Censorship is always a heated topic of discussion as people can feel very passionately one way or another. In the case of Cecilia Fogelberg and Trevor Flinn’s work ‘The Puma, The Stranger and The Mountain’ vs. a single crictic and Melbourne City Council, I cant come to a concrete decision, one way or the other.
One point to be raised, in regard to this instance, is of the specific spatial nuances of the subway area that the 'offending' images were displayed. That subway space is a very public area and I doubt that most of the multitude that use it to get from point A to point B would not necessarily consider it a 'platform' to display art, but more of a thoroughfare.
“Piss-Christ” (Andres Serrano's controversial photograph of a plastic crucific submerged in a container of the artists urine) was physically attacked with a hammer whilst on display at the NGV in 1997. This attack by zealots I feel is unjustified because of the works anchoring within an institution, coming from a strong idea base and an area of research and development for the artist. Even publicly known Catholic Nun and art critic, Sister Wendy Beckett said in an interview that she didn’t find the work blasphemous but more of a social comment on "what we (modern society) have done to Christ". I have more respect for Serrano and his work within a cultual placement than that of a guerrilla street artist who works with explicit imagery or text and places their work without any sensitivity to possible viewers in the public environment (ie: children, the elderly et cetera).
I am not pro-controversy but I am in no way advocating censorship, just personal and situational appropriateness. Perhaps Melbourne City Council has in this case reacted rashly and prematurely; a simple, discreet warning (so as not to attract additional attention to the offending images) would have sufficed, as it would have been noticed by anyone purposefully viewing as opposed to the legions that walk through the space without issuing a glance sideways. I can also appreciate and sympathise with the fact that those that do find the images offensive and take a route past them daily should not have to be subjected to their presence or feel so uncomfortable as to have to adjust their pathway at their own inconvenience.
Censorship is always rocky territory and differences of opinion will always remain. Neither viewpoint, the culturally open-minded or those of a more moralistically stringent disposition, are necessarily more right or wrong than the other as times, trends and viewers continue to change. Regardless of who wins the battle of the ‘now’, if we were able to develop a live and let live policy, neither would be subjected to a choice against their will or bear the burden of subjugating their view on an unwilling party.
Please also see Mark Holsworth’s culture notes on the same article:
The original article:http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2008/05/10/1210131335180.html