuse for horrific acts past and present.

I sense a circle argument. If Art is judged as offensive because of it's context, then we can't separate it from that context, and thus all Art, whether it's created as depicting reality or not, will be interpreted as commenting on reality. As in, Art is forcefully made both into the opposing sides of "depicting reality" and "promoting a future". The drawing of a young woman having sex with a stranger is only offensive if it's interpreted as both. And even if we're drawing table spoons, incest rape is going to associate back to humans and reality and future, and there we are.

(Can we as humans create Art that has nothing to do with either humans or the world around us? That seems impossible to me. By laws of... I don't know what to call them, logic maybe, anything a human thinks could probably be called a human concern.)

We have voided our original question. The new question is, censor vs. TFS (Totally Free Speech). Except that's not a question, it's an interstellar nuclear war.

I will return on this topic. In the meantime, if anyone at any time would like to drop me a trait, any trait, or preference, or anything at all about themselves or another person, and have me write up two very short texts, one promoting this trait or thing as the best thing ever, the other trying to prove that it's trash and terrible and should possibly be made illegal, feel free. It's a fun exercise for me, and a chance to get praised and insulted at once for you. Be warned, I will take your request as consent for me to say any whichever terrible things with no holdback and no trigger warnings :P

Have fun out there peops.

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