I do not know what troubles me more: the National Endowment of the
Arts denying funds to artists like Karen Finley and Annie Sprinkle
because their work is "obscene," or undergraduate students rebelling
at being "forced to watch" artworks which offend them. In my view,
to shock and disturb an audience is one of the most important effects
that an artwork can achieve. The idea of 18-23-year-olds putting
forth a "right" to be protected from such artworks and insisting that
they only be exposed to artworks which provide pleasant experiences
strikes me as one of the most disturbing trends in our culture.
It is relatively easy to formulate a strategy for fighting state
censorship -- how does one try to counteract the latter phenomenon?
I hope you are not trying to suggest something along the lines of penalizing
them for refusing to watch the film-I don't think refusal to watch a film
constitutes "censorship". The students were disgusted-as you imply, that's
going to happen. Wouldn't you refuse to watch, say, an anti-Semitic Nazi
propaganda film? Certainly it would shock and disturb you, but I doubt that
you would give in to proponents of such a film calling it art because it shocks
and offends you.
A right to watch is not a duty to watch-there is also the right not to watch.
The notion of human rights is based on the idea that people can make a certain
amount of choices for themselves. If you were prevented from seeing "Taxi zum
Klo" and you wanted to, wouldn't you invoke that priniciple? The students' right
to refuse to watch it is the same right as your right to watch it if you want.
What would I have done? Explained ahead of time what was going to be in the film
(Having seen it, I say that no one should be unaware of its contents before
seeing it)-I think that probably had a lot to do with the students' outrage.
Daniel Case State University of New York at Buffalo
Prodigy: WDNS15D | GEnie: DCASE.10
Ceci n'est pas une pipe
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