These are reflections I am left with after watching a video recording from 16 December 2015 [watch the video at nytid.no], when New York’s Art Net White Box gallery organised a panel discussion around art and censorship in collaboration with Dukley Art Centre in Montenegro. One of the panellists was punk singer and activist Masha Alyokhina from Pussy Riot, and the occasion for the debate was the opening of New Balkan Women’s Museum in Montenegro, an international museum about, for and of women.

Aristoteles believed that the human was a zoon politikon, a political animal. The question many has asked is whether all art necessarily is political, whether art always should have political change as its goal – or bear potential political consequences in mind.

To many the answer is an obvious yes, especially if the artist comes from a country characterised by censorship and persecution of vulnerable social groups. Activist artists may prompt societal changes by switching on the international spotlight and pressurising the governing powers who are violating human rights, or by inspiring other performers to take the baton.

In cartoons, censorship is often illustrated by a character gagged with a handkerchief (although anyone who has tried this, knows that it is fully possible to utter a variety of sounds whilst gagged). What would the individual say, if given the chance, and why did someone take the trouble of gagging them? The gagging itself often results in a greater deal of interest in the artist’s message, an unwanted side effect from the gagger’s point of view. Precisely Pussy Riot’s fight against Putin’s regime is an example of censorship’s unintentional dissemination value – to inspire and follow for other lesser known artists and activists.

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