Friday, June 8, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Censorship


Dear Ms. Hofstadter,

We regret to inform you that our organization will not be providing the requested $235,000.00 for your art installation. Though it is listed on our website, we have only $100,000.00 to award across all proposed projects. We wish you the best of luck in finding other sources of financial support, though we recommend you apply to them after getting government approval for the public use of deceased persons.

We wish you to know the ethical and legal ramifications of your corpse mutilation did not dissuade any of our administrators in their personal voting on your endowment, even though it led to the denial of your proposal. This has actually been the first case in our organization’s history in which we denied funding because something was offensive, and we would like to thank you for the experience your application provided.

We have never had a situation like it, and our reviews process went unusually long. Our organization funds many controversial art displays across the United States and Canada, and many of our administrators are charter members of anti-censorship groups.

The first problem is your proposed location, which sees no annual tourism and has below five hundred people in the local counties. We contacted the Chamber of Commerce and found it expected no increase in tourism based on your installation, and at least one secretary ranted at our interns about the nature of your project and your history with his office. Also, allow this letter to serve as reminder that you did not mention prior legal allegations of necrophilia in your application.

Your application process was also hindered by your minimal responses to follow-up queries, particularly on the grounds of the art patrons it would serve. We noted that your proposal makes several mentions of “The Fundies” it would offend, but no audience that would enjoy or engage with it. Two interns spent several weeks corresponding with people related to the arts in the area and found none desired to view the proposed installation. To date your only answer to queries has been “sum ppl desirve ofending.”

There are administrators with this organization that agree with your sentiments. Several of our administrators have produced highly provocative art, but even the most liberal could not see the point in spending so much money to offend so few people. It has been argued that art must not be repressed, hamstrung financially, or discarded based on the number of people who dislike it. However, due to your project having minimal audience and requiring more than twice our operating budget, we were forced to vote against funding based on the perplexing ruling that your work is offensive.

It’s been a baffling year at the organization. We have never been in this philosophical position before. Thank you for allowing us to readdress our opinions on censorship. It has been a learning process.

Sincerely,
Martin Sheinbaum

53 comments:

  1. God, save us from the artists who think they need to offend us to make good art.

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  2. I echo Tim's comment - the shock tactic doesn't make it good art! Nice piece John

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    1. Has there ever been shocking art you adored, Helen?

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  3. Loud smiles from this neck of the woods. I would add, that I would like to be saved from the organisations who put shock value at a higher premium that artistry just as much as I would like such artists to struggle on.

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    1. Perhaps struggling with a slightly more conservative budget?

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  4. typical conceptual artist, can't spell for toffee. Funny, reading this the week I attended a Damien Hirst retrospective exhibition and the fact that I work for an anti-censorship NGO. I just don't buy the argument offered here by the funding body. They are saying that it's an audience based decision, ie the market determines all. That ultimately leads back to self-censorship by the artists who have to chase a living. "Alleged necrophilia", whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    Good engaging stuff.

    marc nash

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    1. Glad so much of it pinged off your experiences, Marc. Were you saying you disbelieved that an organization would judge that way, though?

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    2. god no Jon! They absolutely would. I love the tightly controlled language of their refusal of his grant application

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  5. Just because it's shocking doesn't mean it's worth doing. Shock tactics are easy - creating something provocative is a different ball game entirely.

    So excellent work, sir!

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    1. I'll say I've yet to see work with dead bodies that looked easy. May I never fund such!

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  6. Har Har..This is very funny.. It's Damien Hirst meets The Archers.. (two English refs .. sorry John). Thought-provoking piece.

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    1. Thanks so much for all the promotion on this one today, Tom. Were there any particular thoughts it provoked?

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  7. "even the most liberal could not see the point in spending so much money to offend so few people" - heh, that did make me chuckle.
    some very interesting things to think about here, John. I find myself agreeing with Scheinbaum

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    1. Did you feel similar conflicts to old Marty as well? And glad you laughed at that - I snickered as I realized what I was writing.

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  8. This did make me laugh. I have to admit I'm not a fan of shock value modern art but one of the questions I often get asked is "Are you related to Tracey" (No.). She does some weird stuff like your characters... so naturally she came to mind when I read this. Great stuff. I particularly love the humour in it.

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    1. I don't know if I could write about censorship without humor emerging somewhere. It might be too far from my nature.

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  9. Mazzz pointed out my favourite line. I got a chuckle there too.

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  10. Today's shock art was standard government practice in the Middle Ages.

    Sounds like he should have planned his installation in Colorado Springs or some other place where he could have offended a whole lot of fundies. I'm guessing the "artist" has a personal axe to grind with his own community.

