Art is creation, and censorship is anti-creation, negative energy, uncreation, the bringing into being of non-being. Censorship is the thing that stops you doing what you want to do.
The creative act requires not only freedom but also this assumption of freedom. If the creative artist worries if he will still be free tomorrow, then he will not be free today. If he is afraid of the consequences of his choice of subject or of his manner of treatment of it, then his choices will not be determined by his talent, but by fear. If we are not confident of our freedom, then we are not free.
And, even worse than that, when censorship intrudes on art, it becomes the subject; the art becomes “censored art,” and that is how the world sees and understands it. The censor labels the work immoral, or blasphemous, or pornographic, or controversial, and those words are forever hung like albatrosses around the necks of those cursed mariners, the censored works. The attack on the work does more than define the work; in a sense, for the general public, it becomes the work.
At its most effective, the censor’s lie actually succeeds in replacing the artist’s truth. That which is censored is thought to have deserved censorship.
Art survives censorship, but the artist is vulnerable...
Great art, or at least original art is never created in the safe middle ground, but always at the edge. Originality is dangerous. It challenges, questions, overturns assumptions, unsettles moral codes, disrespects sacred cows or other such entities. It can be shocking, or ugly, or, to use the catch-all term so beloved of the tabloid press, controversial. And if we believe in liberty, if we want the air we breathe to remain plentiful and breathable, this is the art whose right to exist we must not only defend, but celebrate. Art is not entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution. Boat-rocking should not be deplored.
Words fom the “Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture” given by Salman Rushdie, on May 6th, 2012, as part of the pen World Voices Festival
Artistic photography by QiK Photography