Art is an extremely broad concept of which many disciplines (including creative and performing arts, interactive arts, professions) fall under. The ability for art to be read through different contexts and frames makes the analysis of a piece of art to be just as complex as defining the word "art" itself. It is for this reason that art has been a very contentious and controversial issue, especially in modern times. It is the very nature of 'art' to be both subjective and subversive, bringing to the front previously unaccepted or unexpected ideas and images. This discussion will use the word "art" to describe generally any creations including paintings, visual, auditory, text, interactive, etc.

Where there are forums or spaces for the consumption of art, there will always be counter-arguments and criticisms towards the content or intention of the piece. Many elements comprise a piece of art including the medium of the work, how it is applied and its contents. Classification and/or censorship is merely a fact or requirement that an artist may have to deal with at some stage.
Different forms of art are classified using different systems. For example, films, computer games and publications are classified by the Classification Board; television, radio and internet are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA); and audio recordings follow guidelines put in place by the Australian Record Industry Association (ARIA) and the Australian Music Retailers' Association(AMRA). The visual and performing arts has no formal classification system however if a work is deemed "obscene, indecent or blasphemous", limitations in exhibition or application may be put in effect (Arts Law Centre of Australia, 2009).

Australian Artists and Censorship

Many commentators have discussed the issue of censorship in the arts especially censorship of art in Australia, which has received much attention internationally. Gabriela Zabala-Notaras writes for the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) website, World Socialist Web Site and discusses the state of censorship in Australia and the challenges many artists face in the current climate.

On January 1 2009, The Australia Council for the Arts, the federal government's principal arts funding body released a code of behavior for artists, exhibitors and publishers depicting children in their work. This attacks on the freedom of expression and encourages that those who do not follow the new rules will not get government funding. The code is known as Protocols for Working with Children . When images of children under 18 are used, Australian artists have to provide a declaration accompanying their work stating they comply with the existing laws. If they do not declare it, artists will be required to have their images reviewed by Australia's censorship authority prior to any exhibition or distribution of their work. Artists also have to ensure they have explained to the child and parent the context and outcome of the work.

The recent changes to codes and protocols when working with children was sparked by the widely contensious photographic exhibition by Bill Henson of a 13 year old girl in an extremely 'sexual context'- resulting in the photographs being forcibly seized from the Paddington art gallery Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. The removal of this exhibition sparked heated arguements surrounding the place of children in art and the validity of government censorship in the art world. In an online poll of 1430 people conducted by The Australian newspaper questioning whether these photographs were art of child pornography 36% considered it to be art, 46% child pronography and 18% saw it as neither. The moral panic surrounding this issue divided Australia between a view of raised prudism and puritanical ideologies and lowering morals. This furhter shows the subjective nature of art, and highlights the impossibility of censoring art.

On the surface the protocols appears to be protecting children from artists, but actually it constitutes an attack on freedom of expression and sets a precedent for arts funding across the board. Frank Moorhouse, an award winner novelist, described the funding protocols as “the most dangerous movement in the arts” and also stated “creating protocols is an infringement of freedom of the arts” (Coslovich & Strong 2008). This forms part of an ongoing government assault on the democratic rights of the working class as a whole. Having failed to succeed in censoring Henson, the Rudd government, through the Arts Council, which it fully funds, is seeking to introduce legal measures through the back door and create a climate where artists begin to self-censor, in order to avoid the fear of reprisals or loss of funding due to their subjects or themes deemed too controversial.

In 2004, Experimenta refused to include the artwork ‘The Empty Show’ in the publicly installed version of the House of Tomorrow exhibition (it remains on the website [18]) due to images of illegally stencilled graffiti which depicted Mickey Mouse with drugs. The issue of Mickey Mouse being defamed was considered the risk, not the drugs. This censorship was known only to the organisers and the artists involved, and thus comprised a form of self-censorship.
Other Australian artists have received funding from public funding bodies, only to discover that their works are too controversial to be shown in this country, notably George Gittoes, whose work is still shown freely overseas.

