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The C-word - now that's offensive




In 25-plus years as an artist, one thing that really gets me fired up is Censorship. So I was disgusted to read in The Press today of another art exhibition being censored, in Rangiora, after "several" complaints to the local district council.

Worse, the bureaucrats are now contacting other councils as they formulate a new policy to control the display of art in council-owned spaces. Maybe Kim Jong Un or Xi Jinping would have some pointers for them.

Art is supposed to challenge. How many any times does this have to be said? Provoking discussion and debate is a good balancer. How can arts thrive in a climate of fear, oppression, censorship and control? Where then are artists permitted to show such works?

The exhibition has a suicide theme. Five of the 35 exhibits have been covered with black material and labelled 'censored'. The artists say the point of the exhibition was to start a conversation about mental health struggles that, ironically, are often censored.

Well-known arts commentator Warren Feeney says in The Press the censored pieces are touching, intricate and "not offensive in any way".

Sadly and weakly, Feeney gives the council a semi-out, in that the exhibition is in the local public library rather than a dedicated gallery space.

However, the works were in a separate room in the library, the Chamber Gallery. It appears to have its own entrances, which could have been controlled. Arts leaders should staunchly oppose censorship, rather than enable it.

Certain members of society seem to treat being offended as a lifelong occupation. This is leading to an increasingly vanilla society in which people are afraid to take a position in case they get shut down. As The Sound of Silence puts it in a song, "Silence like a cancer grows".

Painting above, Sound of Silence, by Nikki Romney


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