Michel Foucault, in his book Fearless Speech, argues that the parrhesiastes are people who take risks. Of course this does not always involve risk of death. For instance, when one sees his friend doing wrong and tells him that he is making a mistake, one risks invoking his friend’s anger and therefore acts as a parrhesiast [singular form]. (…) In a political debate, if an orator risks losing his popularity by speaking his thoughts that go against the majority’s opinion or might induce a political scandal , he is practicing parrhesia.
For Foucault, Parrhesia didn’t mean everything, but it was the most important element of critical thought. Is it the same for contemporary artists? Contemporary artists should be free as possible. Contemporary artist’s only agreement is with the demands of art (criticism, aesthetics, movements, ideas, truth, knowledge, beauty, politics etc). But on the other hand it’s bad that, a contemporary artist can not exist out of the market structure they are in. This situation confronts censorship to the contemporary artist.
Censorship is fear. We can not just underrate it with calling as a ban. It is silencing different ideas with repression. An authority is not entitled to ban the ideas they (he/she) don’t like and say all right to the ideas they like. Censorship is a method of relaxation, and is merely an evasion of governments. Because whatever you do to prohibit an exciting fact, it actually continues its existence. In fact, that’s an insult to the viewer and the society. To say “This is inconvenient for you” and to prohibit is a conception that selects in our place what we can view or not. However, in real democracies you have the unlimited right to criticize or comment on the things you don’t like.
I want to talk through a performance held in December of 2010: Şükran Moral’s performance that was held at the exhibition opening of Casa Dell’arte. Moral made love with her partner for 20 minutes in front of the people. At this position the artist is a complete parrhesiastes. Unfortunately, after the reactions on the performance, the artist applied self-censorship, cancelled the exhibition and was forced to flee abroad. There is also this side of the job. It doesn’t remain with censorship and a self-censorship system is imposed. How that’s done: arbitrary decisions of the censorship, opposing media’s targeting attitude and triggering the censorship, being brought to be alone and excluded as an intellectual person, because of the law enforcement authorities and the methods of law enforcement the pressure and fear leads to self-censorship.
Şükran Moral describes the situation in the press release:
I have always had problems with taboos in my performances so far. I believe that, instead of pure mind, the body in action will make the ideas free. At this point one of the important taboos is “sexuality”. Sexuality comes as the top “prohibited” thing by the governments. As well as the existence of the “heterosexual relationships implicitly swept under the table, coding “gay/lesbian” relationships as abnormal, is an important subject which I want to attract the attentions on.
“Making love” in this performance is an artistic action. And the viewers (the ones looking) are the passive positioned readers of this artistic event; and in the context, the event is not a “sex show” but addressing an “morality” problem. Otherwise, sex is a reality of life as a principal. Maybe the thing that could have been questioned in the performance is, if there is any “tresspassing” in the line of falling on earth of the “art” in the gallery or ascending of sex as an everyday phenomenon to the “ivory tower” of art.
If art is the expression of our imagination, then the performance Şükran Moral made is indisputable art. As a matter of fact, the gallery owners protected their artist and maintained that they always give priority to the artists freedom of expression.
Artist takes risk using parrhesia. Just like Nietzsche says, let’s not get to know the country by looking from the train. To prevent the artists from being alone and to move together, trying to change the societies perspective on the art and artist, writing more articles about the artists who got censored, introducing them is needed. Besides, we need to review again the rights of artists. I would like to end my article with a quote from Voltaire; “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”.