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The Arts: Transgressive or progressive?

07 September 2013, 20:56

Following on research that I am conducting on the banning of the arts, some reflection on the nature of arts to be progressive through transgressing socially acceptable morality is prevalent.

Transgression is the ability the arts have to use issues which are taboo to re-educate people by proposing alternative ways of looking at morals in our society.

Progression is the act of moving forward in a positive light. This could be to bring about discussions and debates on a particular issue or even to finding solutions to problems.

The trend in our society has been, however, to set these two aspects as binary opposition or polar opposites to each other. This has seen certain forms of art being banned from the public eye. Literature, poetry, film and photography have all been censored in the name of prudence.

My question is: why does progression and transgression have to be separated? Can they not be two halves of one whole?

Through the reconstruction of socially acceptable morality, is it not possible for art to propose another moral?

The concern here lies with societies willingness to conform and accept the views of a few in powers opinions on art. Art holds potential to educate in ways which can reach far more than the elitist few who are privileged enough to afford higher education.

To allow arts to be banned by the powerful is to acknowledge, and conform to, a categorical imperative that paradoxically excludes people from engaging in social relevant discussions.

The poet Gunter Grass was recently banned for his portrayal and opinion on the Israel/Palestinian conflict. He was physically banned and his art deemed as undesirable.

On this banning the author Salman Rushdie responded in a most fitting way: "The banning of Grass is juvenile. Words should always be used to criticise words."

Let's look at art as both transgressing socially acceptable norms and progressing towards a better future. To allow censorship of the arts is to slowly destroy the natural instinct of mankind to evolve fruitfully.. What world would we have if this was allowed?

The words of the poet W. B. Yeats rings true for today's society as it did many years ago for his own:

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity."

By virtue of art being art it should protect the public from moral depravity as long as it is in reasonable ethical frameworks. Governments should have no mandate to ban the arts on transgressive grounds if it does not impede on basic human rights and laws.

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