Entertainment behind the scenes
Where should artists draw the line?
Plenty of artists, be they writers, painters or potters, have spoken about the rise of self-censorship when it comes to potentially contentious issues like religion. The trouble is that whatever is self-censored does not see the light of day, and so will never be recorded.
That is why it was interesting to read comments attributed to Perry Grayson, a British cross-dressing potter and winner of the prestigious Turner Prize, in which he said he had consciously avoided commenting on radical Islam in his otherwise provocative work out of fear of a threat of reprisals.
That raises two issues.
One is the broad question pitting freedom of expression against the sensitivities of a particular group or religion, the kind of debate that surrounded moves by a Christian activist to take a BBC executive to court for the broadcaster’s decision to air “Jerry Springer-The Opera”, which many Christians found offensive.
The other is whether artists are more nervous when dealing with Islam than they are with other religions, Christianity included. It is an argument made recently by the lawyer representing Stephen Green, the Christian pursuing the “Jerry Springer” case, who said no theatre would have staged the musical had it targeted Islam not Christianity, and nor would the BBC have aired it. Many would argue that the broadcaster is also unlikely to have run such an unrestrained send-up of Judaism.
Should artists have complete freedom of expression, without fear of reprisals? Or do they have a responsibility to take into account the feelings of communities who may not agree with their position? Should they treat one community or religion differently from another? There have been many cases highlighting the dilemmas in recent years, and there are likely to be many, many more.