How does censorship effect the work, internet and public display of esoteric artists today?
I don’t think that the issue simply boils down to what you can or cannot post on social media. That is certainly part of what we can and cannot share with our publics. But the question is more complex than that.
Google, your Grand Poobah for anything for which you seek quick, “safe” answers, defines censorship as “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Many of us esoteric artist folk have deeply held spiritual and religious convictions that motivate our work. These belief systems often have their own sets of taboos into what practices and knowledge can be shared with non –initiates. To violate them constitutes “threat” to our own communities who actual walk the walk.
I reference my own experience here.
A caveat first: WHATEVER DEGREE OF INITIATION YOU HAVE, THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOUR ARTWORK MERIT ATTENTION. PRODUCING GOOD ART DOES! Whether I view my artwork as an act of devotion or not fails to effect how people value it. They are free to interpret and appreciate it as they will.
That being said, I am a priest in a well-established religion that has its own rules and conventions especially determining what you say in public about it. This is complicated for me by the fact that I cut my teeth aesthetically in the Post Punk Bunker subculture of 1980’s New York. Things seemed a lot freer then, and the notion of censoring anything was tantamount to a crime against humanity.
How do I reconcile the two currents in my personality and creative expression.? Honestly, it’s a challenge at times. Years back Randy P. Conner profiled me in a book, Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions and wrote: “Some practitioners of Yoruba-diasporirc, spiritual traditions may disapprove of what they judge to be Lerner’s inappropriate eroticization…of certain tales of the orishas; others, however, may appreciate them…”
I eroticize sacred narratives? People object? That didn’t necessarily compute with me. I don’t feel I sensationalize anything. Also, when it comes to showing skin or transgressive acts by the gods, didn’t the Greeks do that thousands of years back? What about Blake? Then there’s Hindu, Buddhist and tantric art…Weren’t illustrated editions of Paradise Lost bestsellers in Victorian England because they featured a lot of nudity but passed censors. Frankly, direct recitation of odu and pataki are quite often ribald.
Am I sensitive to the fact that orisha themselves could take offense at how they are depicted? Yes. I have a simple solution. I directly ask them through oracles if I have any concern. I take “no” for an answer. The truth is they seem a lot less concerned than their worshippers do in how they are depicted and usually give the green light.
Most of the audience for my work seems to be fine art collectors and Western occultists. My religious brethren typically could care less. Practically that is because their deities physically reside with them and the need to have icons or texts is not the same as it is for practitioners of Western religions where the gods exist in a far off realm or house of worship. Because my religious beliefs are exotic to most of my audience, They fit into currents of outsider, expressionist, surrealist, and visionary art.
Genuine expressions of outsider beliefs are socially held to be dangerous. I will discuss both personal and public issues effecting my artwork in a follow-up blog. Here I wish to get a dialogue going among both esoteric artists and the public about how all forms censorship influence artists ability to exhibit, publish and share. Your feedback and personal experiences where relevant are especially welcome to this blog series….