Janet Jackson's boob, Howard Stern and his fines, and Guru's new board rules. I have a question for all the W's out there.
I am absolutely opposed to censorship in almost any form. But I have a question as it relates to artistic creavity. Creativity is a tricky thing for artists of any kind. However, when there are boundaries that can't or shouldn't be crossed, whether leagally or it's he rules of the form, might it actually help creativity?
Another way to put it, do strictures of the form (or legally) force artists to think in different ways and make them push their creativity?
I hope this makes sense as I am curious and not artistic in any way.
The example I can think of is the blues. There is a well defined form and strictures of what you must do to compose and play the blues. Yet when you search around and listen it appears that doesn't hinder but helps the best of the musicians in the genre.
From a philosophical standpoint, the act of artistic creatity is completely unhindered by any form of censorship. It's only when that material is disseminted to the outside world (be it in a museum or on a cd or in public performance) that it becomes prey to critique from society.
The true artist (James Joyce, Van Gogh, John Coltrane) is unaffected by society's opinion of their work and does not allow it to influence the creative process (it isn't even a factor). It is when the artist decides that he must make an agreement with commercial entities that his work becomes subject to those that finance it.
(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 2.7.04 1639) "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!" --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview
"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!" --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys
I agree with NickBockwinkelFan but I'd like to add that those who try to purport some type of system of values or taste into society that run contrary to already established rule of law and furthermore, support any type of limits on one's artistic expression, do tend to hinder those who create. Censorship is wrong. But so is self-censorship, which is, in my opinion, even more detrimental to one's creativity.
Whatever strictures that may exist in terms of one's artistic creativity in any type of medium should be anything BUT imposed by someone or something who dictates to the public what is in good taste (or not), and therefore should be allowed (or disallowed), whowever that 'public' is perceived to be.
For instance, look at what happened with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe. Those who contested its showing took his work out of context and also tried to dismiss and deny the very subculture from which Mapplethorpe belonged as being deviant and sinful and so on and so on.
And in another instance, in the early 1860s, Edouard Manet was decried for his works, 'Olympia' and 'Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe' because he completely broke Classical painting canon and tradition, painting in a more Realist manner.
Manet's work was rejected by the Salon in Paris. His paintings were made fun of, insulted. Even the artist himself was scoffed at. But wouldn't you know it, along with a bunch of other artists like Daumier, Monet, Degas, Cassat and Renoir, and handful of years later, the Impressionist movement changed Western art COMPLETELY. Impressionism begat Post-Impressionism begat Expressionism begat Fauvism and Cubism, well, I'm sure yu get my point.
Can you imagine, though, if those insults and dismissals, both in the court of public opinion and in French society proper, had prevented the Impressionist movement?
If your nose is full of boogers it's snot my fault!
In my experience total freedom tends to cripple artists rather than liberate them. Art is about selection and elimination. Values, taste and limits are absolutely necessary to art--without them, all you have is unedited spew and scribblings. The only question is *whose* values and whose limits the artist is going to employ.
In practice, restrictions of medium, subject or approach can be extremely helpful to creativity. If you sit down to make a piece of artwork, and all you have to work with are a black pencil and an 8x10 sheet of white paper, a lot of possibilities and problems are eliminated right off the bat. You don't have to worry about color, size, surface, the three-dimensional aspect, and so on. A lot of decisions have been made for you already, and you can just get on with it.
Being faced with a complete set of oil paints, a large collection of blank canvases, fifty different brush shapes and sizes and your choice of subject can be totally paralyzing unless you are absolutely sure what you want to achieve. Many people end up flailing around and doing nothing because they can't make the choice of what to eliminate and don't have a starting point.
Even censorship is a starting point, and working out clever ways to get around restrictions and work within a tight structure has spurred the creation of many great works. The artists of the past were doing work for hire, remember, and usually fought like hell with their employers. There's always going to be a conflict between what visionaries can see and what the rest of the world would rather look at. The best artists have always known where the lines were drawn, whether they chose to step over them or not. The intersection of an independent mind, the conventions of a society and the limitations of a medium has always formed the ideal atmosphere for creativity.
I suppose the only real form of censorship for commercial artists (rather than those who create purely for their own pleasure) is a consideration of what will be acceptable to the public. I remember a few years ago in the UK, an artist created a portrait of multiple child killer Myra Hindley made entirely of the hand prints of young (judging by the hand sizes 5-6 year old) children. While many people appreciated the creativity and message of the work, the tabloid brigade threw paint, eggs, flour at it. Is that good for an artist, to draw such notoriety? Or would the artist be disgusted that his efforts have been defaced?
Almost any great artist (like almost any great anything of any professions) is going to have a thorough knowledge and mastery of the orthdoxies of the time before venturing beyond them. Everything is built on what came before it. You can trace this progression in almost any artistic or scientific or sociological or whatever discipline.
Crossing those boundaries is almost the definition of not only a great artist, but a great thinker in any discipline. No matter how good others are, they will never be on the same level. For instance, consider Franz Schubert. Schubert was probably the most amazing pianist in history. He would write stuff only he was technically capable of playing. But he really crossed no creative (rather than technical) boundaries and as such is not really remembered among the great musicians of history. On the Jazz front, there's Coltrane's peer Sonny Stitt - a better player than Coltrane, but one who isn't remembered as being on Coltrane's level because of all of the boundary-breaking creative contributions Coltrane made. On the science front, there's half a dozen scientists that had a better mastery of classical physics than Albert Einstein, and discovered - practically speaking - more valuable discoveries than relativity. But who does history remember? Why? Because relativit broke new ground. It was (as "a is pointed out in A Beautiful Mind") a completely original contribution.
So my answer is, not only with art, but with everything, every boundary should eventually be crossed when the time is right. There will be, for certain, a lot of dead ends, and a lot of times when it doesn't seem it was worth it. But they are overshadowed greatly by the times when they are. And how can we tell, without the benefit of hindsight, what will be the barriers worth crossing and what won't? Without the artists and thinkers willing to do so, or without a society willing to suport it, you end up with stuff like the Middle-Ages for 1000 years. Creative and humanistic stagnation, and all the awfulness that comes with it.
I wonder how much money George W. Bush gave Paris Hilton.