Thursday, 28 November 2013

OUGD501- Censorship and Truth Lecture notes

Ansel Adams, 
Moonrise Hernandes New Mexico  1941
Moon over Half Dome 
Before digital photography
Uses the same negative over and over to enhance the image 
manipulates the image in the dark room

Russian news paper 
one sided truth 

Digital photography,
similar to Adbusters 

GQ magazine,
manipulating images in photoshop

Iraque war,
news paper manipulated and combined two images 

Robert Capa,
Death of a loyalist soldier 1936
shows a soldier getting shot by a sniper
the moment of death
Persuaion into a certain way of thinking 

Jean Baudrillard,
representation of the basic truth 
masks and perverts 
absence of basic reality 

‘Whereas representation tries to absorb
simulation by interpreting it as false 
representation, simulation envelops the 
whole edifice of representation as itself 
a simulacrum. These would be the 
succesive phases of the image: 

1.It is the reflection of a basic reality.
2.It masks and perverts a basic reality.
3.It masks the absence of a basic reality.
4.It bears no relation to any reality whatever : it is its own pure simulacrum.’
Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulations, 1981, in Poster, M. (ed.) (1988), Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press, page 173 

Peter Turnley,
The unseen Gulf War
wasn't allowed to show them because of the shocking nature 

‘As we approach the likelihood of a new Gulf War, I have an idea and it occurs to me that the Digital Journalist may be the place for it. As we all know, the military pool system created then was meant to be, and was, a major impediment for photojournalists in their quest to communicate the realities of war (This fact does not diminish the great efforts, courage, and many important images created by many of my colleagues who participated in these pools.). Aside from that, while you would have a very difficult time finding an editor of an American publication today that wouldn't condemn this pool system and its restrictions during the Gulf War, most publications and television entities more or less bought the program before the war began (this reality has been far less discussed than the critiques of the pools themselves)’
Peter Turnley, The Unseen Gulf War, December 2002, at

‘At that time [World War II], I fervently 
believed just about everything I was exposed 
to in school and in the media. For example, I 
knew that all Germans were evil and that all 
Japanese were sneaky and treacherous, while 
all white Americans were clean-cut, honest, 
fair-minded, and trusting’ 
Elliot Aronson in Pratkanis and Aronson, (1992), Age of 
Propaganda, p. xii

‘Most of the reporting that reached American audience and the west in general emanated from the Pentagon, hence severely lacking balance, as proven by the total blackout on the magnitude of the devastation and death on the Iraqi side. A quick statement of the number of dead (centered around 100,000 thousands soldiers and 15,000 civilians) sufficed for main-stream media audience. It is no wonder that this made-for-TV war started at 6:30pm EST on January 16, 1991, coinciding with National News. Alas, much of American audience today cannot distinguish between computer war games and real war, between news and entertainment’.

Questions what truth do we want to be shown
Is the real truth to much 

‘Two intense images, two or perhaps
three which all concern disfigured forms or 
costumes which correspond to the 
masquerade of this war: the CNN 
journalists with their gas masks in the 
Jerusalem studios; the drugged and 
beaten prisoners repenting on the screen 
of Iraqi TV; and perhaps that seabird 
covered in oil and pointing its blind eyes to 
the Gulf sky. It is a masquerade of 
information: branded faces delivered over
to the prostitution of the image, the image 
of an unintelligible distress. No images of 
the field of battle, but images of masks, of 
blind or defeated faces, images of 
falsification. It is not war taking place over
there but the Disfiguration of the world’

Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, 1995, in Poster, M. (ed.) (1988), Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press, page 241

talking about the ideas of metaphors being used to represent the truth

An-My Le, Small Wars,
metaphor hiding the truth of war
29 Palms: Mechanised Attack


The practice or policy of censoring films,
letters, or publications 
Treffry, D. (ed.) (2001), Paperback English Dictionary, Glasgow: Harper Collins

1.A person authorised to examine films, letters, or publications, in order to ban or cut anything considered obscene or objectionable 2.To ban or cut portions of (a film, letter or publication) 

Treffry, D. (ed.) (2001), Paperback English Dictionary, Glasgow: Harper

Principles of behaviour in accordance with
standards of right and wrong 
Treffry, D. (ed.) (2001), Paperback English Dictionary, Glasgow: Harper Collins

1.A code of behaviour, especially of a particular group, profession or individual.
2.The moral fitness of a decision, course of action etc.
3.The study of the moral value of human conduct.
Treffry, D. (ed.) (2001), Paperback English Dictionary, Glasgow: Harper Collins

‘Everybody everywhere wants to modify,
transform, embellish, enrich, and 
reconstruct the world around him – to 
introduce into an otherwise harsh or 
bland existence some sort of purposeful 
and distorting alleviation’ 
Theodore Levitt, The Morality (?) of Advertising, 1970 

Cabury's flake advert,

‘Suppose that a picture of a

young woman inserting a
chocolate bar into her mouth
makes one person think of
fellatio, but someone else
says that this meaning says
more about the observer
than it does the picture. This
kind of dispute, with its
assumption that meaning
resides in a text quite
independently of individual
and group preconceptions, is
depressingly common in
discussions on advertising

