Sunday, November 12, 2017
The Weight of Words
Those of you who know me know that I am the least likely person to be censored.
People often tell me that some of my work has an edginess to it or that it strikes a sad or emotional note. But it does not come off as offensive.
But...I was recently accepted to an exhibit only to be told before the show opened that the words in the work were inappropriate for that venue. They were very gracious about it and adamant that my work be included if I could some way remove the words or change the words or cover the words. The concept centered on name calling, bullying and the kind of words that cause emotional pain. The ethereal and innocent look of the piece belied the words the viewer confronted when coming in for a closer look. It had an impact. It was powerful.
The piece had been exhibited several other times without the censorship I now faced. I do understand that the appropriateness of the work is subject to the venue and the kinds of clientele that will see the work. I had a short time in which to decide what I would do.
Should I just pull the work from the show and be done with it?
What kind of change can I make without changing the original intent?
Am I caving in or am I compromising?
Do I even want to compromise?
I talked with my husband who also is an artist. I talked with another artist friend who is familiar with me, my work and my philosophy about making work. If I change the work have I lost the initial powerful piece? Can I substitute other words that will still convey my intent and cause the viewer to think about words that are damaging, hurtful and can't be unheard?
In the end I did find a compromise. I substituted words that addressed the emotions one might feel when being called names instead of using the actual offensive words. Because the words were attached to the larger part of the work and could be removed I did not undermine the major part of the work. The new words replaced the original one and I now have two works that address this issue. I feel the piece lost some of its impact but it still causes the viewer to think about the name calling, bullying and the hurt that verbal abuse can cause.
I feel okay with my decision to compromise because the message is still out there.
I am wearing my censorship as a kind of badge of honor
ever conscious of the weight of words.