Censorship and policing divides rather than open a space for conversations and understanding

Censorship and policing divides rather than open a space for conversations and understanding

Thie below post was first published as a comment in response to the letter, “Shows with nudity are disguising lewdness as art” by Ms Tam Wai Jia, where Ms Tam wrote that it is unfortunate that a number of shows in the coming M1 Fringe Festival have disguised themselves as art, with the veneer of challenging existing ideals of sexuality, while indiscriminately promoting lewd content.

The festival has since withdrawn two of its scheduled shows in light of consultation with IMDA.

By Chen Yanyun

Ms Tam has just argued her case, where she defined good art as “thought-provoking and, at times, controversial, especially when shedding light on marginalised subjects.” Considering the subsequent outburst from both the pro-family community and the arts community, I would say Naked Ladies and Undressing Room have opened an important conversation about nudity, which is “thought-provoking”, “controversial”, about a surprisingly still-taboo subject, and thus, be considered, in Ms Tam’s claim, “good art”.

Both events are ticketed, behind closed doors, and the organisers have been very transparent about what the performances will entail. If Ms Tam considers these works as lewd, then all she has to do is not purchase a ticket, and not attend a show. As all responsible parents, one should explain to their children why they should not attend.

However, a blanket censorship prevents others who find value in participating the shows, who are willing to pay for the experience, who do not find either shows “lewd”, “perverse”, or “provocative”, and do not think that attending such a show will reflect themselves as “lewd”, “perverse”, or “provocative”, an opportunity to participate.

There is nothing shameful, or even shocking, about being in the presence of one’s own naked body, or another’s. And if a participant finds such an experience too much to handle, they are free to leave. No one is a victim here. No one is forced to do something they do not want. There is no disrespect.

And for Ms Tam, and others who have no intention of attending the event, why police the art attendees who are open to thinking with the artists, who have no esteem issues with their bodies, or other’s bodies, who are willing to pay the artists for their hard work and deep thoughts?

Why is it, according to Ms Tam’s preferences, okay to perform works that deal with complexities with the skin, motherhood, mental and physical disorders; but not okay, for works that embrace and celebrate the naked body?

Perhaps it is good to note that censorship and policing tends to drive art underground. It divides rather than open a space for conversations and understanding. Perhaps it is also good for Ms Tam, and the pro-family community to consider why it is okay to police, to stop, to hinder what they have no intention of participating in, in the first place.

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