Censorship Can Suppress the Progress of Art

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Where are we to turn when it is time to gently absorb what is happening around us? Art. Illustrating what society fears speaking of, imagery captures emotions felt within society whether it safely depicts a weathered man feeding pigeons or silently screams the horrors of war, political strife, or historical events. Whilehighly regarded, it is not always well received. Since art often represents life, when specific pieces of art are selected to appear in open spaces, they should remain visible and unaltered despite any discomfort; therefore, the art created by Aaron Bellshould not have been censoreddue to freedom of expression, the nature of artists work, and fulfilling the expectations of this particularartistr’s audience.

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Selected for display inNew York City’s Riverside Park,Stand Tall, Stand Loud‹is a sixteen-foot-tall steelsculpture by artist Aaron Bell which evokes an image of slavery. In its fullness, itencompasses a theme of tolerance.The piece is the body of a man with a noose, a loop with a knot used to hang people, which sits where his head would appear. A wind turbine serves as ametaphoricalheart and large hands stretch wide, representing tolerance. A quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. isinscribed on thesculpture, reading “Our lives begin toend the day we become silent about the things that matter.”Stand Tall, Stand Loudrepresents that hatred has lived here. Hatredwashere. The creation of this piece was an artistic reaction to the truth, a call for an end to hatred, not a cry for the subsequent bureaucraticinterference which it was bound to.

While not all pieces of art focused in this arena are seen by the majority, the work ofAaron Bellcaused quite a stir. Arguably one ofthe most controversial piecesof art releasedduring recent times,Bellwas exercising hisright to freedom of expression. For this reason alone, the controversy should have remained as discussions among friends and art critics. This was not the case. To the surprise of many, and the satisfaction of others,this piecewas subjected to censorship to make it more digestible for park visitors during their yoga classes and other outdoor activities. Does the truth hurt that muchwhile standing in a warrior pose? The decision to censor this piece was enforced by the New York City Department of Parks, resulting in the noose being removed to soften the experience of those who would see it.

When considering the world at large, artists are a significantly small portion of the population. Radical ideas and fearless positions in the world allow artists to take on the responsibility of speaking on behalf of society. When Aaron Bell did just this, it was met with resistance. However, this is the nature of artists work. How are we to invite creativity and then punish an artist for his bravery? If such a sensitive reaction is going to continue to be embraced, this specific piece should not havebeenisolatedand placed under review for censorship, but instead,entire sections of galleries which house controversial art should be placed under thesame microscope. The weathered man feeding pigeons wins.

Many artists have a strong following, consisting of inspired supporters who choose to stay connected to the pulse of bold art. Admirers begin to develop a taste and expect to be satisfied from the work of a chosen artist. How is it acceptable that an audience can be interrupted while enjoying art? Some artists are known to produce rebellious pieces. This, then, prompts satisfaction because in this shared space the artist has a power to write a story from a perspective that does not use words. The silence is whimsical when taking in a piece. Everyone could use that chilling feeling it can produce to go a little deeper in the understanding of the world. Art cuts through the noise. It makes an uncomfortable worldbearable. Because of this, Aaron Bell’s work should not have been considered for censorship.

Art imitates life. If a piece carrying arevolutionary message is censored to make it more palatable, it does not mean that the depicted eventdid not happen. It does not mean that we need to be coddled to diminish guilt.Many people today are disconnected from experiencing a range of emotions. The answer to this is art, it prompts a reaction. Art allows individuals to feel,properly. Some, otherwise, would not feel certain emotions, at least not beyond the surface. The last thing which needs censorship is art. Because of freedom of expression, the nature of artists work, and what audiences expect from certain artists, and those following Aaron Bell specifically; there should not bean experience of art being censored. The experience should be freely available to all who turn to art for answers. Those who want to enjoy their yoga and expensive lattes in a parkshould choose one that does not embrace art in public spaces.

Wondering what happened? The New York City Department of Parks overturned the decision to censor Bellr’s sculpture and issued a public apology to the artist. The noose was placed back onto the piece, restoring Bellr’s original vision. Based on the program which managed the curating and installation, the sculpture was planned to be on temporary display, making it even more distinct and exclusive. Unfortunately, and ironically, it was previously stated that this work posed a potential distraction; yet society was distracted by unfounded and unnecessary remarks which removed the attention from the work itself. It was a win for Bell and for those who admire bold art when Stand Tall, Stand Loud was restored to its intended glory in Riverside Park. Although materials are fleeting and not everlasting, this piece brought tangibility to a message. There are limitations on how far the truth can be censored: what is in the dark will eventually come to light. Stand Tall, Stand Loud immortalizes Bellr’s message.

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Censorship Can Suppress The Progress of Art. (2019, May 29). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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