    I really enjoyed this — a rejection letter we can all enjoy!

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    1. I believe the Middle Agers managed to pull it off with more fiscal responsibility, though I don't have their ledgers on hand.

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  11. Aha! I recall the convo earlier this week about "not providing funding" = "censorship". You're trying to do some kind of a cultural exploration with your writing! Don't deny it, Wiswell, I'm on to you! I am SO ON TO YOU!

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    1. Yup. If you recall at the end of that #litchat I was even talking to Robyn about writing this piece up.

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  12. Artists using offence! What about poor writers?

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    1. I consider fiction writers to be artists, so what would you be inquiring about them?

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  13. So if she was to offend more people she may have received the funding?
    Also, I'm guessing there would be very few women who have been charged with necrophilia.
    As a side note and in response to CharlotteC, my favourite author is sometimes incredibly offensive and gives his characters very childish names, such as Fanny Sourpuss, but despite all that he writes like no one else I've come across.
    I think writers can be just as offensive as visual artists, maybe even more.

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    1. There have certainly been pieces of literature people found intensely offensive. Consider Naked Lunch, The Satanic Verses or Huckleberry Finn.

      I admit, "Fanny Sourpuss" just sounds silly to my American ears.

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  14. Seems like there are persuasive arguements not to fund this artist - I'm on the side of censorship in this case.

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    1. So you would actively vote against her?

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  15. From where did the name Martin Scheinbaum originate? Entirely random Wiswellness or a reference over my head? Funny story and I like what remained unsaid.

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    1. It is an oblique reference, connecting to the excellent television show, Sports Night. I dare not say anymore, and merely beg you to view the fine program.

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  16. Those craven bureaucrats. Zombie artists deserve the right to make a living as well.

    I like the deft touch with which you weave your unique humor into this subject.

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    1. Thank you kindly, Aidan. Did anything in particular tickle you?

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  17. I love that they're worried about spending so much money to offend so few. That cracks me up. But what I find most interesting about this piece is its definition of censorship, which reminds me of the recent kerfuffle around Penny Arcade and the rape game on Kickstarter.

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    1. My opinion on Tentacle Bento would probably offend a lot of people. Now I'm tempted to write about that next.

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  18. Sharp and Funny, thanks for the smile John. :)

    I have to wonder, if he was to display his "Art" in a 'high visitor' area, which may have resulted in high revenue, would that have made it less offensive?

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    1. They do seem to lean towards it being just as offensive, but to more people, and thus more worthwhile. What would you make of that?

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    2. I'm not really sure John, maybe the more people it offends, the more worthwhile it really does become, and does a better job of serving its purpose. Maybe we're just a strange species too. :)

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  19. She should try Dragon's Den.

    You write bureaucratic spiel scarily well, John.

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    1. I have a little experience of being whacked with the bureaucracy. A cheeky version of it stuck with me after a while. Thanks, Jack.

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  20. LOL best piece of the week :-)

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    1. Really Lisa? This is your favorite out of everything? Very kind of you.

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  21. Now, if it was in NYC, and could offend the most people for a larger time...money would be thrown at it hand over fist.

    Silly people. Funny piece.

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    1. Offense is at a premium in NYC. You've got to hit a high bar there.

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  22. Theres....
    Just...
    No...
    Love....

    Funny piece =)

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  23. We wish you to know the ethical and legal ramifications of your corpse mutilation did not dissuade any of our administrators in their personal voting on your endowment, even though it led to the denial of your proposal. -> love this line.

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  24. I noticed that my opinion of the artists ability to create visual art soured when they were portrayed as being unable to spell.

    This was thought provoking. We think about the right to make art but art is often still business.

    Perhaps the aim of the piece was to engage the funding committee, in which case I'd say it was very powerful indeed.

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  25. “sum ppl desirve ofending.”

    Nothing scarier than a teenager who thinks they know something about art :P.

    But seriously, great piece. It sounded so official. Have you ever thought about joining an art council or some such?

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  26. Is it a bad thing that I'm actually curious about the project now?

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  27. Hilarious! Like Ganymeder, I'm curious what the heck the project was now.

    I loved how the artist ranted against the "Fundies" when she's trying to get funded.

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  28. Hi there John -- I liked the fact that this skirted around the art installation, gradually defining its edges but never actually saying what it is (very much more interesting). Nice feel this piece being an official response from the funding body, and liked the little touches that defined the artist in the same way as the exhibit -- through implication: "sum ppl desirve ofending". Oh, yes, I've met a few of those. St.

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