Author: Alice Gribbin

The Artist and the Censor

Only proponents of the concept of art for art’s sake always can be depended on to oppose the censorship of art. The most robust argument against censorship lies not in appeals to Enlightenment values, which are subject to time, but in art itself. Those who believe art never requires external justification—which is to say, those who recognize art’s autonomy, whom I term “aesthetes”—understand best that art can never be weaponized effectively for or against a particular cause, and therefore never warrant censorship, because art has a life of its own. Censors, and would-be censors, are part of the larger class of utilitarians who today are widely ensconced in the academy, the media, and arts and culture venues. You will know utilitarians by their mistaking of art for political activity, for community-building, for therapy. Art should produce results in the present, they contend—results for society and for the self. An ascendent belief among utilitarians, expressed by some and held more or less consciously by others, is that righteous art can stamp its righteousness on audiences, who …