… as the picture does not
in fact depict fellatio, but 
something else, what the 
dispute comes down to is 
whether everyone, a 
substantial number of 
people, a few obsessed 
individuals, or one particular 
person, understand it this 
way. Without an opinion 
poll, the dispute is 
unresolvable, but it is really 
quite improbable that such 
an interpretation will 
be individual’ 
Cook, G. (1992), The Discourse of Advertising, London, Routledge, page 51 

Depends on the individual to how they can be interpreted

Oliviero Toscani, United Colors of Benetton advert 1992,
notions of racism 

‘While the publicity generated by such
campaigns [Benetton] is immense – and 
their globalized distribution protects them 
from the effects of a ban in any one country 
– it is also surely shocking that the shock 
effect wears off so quickly. Perhaps the 
overall driving motive of such campaigns is 
in fact nothing new – but simply an astute 
loyalty to one of the oldest adages in the 
business: there is no such thing as bad 

Cook, G. (1992), The Discourse of Advertising, London, Routledge, page 229

Benetton (UK) Ltd: The ASA deemed this 1991 poster to be a poor reflection on the advertising industry and ordered the advertisers not to repeat the approach.

“Decorative models do seem to increase
recognition and recall of the advertisement 
itself. The same probably is true for nudity. 
Thus , as one article on that technique 
suggested, ‘While an illustration of a nude 
female may gain the interest and attention of
a viewer, an advertisement depicting a
nonsexual scene appears to be more
effective in obtaining brand recall”’. 

Phillips, M. J. (1997), Ethics and Manipulation in Advertising: Answering a 

Opium Adverts,
most complained about advert
sexually suggestive
idea of opium, notion of ecstasy
the image was deemed acceptable when it was rotated

Agnolo Bronzino, Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, c. 1545, Oil on wood,
distorted bodies
anatomically incorrect
acceptable because of culture?

Balthus, The Golden Years, c. 1945 
Therese Dreaming, 1938,
sexualised images of young girls

Edouard Manet (1832 - 83), Dejeuner sur l’Herbe, 1863 

 Andy Earl, Bow Wow Wow record cover, 1980
context changes the way it is viewed

Amy Adler – The Folly of Defining ‘Serious’ Art    
•Professor of Law at New York University
•‘an irreconcilable conflict between legal rules and artistic practice’
•The requirement that protected artworks have ‘serious artistic value’ is the very thing contemporary art and postmodernism itself attempt to defy

The Miller Test, 1973
•Asks three questions to determine whether a given work should be labelled ‘obscene’, and hence denied constitutional protection:

•Whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest
•Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct
•Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value

Does artistic practise fall outside of what the average person thinks?
do people that are un-educated have the right to decide what is acceptable?

Obscenity Law
•‘To protect art whilst prohibiting trash’
•‘The dividing line between speech and non-speech’
•‘The dividing line between prison and freedom’

Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette, 1989,  Immediate Family, 1984 - 92 
is it damaging to the children

Tierney Gearon, Untitled 2001
‘Upper crust “art lovers” 
are paying £5 a head to ogle degrading snaps of 
children plastered across 
the walls of one of Britain’s 
most exclusive galleries’ 
‘A revolting exhibition of 
perversion under the guise of art’ 
News of the World 

Protection of Children Act
•Deems the making, possession, distribution and display of indecent pictures of children an offence
•Up to ten years in jail


Tierney Gearon, Untitled 2001

‘I think that the pictures
are incredibly innocent 
and totally unsexual. I
don’t crop them, I don’t
retouch them and the
shots are never staged.
I might introduce an
element like a mask, to
a given situation, but I
would never insist that
the child put it on’

Tierney Gearon, Guardian, 2001

Links to the gaze theories

Nan Goldin Klara and Edda Belly-dancing,1998,

Richard Prince, Spiritual America, 1983 (after Garry Gross),
the demise of spiritual America

‘A body with two 
different sexes, maybe 
more, and a head that 
looks like it’s got a
different birthday’
Richard Prince 
‘A bath-damp and decidedly underage 
Brooke Shields … when Prince invites 
us to ogle Brooke Shields in her 
prepubescent nakedness, his impulse 
has less to do with his desire to savour 
the lubricious titillations that it was shot
to spark in its original context … than
with a profound fascination for the child
star’s story’

Jack Bankowsky, co-curator,
Tate Modern 
Spiritual America, as censored in Tate’s Pop Life exhibition catalogue

Richard Prince, Spiritual America IV, 2005

Final Thoughts,
•Just how much should we believe the ‘truth’ represented in the media?
•And should we be protected from it?
•Is the manipulation of the truth fair game in a Capitalist, consumer society?
•Should art sit outside of censorship laws exercised in other disciplines?
•Who should be protected, artist, viewer, or subject? 

Further Reading,
Aronson, E. and Pratkanis, A., 1992, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use 

and Abuse of Persuasion, New York, Henry Holt & Co.

Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulations, 1981, in Poster, M. (ed.) (1988), Jean

Baudrillard: Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press

Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, 1995, in Poster, M. (ed.)

(1988), Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press

Hawthorne C. and Szanto, A. (eds.) (2003) The New Gatekeepers: Emerging

Challenges to free expression in the Arts, New York, Columbia University Arts

Journalism Program

Naas M. (2010) The Truth in Photography, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University


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