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Episode: 03

The case for Artistic Freedom

  • Spotify

Welcome to the third episode of Insight of an Eco Artist. Today, I will talk about something I believe to be of extreme importance – artistic freedom that correlates with freedom of expression and speech.

In light of current events, with individual rights being jeopardized worldwide, I want to stretch the importance of such rights on the quality of life of individuals and societies. Artistic freedom is the freedom to imagine, create and distribute various cultural expressions free of political interference, governmental censorship, or the pressures of non-state parties. Despite artistic freedom being political, individual charged, controversial and sometimes being too close for comfort, raising questions we would rather not answer. Still, freedom to create and enjoy these creations are an integral part of the rights of individuals.

Creative Europe Resources* the budget is around three hundred eighty-five million euros not three thousand!

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Transcript

Welcome to the 3-episode of Insight of an Eco Artist. Today, I will talk about something I believe to be of extreme importance – artistic freedom that correlates with freedom of expression and speech.

In light of current events, with individual rights being jeopardized worldwide, I want to stretch the importance of such rights on the quality of life of individuals and societies. Artistic freedom is the freedom to imagine, create and distribute various cultural expressions free of political interference, governmental censorship, or the pressures of non-state parties. Despite artistic freedom being political, individual charged, controversial and sometimes being too close for comfort, raising questions we would rather not answer. Still, freedom to create and enjoy these creations are an integral part of the rights of individuals.

When you give the government or institutions the right to censor artwork, apprehend artists and demolish studios because of lack of decorum or having a political opinion, you are unendingly allowing these institutions the right to censor you. Yes, sometimes art denies all reason, insulting religious beliefs, criticizing democratic choices, and even defying all concepts of morality. Although that is what art is all about. It defies the norms; it raises controversy, speaking of individuality and specific morality scenes. Yet, these aren’t strong enough reasons for anyone to be censored or allow censorship.

Deeyah Khan, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Artistic Freedom and Creativity states that “The rights of artists to express themselves freely are under threat worldwide. Art has the extraordinary capacity to express resistance and rebellion, protest, and hope. It injects a vital contribution to any flourishing democracy”.

It is without a doubt that an individual can choose what they want to consume or create but when you abdicate this fundamental right just because you rather not be bothered it’s like a loaded gun with a loose trigger. The fundamentals of democracy require, well, mandate freedom of expression. Governments that don’t allow it are an authoritarian regime, a dictatorship, and we all have seen where that ends. Over and over again.

The first amendment’s protection of artistic expression applies to a broad area of creativity, basically everything the human mind can conjure. And it’s based on two principles. First, governments can’t limit expression just because it offends. Meaning the content received even if not well interpreted by its listener or viewer can’t be censored.

Secondly, the only possible case to rule in favor of censorship is if the artwork puts the audience in danger. If you want to throw knives at your audience because you want to make a performance against the knife industry you can´t … there is a lot you can throw but not that.

Our constitution is based on the belief an individual is free to decide what he wants to consume in his free time. If you are disturbed just turn the tv off, walk out of the gallery or close the book.

Although I encourage anyone to use their free speech rights to object against an artistic expression you don’t like. Debating ideas or ideologies and voicing our beliefs are a strength that everyone should aim to hone, because it’s with speech that we grow as individuals and most of the time, become more tolerant. When we restrict speech, we are creating bubbles from where we can’t grow or flourish because without external stimuli, we become intolerant and chase ideologies that bring havoc. we have seen it.

In 2017 when Nadia Plesner was sued over a drawing, Simple Living depicting an African child holding a Louis Vuitton to draw attention to the fact that the media talks more about celebrities and gossip than world matters. Plesner won because she wasn’t appropriating but using symbology and with that, she was free to exhibit the work.

Unfortunately, artistic freedom has always been a global challenge. Artists who express themself freely are constantly under threat, especially when contesting or criticizing religious beliefs, political ideologies, and social, cultural preferences. Reports have shown that 37 were prosecuted, 55 persecuted, 97 detained, 60 imprisoned, 44 threatened, 4 killed and 286 censored.

I can name very contemporary events that illustrate what restriction of artistic freedom entails. Last year, in Afghanistan, when the Taliban took over, artists had to flee the country, for example, the collective ArtLords whose work is extremely political became refugees in Albany because they fear for their lives in a state where art is severely legislated and art depicting faces is prohibited. their morals were painted over, artists stashed their paintings, galleries widened sculptures and took paintings of the halls in fear of destruction by missiles being launched. Although this collective still creates art, they are actually preparing an exhibition in Albania. And they aren’t the only ones, there is so much more than being oppressed in the spirit of Afghanistan people.

In Palestine, as an occupied country, the art community has faced art restrictions imposed by the regime for years. After the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, Israel prohibited the display of the Palestinian flag and it is said the Israeli army arrested or harassed anyone who tried to do so. The story goes that as a form of protest, activists would carry around slices of watermelon and artists use it to show their resistance against the regime, as it contains the color of the Palestine flag. Although artist reports can be varied as an image depicting the color of the flag would be immediately confiscated. But in recent months artists worldwide showed their support by using the watermelon symbol in their work.

On the extreme end, we have North Korea’s authoritarian regime, where the artists don’t sign their work, they work for political propaganda, and they have to hold a permit from the government to be able to work.

All these countries at this moment are facing an enormous humanitarian crisis, political agitations, and havoc. I can just pinpoint these on the restriction of artistic freedom, but I can argue a strong case that when a government restricts any form of expression, being artistic or speech its population feels oppressed, and it leads to migration and a rise in political refugees. How can an individual be himself when their identity is stricken out by the government? When creativity is killed at birth?

Farida Shaheed UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights back in 2013 strengths this concept “Artistic expression is not a luxury; it is a necessity – a defining element of our humanity and a fundamental human right enabling everyone to develop and express their humanity”

Fortunately, none of these events goes unnoticed by the United Nations, – The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, 16 aims to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements” (target 16.10) provides a unique policy framework to promote and protect artistic freedom as a pillar of the fundamental freedom of expression.

Helsinki Declaration on Promoting Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Artistic Freedom in a Digital Age, Nordic Ministers of Culture (2016)

Attacks on the freedom of (cultural) expression from intolerant individuals and groups, hate-speech, racism, and xenophobia among others denote the denial of one of the fundamental prerequisites of democracy; the right of everyone to participate in debate as free and equal individuals.

After covid, culture was being put on back seat, although On 28 January this year, the European Commission has adopted the 2022 work programme of Creative Europe, with a budget of around €385 million, to support creativity and cultural partners as a result of the Covid- 19 challenges. This will be followed by the launch of the relevant calls for proposals.

Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, said: “Cultural and creative sectors are the soul of European society. We know how resilient the creative and cultural sectors have been in these past two years. In 2022, Creative Europe will benefit from its biggest budget ever. The EU stands by their side to support their recovery, their creative process, and their innovation potential. We invite artists, creators and culture professionals to explore and benefit from the many funding opportunities provided by Creative Europe.

I will leave the link below if anyone is interested in knowing more.

Creative freedom is part of everyone, and we should fight for it to be part of society. and we are very blessed as a western society to have the chance to enjoy artistic demonstrations, that makes us think, wonder, imagine. And I want to protect that, not only as an artist myself but as an individual that wants to see and be challenged by artistic freedom. This is a searing reminder that without art and creativity society wouldn’t be the same. support artistic freedom because everyone deserves it.

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