The criticism of Asian artist's clothes

In Korea a teenage singer wore a shirt which had a nude female model printed on it in a broadcast program.This became a major issues in Korea because lots of teenagers watch that program. Before it happened the same singer had worn another shirt which had sexual words printed on it. Some people said that they felt quite embarrassed when they found that their children watched the program because people who watch that programme are only 10 or 11 years old.
There were defenders, who were mostly his fans, and opponents. The defenders said that he has rights and freedoms to wear whatever he wants and it is only his taste in dress, therefore we cannot say he can or he can't. However, the opponents said that it is correct that he has rights and freedoms to wear what he wants to wear but it is not appropriate to wear that kind of clothes as a lot of his fans, who are mostly teenagers or younger, would watch that program and would be sexually affected. They also said that if Korea is open-minded about sex, then it is okay to wear that kind of clothes but as we are not, he has to be very careful in choosing what to wear.

Political artist

Political art is the art which contain the political view and it is always present in satirical way. In recent years people are arguing that the art is often involved with political view of the artist and they think it is not point for them to waste their money to support it. This is because the political arts are often making fun of their political government, social community and even some part of particular group. As Gabriella Coslovich has asked “But should public money be used to support artists with a political message, especially one that offends parts of the community?”. To suggested that people are paying their money for offenders. But in the other hand, artist, curators and critics convicts that the art is difficult to be separate from the political as the art is way of presentation for artist to present the thing they are believed or their identity. John Robertsonhas said “The object of my social political art is not to convince you of my social/political positions. The art is created by me so I may be able to better understand a particular point of view. They are not about you but about me and investigating an idea. So I actually may create a piece with a point of view that may be contrary to what I actually believe.” The political arts are not to be created as to promote the political view of the artists; they are to be created for the people to understand the artists. The artists just want to show themselves to the public by through the art works.

The position of the curators of the art gallery is very difficult as they may be found guilty if they allow the controversial art work in the exhibition. The director of National Gallery of Victoria has said “As a publicly funded art gallery, we must be apolitical, but we defend our right to display work by individual artists that does have a political message.” The art gallery can be treated as public institution which means they have responsibility for provide positive and justice message to the public. They have to stand in a clearly area with no offensive personal opinion and to consider the feeling of each particular group. In the other hand, they have the interrelationship with the artist as it is their natural duty to respect each individual art work. They believe the freedom of creation for the artist and political is part of the artist’s identity. Hence they think all art is political as the art work is contains the identity of the artist, without the identity the art is boring and unmeaning.

Online Poll
What do think of political art? (Based on 3000 people)

Political art is boring ----------69%
Political should be kept out of art ----------4%
Appreciated political art -----------27%

Vote in an online poll in June of 2004 by the New York Foundation.

Gordon Hookey

Gordon Hookey is an Urban Aboriginal Artist, working with non-traditional aboriginal art practices. Celebrates the politics of his artworks through satire including issues as racial oppression, injustices and land rights through his works. 'Zanthuria is Taking Over' work came straight out after the MABO decision a representational artworkof the fear felt by white Australia after the landmark MABO decision. 'First Stolen then Stolen Land' depicts the first stolen people. Themes of Sedation, Aboriginals not able to speak against the government. "In September 2002 UCQ students asked that a painting of John Howard as a pig be removed form the Bundaberg campus." Themes arise of sedation and concept of Terra Nullius. In 2004 the work 'Sacred Nation, Scared Nation, Indoctrination' showed the relationship between Australia and America, the capitalism process that included images of uncle sam, McDonalds, oils station, ect. Andrew Olexander called for the work to be taken down to which Steve Bracks replied: "It is not the Government's role to censor art."

CMS-1590-gorden_hookey-150-150.jpg(Gordon Hookey completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales in 1994)

I believe that the writing in one of Gordon Hookey's work says:

First they came for the socialists,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left
to speak for me.

By: Pastor Martin Niemoller

The above quote was believed to have been originally written by Bertolt Brecht, but it was not the case.

