KaleidoscopeArt Behind Closed Doors
Before you begin reading this paper, look through the appendix. Are you shocked? Disgusted? Intrigued? Viewers of such controversial artwork often experience a wide spectrum of reactions ranging from the petrified to the pleased. Questions may arise within the viewer regarding the artistic merit and legitimacy of this unorthodox artwork. However, art's primary purpose, according to Maya Angelou, “is to serve humanity. Art that does not increase our understanding of this particular journey or our ability to withstand this particular journey, which is life, is an exercise in futile indulgence” (Buchwalter 27). To expand on Angelou's analogy, because everyone experiences a different life journey, art is different to everyone. In other words, art is subjective to the viewer. The viewer creates his own definition of what is art and what is not art. Some may recognize the artistic value of a piece of artwork, while others may find it obscene. Some may praise the artwork, while others will protest it. Censorship is derived from these differing perspectives on artwork. Through censorship, communities seek to establish boundaries and criteria that limit an artist's ability to produce “proper” artwork. However, some artists choose to ignore these boundaries in order to expand the scope of art and, in their view, better serve humanity.
At first glance, Western society appears to have changed significantly since the nineteenth-century. Today, industrialized nations enjoy more efficient transportation, communication, medical care, and manufacturing than they did in the nineteenth-century. But have our core values changed? While the Western world has changed considerably, people's opinions of the core values and morality is well-preserved since the nineteenth-century. This assertion becomes apparent when one compares the standards by which Western society judges what is considered artwork. While today's definition and criteria of censorship in a Western art museum is unchanged since the nineteenth-century, the act of censorship has changed with museums and their role in society.
Societies often struggle to define censorship. Interestingly, the nineteenth-century did not explicitly define the word “censorship” as Westerners understand it today. The nineteenth-century's definition of censorship is “the office of a censor” and the definition of censor is “an officer of Rome who had the power of correcting manners” (Johnson 112).