Censorship Will Be The Death of Art

open casket
Dana Schutz’ “Open Casket”. Source: Al Jazeera

By Martin Mulvenna, Contributor


The Whitney Museum in New York has faced sustained protest recently after including Dana Schutz’s Open Casket. The Painting itself is meant to raise awareness of modern racism in America – Schutz told a reporter for Artnet that the inspiration for the painting came in August 2016 following the spate of police shooting of innocent black men.

The painting itself depicts the funeral scene of 14-year-old Emmet Tilly, who was barbarically murdered by white supremacists in 1955. Tilly’s mother decided to hold an open casket funeral of her son’s mutilated body, to focus the world’s attention on American racism.

The calls for censorship have of course came from the farcical social justice – so called ‘progressives’, who have labelled the painting a form of “cultural appropriation”. Leading the bulwark of the charge has been British-born artist Hannah Black, who stated in a Facebook message that “the subject matter is not Schutz” and in defending her calls for the removal of painting has argued “White freedom of speech and white creative freedom has been founded on the restraint of others, and are not natural rights”.

What nonsense is this? What exactly is a ‘white’ right? The last time I checked rights were declared on a universal basis. Was it not the universal language of the Declaration of The Rights of Man that ultimately inspired the Haitian revolution of 1781? Why “Universal”? Because these rights are natural, they are innate in all of us, they are fundamental. In other words, rights cannot be inherently discriminatory. It is in Black’s moronic remarks that we see the sinister consequence of identity politics, since Schultz is white she can’t possibly hold solidarity with the black community, nor can any other white person for that matter. Solidarity therefore becomes impossible, as identity politics seeks only to divide us into smaller and smaller categories in a system of competing and never reconcilable claims of victimhood.

I do not wish to see a world were only women can talk about women issues, black people on racism, Jews on anti-Semitism, Muslims on islamophobia and members of the LGBT community on homophobia. This can only have the impact of regressing any intellectual pursuit that seeks to establish the truth and makes as much sense as saying that only an American Artist, not a British artist can talk about American art (wait).

Of course, this isn’t the first time these self-proclaimed ‘progressives’ have tried to censor art, two years ago, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts came under the same charge of ‘cultural appropriation’ following its displaying of Claude Monet’s La Japonaise. Although Monet’s painting still adores the walls of the gallery, this recent call for censorship should expose these social justice activists for essentially, what they are, regressives. Who pursue their disturbing beliefs with the same fanaticism of previous movements for censorship like the evangelicals who protested Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Only the rhetoric have changed, Blasphemy has been supplanted by the ridiculous notion of cultural appropriation. Where does this charge end? Should Orwell’s novel Burmese days, a steaming attack on British imperialism in Asia be censored because Orwell himself was not Burmese? Should Conrad’s Heart of Darkness be censored as Conrad himself is not Congolese? At the heart of this charge is the death nail of art.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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