critic watch: VIVID, Censorship and ‘Those’ Pictures

26/05/2013 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Quickly, before I drift into mental anguish. There is a kerfuffle down at Circular Quay because as part of the Vivid Festival of Light & Sound, one of the exhibits on photojournalism has been accused of censorship. Oh dear. Notable journalists-turned-art-critics such as Asher Wolf and Stilgherrian have been tweeting grumpily about the pain of it all, suggesting Vivid Sydney was more about “decoration” than art, and so on and so forth.

To re-cap, Vivid have curated the exhibition, which was to be shown as one of several photography related events over the course of the Festival. A number of corporate partners (such as Fuji, SMH & Destination NSW) are associated with the exhibitions. A full list of sponsors and stakeholders can be found at the Vivid website. The story broke last night when, to some of the photographers’ chagrin, the folks at Destination NSW (who oversee much of the logistical implementation of the Vivid Light Walk along Circular Quay) deemed it appropriate that some of the more confronting images of this exhibit not be screened outdoors at what is ostensibly a largely family oriented parade of colour and music.

CENSORSHIP! or, not quite, since the offending images were on display at other venues at the behest of these same agencies. In other words, they would not be on display anywhere in Sydney if it were not for Destination NSW arranging it. This is not Censorship. This is understanding your audience context. This is recognising, rightly that images of war and disease are not appropriate ‘general’ family viewing.

Asher Wolf has even acknowledged this upon tweeting to the convenient gallery of images provided by Vivid and Reportage Festival Media Partners (SMH) that the gallery was “NSFW” (not-safe-for-work). Much as we respect her work as a journalist it isn’t difficult to spot the flaw here. One can’t condemn an organisation for choosing not to display certain images in a public park while at the same time providing a warning that these same images may offend some viewers. Presumably that is why these images were restricted in the first place to an appropriate, indoor venue where audiences could approach them with warning. We do the same thing with movies, television and theatre. We offer trigger warnings for articles featuring graphic descriptions of violence, but somehow displaying caution such that a wandering family might not turn a corner and be confronted with images of war has become “censorship”?

We think not. As for the artists who have reportedly withdrawn these photos altogether in protest? That’s called a dummy spit. And the winners here are of course the Fairfax publishing group, who as media partners, have garnered a whole lot of linkbait and social content by daring to publish such controversy.

Minimising Censorship. Oh well played. Just try and find some justification in their copy for throwing Destination NSW and Vivid under the bus…

sancz out

Entry filed under: CRITIC WATCH, Criticism FAIL. Tags: , , , , .


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