Are You Free to Create?

Ai Weiwei - So Sorry

Photo by sanfamedia.comCreative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

In a complicated world, there is one simple way to evaluate the integrity of a government: are artists free to create?

This does not mean analyzing how well a government supports the arts and artists, or provides artistic opportunities, or educates audiences. Those are separate and distinct issues. The question is whether one gives legitimacy to a government that views free expression as an illegitimate right.

In the 21st century, how can anyone make an acceptable argument for a government that criminalizes art?

KadmusArts’ Culture News feed tracks the continuing tension between artistic expression and governmental control. Some of the low-lights over the past days include:

– Members of the Belarus Free Theatre were arrested and harassed for participating in peaceful demonstrations. They had to sneak out of their country to be able to perform in New York with one of their signature pieces about the price of freedom.

– The Hungarian government cracked down on a free press and demanded the equivalent of loyalty oaths from arts institutions.

– The Iraqi government fortunately suspended an earlier minister’s decision which had banned the teaching of music and theatre in secondary education.

– Zimbabwe police arrested actors on stage, along with their tour manager and driver, during a performance about “national healing and reconciliation”. The charge? Criminal nuisance.

– The Chinese government razed the studio of Ai Weiwei, who is one of China’s best known visual artists and one of the government’s most outspoken critics.

Why are governments afraid of artists connecting to audiences?

Last week, to protest the Russian justice system (which does not allow defendants to sit during their trial), playwright and director Mikhail Ugarov created a movement: “drop-a-chair-off” at the doorstep of the Tverskoi Court. A simple form of participatory art became a significant political action.

And, in a still developing story, the Tunisian government cut and ran after a perfect storm of blogs, Facebook posts, tweets, and other social nets challenged presidential decisions. Today’s user generated tools shine a light on old methods.

Has a work of art ever created a political revolution? No. But, has a work of art given us insight into crimes committed in the name of politics? Yes.

In today’s world, governments have a more difficult time isolating their population and silencing their artists. That’s not just a good thing; that’s a great thing.

- Bill Reichblum

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29 Responses to “Are You Free to Create?”

  1. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » On the Record: Ai Weiwei
    January 19th, 2011 01:10
    1

    [...] The Economist Are You Free to Create? [...]

  2. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Totalitarians Love Your Net
    January 19th, 2011 01:12
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    [...] Are You Free to Create? The Economist: Dictators Love the [...]

  3. Bangladesh Nitto Rong Org
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    Nitto Rong resent join Children Dance Competition in Delhi

  4. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei’s Art of Engagement
    January 26th, 2011 00:13
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    [...] Wall Street Journal KadmusArts Asks: Are You Free to Create? [...]

  5. KadmusArts – where culture speaks » Blog Archive » Egypt & Freedom Online
    January 31st, 2011 00:05
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    [...] can’t be free if you are not free to connect. Fortunately, sometimes government thuggery can lead to popular [...]

  6. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Belarus Gov Stays, Artists Leave or Hide
    February 11th, 2011 00:13
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    [...] Welle Are You Free to Create? KadmusArts & Belarus Free [...]

  7. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei Opens Berlin Base
    March 31st, 2011 00:09
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    [...] Deutsche Welle Are You Free to Create? [...]

  8. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » China Arrests One of Country’s Leading Artists
    April 5th, 2011 00:12
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    [...] Guardian Are You Free to Create? [...]

  9. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Dylan Plays Chinese Gov Tune
    April 8th, 2011 00:13
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    [...] Reuters Guardian: Ai Weiwei,Artist As Political Hero Are Your Free to Create? [...]

  10. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Times HAVE Changed: Dylan Refuses to Protest
    April 9th, 2011 00:13
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    [...] The Australian Are You Free to Create? [...]

  11. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei: Offer First, Arrest Second
    April 15th, 2011 00:15
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    [...] Guardian Are You Free to Create? [...]

  12. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Chinese Consulate’s Unwelcome Art: Ai Weiwi
    May 25th, 2011 00:10
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    [...] Wall Street Journal Are You Free to Create? [...]

  13. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » China Closes Art Fest with Blank Ai Weiwei Work
    June 3rd, 2011 00:17
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    [...] Reuters Are You Free to Create? [...]

  14. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Isn’t This Shameful? US Museums v Artistic Freedom
    June 21st, 2011 00:11
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    [...] Wall Street Journal Are You Free to Create? [...]

  15. KadmusArts – where culture speaks » Blog Archive » How to Create an Artistic Protest
    July 18th, 2011 06:45
    15

    [...] course, there will be a day when everyone is free to create. In the meantime, let’s celebrate those who protest [...]

  16. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Pablo Milanes: Would Be Nice to be Free in Cuba
    August 16th, 2011 00:10
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    [...] Are You Free to Create? KadmusArts Blogs from [...]

  17. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei On Beijing
    August 31st, 2011 23:11
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    [...] Newsweek KadmusArts Blog: Are You Free To Create? [...]

  18. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei v Gov: Now Taxes
    November 2nd, 2011 00:09
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    [...] BBC Are You Free to Create? [...]

  19. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai WeiWei’s Popular Tax Support
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    [...] BBC Are You Free to Create? [...]

  20. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Why We Need Imprisoned Writer Day
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    [...] Deutsche Welle Are You Free to Create? [...]

  21. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei’s New Gov Battle: Nude Pics
    November 19th, 2011 00:07
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    [...] Guardian KadmusArts: Are You Free to Create? [...]

  22. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Under Watchful Eyes: Ai Weiwei At Home
    December 3rd, 2011 23:08
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    [...] Foreign Policy KadmusArts: Are You Free to Create? [...]

  23. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Censorship Alive and Well
    December 28th, 2011 00:06
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    [...] Guardian Are You Free to Create? [...]

  24. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Egypt: Comedy No Laughing Matter
    February 3rd, 2012 00:12
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    [...] Associated Press Are You Free to Create? [...]

  25. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei’s 24 Hour Surveillance Art
    April 4th, 2012 01:13
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    [...] The Telegraph Are You Free to Create? [...]

  26. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Kafka or Comedy? China’s Watchers Want Ai Weiwei to Stop Watchers
    April 6th, 2012 01:11
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    [...] France 24 The Telegraph: Ai WeiWei’s 24 Hour Surveillance Art KadmusArts: Are You Free to Create? [...]

  27. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei Bigger than Chinese Government?
    May 31st, 2012 01:07
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    [...] The Telegraph Are You Free to Create? [...]

  28. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Anish Kapoor: Go Dance. Go Viral. Go Free Ai Weiwei
    November 24th, 2012 00:04
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    [...] New York Times KadmusArts: Are You Free to Create? [...]

  29. KadmusArts Culture News » Blog Archive » Ai Weiwei Goes Heavy Metal
    March 12th, 2013 00:04
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    [...] Reuters KadmusArts: Are You Free to Create? [...]

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