Yesterday, artist Lawrence Weiner and artist/writer Jill Magid had a conversation about censorship in the art world in the Frieze New York VIP Lounge designed by private workspace collective Neuehouse. The two opened their conversation by admitting that their definitions of censorship are different from one another, something they realized through simultaneous exhibitions at their shared gallery, Galerie Yvon Lambert.
As the conversation progressed, it became clear that Weiner has a matter-of-fact view of individual self-censorship through his studies in syntax and linguistics. He says, "we are imbued in our own cultures." Magid believes that it's more of a societal censorship that affects us and specifically the art world.
Enjoy the pamphlet below, where Weiner and Magid wrote bios for themselves plus a selection of quotes from the talk.
Lawrence Weiner on censorship in the art world:
"You're dealing with somebody who wants desperately to have what you make, but it doesn't quite fit so they want you to change it. In fact then, they don't want what you've made, they want something that they have been able to perceive. That's the second stage [of censorship]. If art doesn't have a metaphor, and it is just a fact, everyone coming to it can bring their own needs, desires, and metaphors to it. If it has a metaphor, they have to accept your value structure."
Lawrence Weiner on how viewers receive art that hasn't been censored:
"Art is a specific object—I make a specific object that has no specific form. Somebody comes along, and that work looks like it would fit into their comprehension of their place in the world. They bring their needs, desires, and knowledge—whatever their culture is to it—if it fits, they use it. If you're careful, and you don't make any object that can be used in a sexist, racist, or other matter...the worst that you can do is be rejected, but at least you're giving somebody whole cloth, you're giving somebody something that has not yet been trimmed and put into a consideration for other people."
Jill Magid on being censored by the Dutch Secret Service:
"I did a project with the Dutch Secret Service, and they redacted and censored some of the work I made and then confiscated it. Some of the pieces I was showing had been confiscated, so I made work in reaction to that censoring...For me, I've often found that censoring by a larger structure helps me make new work. It's not to fit back into that structure, it's that those boundaries, especially in a government system, are so clearly defined, that it becomes a material of the work."
Lawrence Weiner on Jill Magid's project and the value of being rejected:
"You've got it made! You've got an interactive audience! There's nothing better! Think of being a young artist and doing something, putting something out, and nobody's paying a lot of attention, but then somebody comes along and hates it so much...rejection is the same thing as acceptance. Very often it's better, because you don't feel beholden to adapt what you make, self-censor what you make."
Lawrence Weiner on looking back at his life and what the role of artists in society is:
"A year and a half ago, I began working on a project...all the things that I started out as a young person in New York, school registration in the South, changing things, the whole thing about trying to bring about the social changes that basically everybody gets a house and some dignity...just hit the fucking fan it's over. We're back exactly where we started. I found myself trying to figure out what I had done with my life...Everything thing that we do as artists places something in the world that gives somebody a sense of dignity, so they can step aside from the crap their feet are walking on. Because you have to walk in the crap, unless you're special and can walk on water."
Lawrence Weiner on accreditation in the art world:
"I begun to get another feeling in the last year and a half that it is worth it, and maybe in the end, the last civilized place is the art world. And that's why I'm so angry with the academy who wants to give people licenses, degrees, and certificates. That and the fashion world were the last worlds where you could do something and interact with the world without a driver's license, without a piece of paper that anybody accredited. Now with this whole new thing about the Lisbon Accord, which is censorship, that no public institution after a time will be allowed, internationally it seems, to buy work unless it comes from an accredited artist."
Lawrence Weiner on the existence of bad art:
"There's no such thing as a bad artist. There's bad art. It's like saying there's no such thing as a bad home-cooked meal. It just doesn't taste good sometimes."