Sunday, October 30, 2016

Art Censorship (Again) in Singapore

"Artist cuts himself, takes blood oath, after his performance piece was cut from Singapore Biennale"

Religious sensitivities be damned if religious sensitivities do not, or will not, understand the intent and context of a work of art. I wonder, however, if more is at work than what is stated by the authorities. Could it be that the real concern is not religious, but political sensitivities? That Chandrasekaran's performance piece about the harsh lives of Indian convict workers in 19th-century Singapore will provoke powerful resonances and raise important questions in the present day about the way we treat our guest workers, most of whom come from the Indian continent?

It's interesting that the reporter mentions that Chandrasekaran had spent 6 years abroad in Australia before returning to Singapore and responding in this defiant manner to the act of art vandalism by the authorities. Apparently, the audience at his Q&A, "most of whom were from the local arts community," questioned Chandrasekaran "whether there was a way to step away and approach the subject from a less dramatic angle." The question betrays not only an ignorance of how an artist works, but also a cowardice in trying so hard not to give offence. It takes a foreign artist, Sri Lankan Niranjan Rajah, to point out that the audience responses “seem to be missing the point." What is important is the integrity of Chandrasekaran’s work. We should be asking, instead, why the work is being censored, and what the censorship says about us as a society.

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