Calvin Klein Jeans

Calvin KleinJeans advertisements have been somewhat provocative since the 1980's, using various teenage models wearing their jean products. In 1995 Klein caused a public uproar as a result of his ad campaign through using the then 15 year old model, Brooke Shields along with the slogan 'nothing comes between me and my jeans'. 'The advertising campaign -- which used images of models who were reportedly as young as 15 -- was meant to mimic "picture set" pornography of the '60s'. In his own defence, Klein responded to the uproar by saying that his ads were published in order to portray ''the idea that glamour is an inner quality that can be found in regular people in the most ordinary setting; it is not something exclusive to movie stars and models." In response to the Calvin Klein ads the American Family Association threatened to avoid stores that stocked the products and various producers also refused to use the advertisements in their magazines. The U.S Justice department then conducted an investigation into the advertisements in order to decide whether they had breached the child pornography laws which eventually led to the decision by Klein himself to remove the ads from the public. There are also many other campaigns by Klein that have cause public uproar and media scrutiny. This is not the first time and certainly will not be the last time an artist work is condemned because when non-artist people do not know much about artwork, they are never going to be able to judge is properly and efficiently. They do not have the knowledge or capacity to criticise it from artists perspective, and this will continue to evoke negative consequences for artists and their artwork.

external image brooke-shields-calvin-klein1.jpg

Breaking The Boundaries In India

M.F Husain is a controversial Muslim Indian artist who has been at the centre of artistic censorship in India for his naked depictions of Hindu deities. "Artists in India say they're being subjected to the worst campaign of politically inspired censorship in years.They say that what they term a "moral police of cultural vigilantes" have targeted art, literature and films. The issue has thrown the focus back to the case of one man, believed by many to be the father of modern Indian art: M.F Husain".NPR One of Husain's most controversial works was a painting of the map of India depicted as a semi-naked woman. Indian people often refer to India as 'Mother India'. Therefore, a depiction of Mother India as being a semi-naked was not viewed as contemporary piece of art but rather an abhorrent use of a sacred ideology of the country. As what happended with Bill Henson's work, Husain's paintings were seized by Indian authorities after fundamental Hindus gained a court order, however this decision was not upheld by the Indian Supreme Court (NPR, 2007). Husain has been viewed by his contemporaries as being a symbol for modern Indian which wishes to explore secular elements of Indian society. However, many within India view his work as detrimental to Indian culture and the breaking down of an ancient society.

Husain's Mother India

John Harcourt: Upsurge

John Harcourt's novel Upsurge was banned nationally in Australia in November 20th 1934 ruled for being too indecent. Although the novel contained sexually immoral and morally unsound actions by all Harcourt's characters, the political undertones concerned the commonwealth the most. In interwar time of depression and high unemployment rates the novel although fiction was based on real life strikes, walkouts and relief camps faced by working class Western Australian citizens and held a sympethetic view of the working class as the real victims in the depression although in an homogenous society Harcourt acknowledged the gap between the high and working class. As Upsurge circulated through Australia it caused much contraversy and as a result was banned under Section 52 of the Trades and Customs Act, only the second book ever. Then was the first to be banned by the Commonwealth Censorship Board (1933) and was also the first Australian novel to be the subject of police prosecutions. Harcourt had to flee Western Australia to Melbourne as he was facing a charge of slander by a business man who thought a prototype of a character in Upsurge was based on him. Literary circles felt the ramifications of governments tighter control on censorship as more books begun to suffer under the rigid regulations and the result was actions of self censorship.
Bartlett Adamson speaks at a Fellowship of Writers general meetings in 1935. " (Censorship)... hinders the development of creative literature, undermines the very basis of democracy, and constitutes a further national menace by destroying that freedom of thought and utterance without which no culture can survive."
Adamson speaks of a society at a standstill in relation to censorship: "the ability for a nation to grow is lost when innovation is stifled by censor blocks"(ref?).
After WWII, Australia also experienced a revolutionary 'upsurge' in the shape of a 'communist threat'. Harcourt's book lay the ideological foundations in Australian literature for a genuine systematic revolution. Indeed, Katharine Susannah Prichard, 'Australia's best known novelist and communist of the [1930s]' (Nile, 1986: xi) 'proclaimed the novel as Australia's first truly proletarian novel' (Ibid, xi). What is interesting is how the post-WWII reaction to communism differed from that of Harcourt's time. In Harcourt's time, the threat was not explicitly communism itself, but rather the 'indecent, immoral and obscene' (Hayward, 1993: 182) content of sexual innuendoes and scenes. However academics, such as Nile, argue that it is more than likely that the book was banned 'because of its support for a radical political programme' (Nile, 1986: xxiii). This covert political censorship indicates a fear of a successful worker's revolution by the censors and government at the time of the 1930's 'crisis' of capitalism's career in Australia.
In the post-WWII political climate, and increasingly so throughout the 1960's, this political censorship was overt and paranoid. Although the Australian Communist Party still exists today, it relies heavily on membership donations and publication circulation rather than powerful lobbyist financing and wealthy individuals. However in the previously mentioned periods, the threat to government and indeed the very foundation of a secure Australia was real and pervasive. So pervasive that the slogan 'Reds under the Beds' was coined to instill fear in individuals by suspecting any person they knew. The Australian art community have explored this point in Australia's history, and there is no denying that these fear tactics of the government are being used today. Melissa Reeves, who in the 1980's wrote The Spook , was clearly making a comic observation about patriotism, political affiliation and the growing hysteria created by the Australian government. Although this play survived censorship, it is arguable that it did so as it was writing post-McCarthy, and in light of academic and cultural discourses that clearly defined the 'Reds under the Beds' era as an intentional fear-tactic and political hysteria.
This paranoia that McCarthism engendered is easily comparable to 'The War on Terror ' of the Bush reign and his congress. It is undeniable that 'international threat of terrorism is not new' (Read, History Today) and what we should learn from Harcourt's, post-WWII and 1960's Australia is that censorship and other media manipulation is at the hands of a few. These few control political opinion by creating hysteria. In Harcourt's time 'sexual details' were obscene and seditious, in our time, political and religious ideologies are. History shows that these excuses are much-of-a-muchness.

