Art Without Reservation
by Collin Wynter
A workshop entitled Grant Writing for the Arts was a program wherein one received practical information on the arts grant application process. How to apply, what was required to be successful and insider tips. Also provided was a novel experience of being placed in the position of the selection committee. A series of actual proposals were provided to the group. Then, you enacted the process of evaluating artists to receive funds based off of pre-set parameters.
One proposal was from a woman wishing to create a Metis diorama, who was not herself Metis (Metis is a French-Indigenous Canadian ancestry). Considering she had fulfilled her artistic responsibility by seeking out an elder for guidance, did in-depth research into the material, and presented her motives as being a blend of personal expression and authentic representation, I full heartedly supported her proposal. Alas, another member of the pseudo-selection committee was not inclined to agree. This female member dammed the the artist for her desire to create art with a subject that was not of her own identity. The indignation was quite evident. Attempting to persuade my compatriot to see that artists are by definition required to cross all bounds of identity to convey meaning in their art, I was confronted with her praise of the cancellation of Jeanine Cummins.
Cummins, author of American Dirt, wrote a compelling novel about a Mexican mother and her young son fleeing to the US border. Oprah included it on her book club. However, critics claimed that she portrayed Mexicans stereotypically. Threats were made on her life and her book tour was canceled. This is what was praised by the lady mentioned above. For Cummins to have dared to write about an ethnicity not of her own, was sufficient evidence of her societal crime. Being of Irish and Puerto Rican descent provided her no defence in the eyes of the woke.
In 2016, Lionel Shriver spoke out against the political correctness infringing upon a writer’s duty to seek out ideas and convey them to their audience. In a key note speech at the Brisbane Writer’s festival, Shriver lampoons the ludicrous concept of cultural appropriation. She mocked the criticism of a Mexican themed party by wearing a sombrero. Critiques of her speech ensued, complaining that she had her facts wrong and was missing the point. Perhaps her facts were incorrect, but her point was about censorship of artistic expression. Identity politics demands one to stay in their own lane. Artists must be free from those restraints to produce what is quintessentially know as art! Shriver explained:
“The reading and writing of fiction is obviously driven in part by a desire to look inward, to be self-examining, reflective. But the form is also born of a desperation to break free of the claustrophobia of our own experience.”
Race is not the only impalpable idol that must not be transgressed
Receiving condemnation on daring to describe the female being, Sebastian Faulks, a British author, proclaimed that “[i]nstead of getting all huffy and puffy and grumpy old man about it, I thought about it a lot.” A scripted platitude straight out of the annals of wokish. An attempt to gain access to the economy of social justice, while minting a semblance of respectability in face of his peers and readership.
Iconoclast writer Dawn French, was having none of it. Two of her shows French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous, were driven by transgressions: drugs, bad parenting, lesbianism, comedy, disrespect of authority. She decried Faulk’s supplication as being “ridiculous.” Converging upon Shriver’s opinion:
“The minute we start to police people’s imaginations, we go down a very nasty old route. I have the right to write anybody or anything I like. This is called writing. It’s about my imagination: I’m inventing some characters.”
Discussing this drama on Talk Radio, Emma Webb, social commentator and advocate of free speech, rightly points out that the effects of censorship will be one of “impoverishing literature and impoverishing the reader.” Host of the show, Kevin O’Sullivan, described Faulk as not being “liberated” but “intimidated.”
Allison Burnett. Crime? Being heterosexual and daring to write a tale with a gay protagonist. Thus, there was an assumption that the author himself was homosexual. Burnett convinced himself to allow the lie to exist. If this was required for the author to be able to convey his plot, perhaps it was a price that had to be paid. Unable to continue with the facade, he did eventually inform the editor of the truth. Coming out is a sense of pride for gay folk, conversely in this instance, it may have created shame and ended a career. Luckily, his editor “could not have been sweeter and more understanding.”
No qualms in denying heterosexuals the right to play gay characters, Russel T Davies assumes the role of high priest and general of the social justice warriors. Defending the inanity of requiring actors to play a role that is congruent with their sexuality, Davies proclaimed to the New York Times:
“I’m going to war. I want the likes of Colin Firth to be ashamed of their actions [for playing a gay character].”
A colleague may want to point out to Davies that it is illegal to discriminate based off of sexual orientation. And, yes, straight people do have an orientation.
Art Without Reservation
Art must be freely expressed without reservation. The censorious nature of so called “social justice” has a deleterious affect on society. Identity politics has no place in this realm. By denying persons the confidence to create, society becomes stifled and silent. Without an outlet for culture to be represented, a numbing sense of meaningless begins to pervade the public. Media cannot fulfill this capacious depth. Artists must be free, so must be the audience.