Elizabeth Durack / Eddie Burrup

Famously controversial for painting under the aboriginal pseudonym Eddie Burrup, Elizabeth Durack was an Australian painter whose experimentation with a different identity aroused debates over the issue of art, particularly indigenous art, and authenticity. Did a white Australian woman posing as a black aboriginal man devalue her artistic output, offend cultural sensitivities, and reveal only commercial interests in her identity shift? Or did she have a right, as someone initiated deeply into the indigenous Australian desert culture since childhood, to adopt an indigenous identity despite her anglo saxon appearance? The outrage sparked by Durack's "hoax" is seemingly more revealing of the limitations on the Australian art community's concept of identity as strictly attatched to skin colour as demonstrative of it's righteous racial politics. What's more, the initial positive reaction to Eddie Burrup's works immediately and aggressively shifted when he was revealed to be Durack, giving rise to the question of what exactly indicates artistic merit; the nature of the work itself, or the nature of the person behind it? The instant cultural offense that was felt around the country can be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to an issue that runs deeper than an easy question of what is and is not politically correct. The Australian insistence upon the "authenticity" of aboriginal art intends to freeze a kind of colonialist notion of aboriginality in time; as though the indigenous peoples of Australia must remain pure and uninvaded, representing themselves traditionally even into contemporary time, and belonging as much in natural history museums as in art galleries. Durack's character play and its subsequent controversy reveals the conservatism of such thinking - particularly astounding in the world of liberal arts - and points to a massive vacuum where cultural interplay, so widespread in the 21st century, excludes indigenous art. It is most disrespectful to assert that the only authentic aboriginal art is that which represents a dreamtime pre-invasion landscape, as though aboriginal culture does not (forcibly and independently) also exist in contemporary forms and artistic expressions. Durack's famous "hoax" may in fact be representative of a person truly inhabiting their creative potential and attempting to represent that across cultures. It is also a case which asks us to consider at which point a creator stops creating; at the canvas? Or at the limits of herself, her identity?

Yes, I agree with what has been said above, but even though Ms Durack lived for many years with Aboriginal people and knew a lot about their culture and their stories, it did not give her any reason to lie about her true identity, it was better for her to say her story and how she was influenced by the Aboriginal culture. In her case, there were too many lies, which at the end did catch up with her and had very bad consequences for her reputation. I do not believe her art was in question, but the identity she did take in order to make her paintings known.

Article 19- the nightmare of Russia artist

Since Article 19 published a report in 2005 entitled Art, Religion and Hatred; Religious Intolerance in Russia and its Effects on Art, artistic expression in Russia remains stifled and artists self-censor their work. Although, no specific law in Russia against artists’ expression, however in practice artists are harassed, detained and charged foe breaching various loosely-defined laws. Police and security service can use undefined laws to arrest and detain artists without any juridical procedures for political or security purposes.

Case 1:

Well- known and influential Russia artists Alexander Shchednov was arrested on June 11 by the FSB whilst displaying a collage in an exhibition in the city of Voronezh. The collage which depicts the coy-looking head of prime minister Vladimir Putin on the top of woman’s body, has written on it: “Oh I don’t know…a third presidential (term)…it’s too much, on the other hand 9three is a charm).” Shchednov was arrested whilst attempting to hang the collage, and claims that he was questioned and abused for seven hours before being charged with “uncensored swearing in a public place”.


Case 2:

The trail of Yury Samodurov and Andrey Erofeev for organizing an exhibition entitled “Forbidden Art 2006” at the Andrei Sakharov Museum has resumed two years after the nationalist religious organization, Narodnjy Sobor, submitted a formal complaint. Samodurov and Erofeev face five years in prison on charges of inciting religious and ethnic hatred under Article 282 of the Russian Panel Code. Examples of some of the art works exhibited included a crucified Lenin and Mickey Mouse as Jesus. Incitement legislation is widely used in Russia to suppress dissent and criticism of government.

Suppression on artists around the world


Turlish author Nedim Gursel believes that increasing religious conservatism is undermining freedom of expression in Turkey in the count down to its European Union candidacy. Gursel is on trail for this book “The Daughters of Allah” on the charges of insulting religion and inciting hatred. The book described a fictional interpretation of the Prophet Mohammad and his life and joins a number of other publications that are indicted with insulting “Turkishness”. Although Turkey is infamous for charging many authors, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, under laws that criminalize insulting “Turkishness”, Gursel argues that increasingly it is the religious establishment that is becoming the bigger threat against freedom of expression (Artist Alert, 2009, "Article 19', Global Campaign for Free Expression).


The designer of the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium, Ai Weiwei, has come under increasing state censorship since the end of the 2008 Beijing Olymic games. Ai’s blog was shut down by China’s biggest news portal Sina in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests, after he had allegedly refused authorities’ requests not to write anything about the anniversary. Ai had alos asserted in his blog that Chinese security officers were following him and intimidating his family, friends and colleagues, including his 76-years old mother. A highly regarded designer and artist, Ai gave the Chinese authorities grounds for disapproval after he began a campaign to expose the reasons why so many schools collapsed during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.(Artist Alert, 2009, "Article 19', Global Campaign for Free Expression)


Prominent political cartoonist Mario Robles from the newspaper Noticias Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca was violently assaulted and subjected to death threats in late April by members of the institutional Revolutionary Party, which controls the Oaxaca state government. Cartoons serve a specific purpose in political commentary and can often be more influential, further reaching and create a larger impression than written words. Attacking a cartoonist not only impacts on Robles, but also censor political commentary and denies citizens an opportunity to receive information. Under the Article 19 Robles asserts that two party campaigners attacked and kicked him repeatedly before warning him that he needed to “modify his cartoons” or they would kill him and his family (Artist Alert, 2009, "Article 19', Global Campaign for Free Expression).


The establishment of an International Publishers Association investigation has risen the censorship within Iranian publishing industry, with decisions about what gets published becoming more unpredictable, uncertain and arbitrary. Due to the censorship, the average print run is now only 3000 compared to an average of 10000 in the 1970s in Iran. In Iran, an author must obtain permission to print from The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (MCIG) and a licensed publisher must obtain separate permission to distribute. In some cases the author gains permission to print, but the publisher does not gain permission to distribute(Artist Alert, 2009, "Article 19', Global Campaign for Free Expression).

Works Cited:

Artist Alert, 2009, 'Article 19', Global Campaign For Free Expression, Link:
Coslovic, Gabriella "The politics of art", The Age 14 May 2004, Newsbank Database.
Nile, Richard, 1986, 'Upsurge: A Novel", UWAP, Perth.
Read, Anthony:
Reeves, P, 2007, 'M.F Husain in the Centre of Indian Art Controversy', NPR,
Zabala-Notaras, Gabriela, 2009, "Australian artists face new censorship measures", World Socialist Web Site (ICFI), [web]
Arts Law Centre of Australia, 2009, "Classification and Censorship", Arts Law Centre of Australia Online, [web]
Media Awareness Network: Calvin Clein: A Case Study'
Social Political Art, Social Political and Religious Commentary Art Represented Through Paintings, Assemblage, Drawings, and Videos by Artist John Robertson,
Welcome to Mark Vallen's "art is for a change" websit, "Why all art is political,