A euphemistic approach of censorship on Art and State!

Artist Wakilur Rahman has been always worked as a protagonist artist for using text, image and contextual discourse in his artworks. His few exhibitions - 'Nobody is perfect everybody is perfect', 'Cultural Fast food', 'News Food' and 'Phonetic Image' -were admirably thought provocative photography based exhibitions for bridging contextual dialogue with our cultural behavior and visual politics. Now following to those, the 'Censored Image' is another photographic image based art project -created, curated and censored by Wakilur Rahman, which also invoke us to deal with such a camouflagic word 'Censorship' in visual culture.

'Censor' derives from the Latin for census taker or tax collector, as magistrates who held censuses and supervised public morals of the Roman Empire. In ancient societies, like China, the first censorship law was introduced in 300 AD and was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population. Today through censorship an authority can narrow what we can say, see, hear, think, and even imagine. Basically, in every Civilization, Nation, Culture or private authority has their own cultural code/norms where they use censorship as a tool to suppress the content they find undesirable or the person who wants to revolt them. This portrayal renders the 'Censor' as the very opposite of Democracy, Freethinkers or Artists. We have seen almost every society have dreadful examples of visual censorship on free thinkers or artists for their Ideologies, Books, Paintings, Sculptures, Performance, Films, and Images, etc. And there has a long debate on the legality of visual censorships, as those forbidden contents were actually harmful or not for audiences. And we have also seen whenever something censors by an authority; people become intensify about the issues. If we look into our visual culture, whenever an authority censored a film, book, image, sculpture or artwork that censored issues became more attracted to us to know its forbidden content. So, what's the benefit of visual censorship? At this contextual ground Wakil's 'Censored Image' step-in but in a euphemistic approach.

Here Wakil presented 44 manipulated images or photographs, each image printed in a similar ratio (small image printed in large paper), white framed and hanged over the exhibition wall bordering to each other as a city horizon line. On a closer look, the viewer could feel utterly ridicule with the images overwritten manipulation. Why a well-established artist like Wakil, has undermined the aesthetics or subjectivity of the images by using unnecessary symbols, blocked colors, lines, blurriness here and there? Does his photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas?  

For further understanding, we can see the exhibition prologue, where Wakil has stated these images are mostly 'Banal Images' and chosen from his Facebook account! He has also stated this project idea came to his mind when Facebook authority blocked his few uploaded images referring 'Objectionable Contents’. So, he starts to intrigue the consequences of the censorship on visual politics.  If we tracked back on Wakil's Facebook account, we can see almost every day he uploads random images of self, body reflections, friends, composition of spaces and objects, roadside snapshots, landscapes or Architectures, which suggests he use some digital handled devices with him always and do some territorial investigation of his everyday life. And these photographs are not accidents – they have always represented as a concept when he uploaded them on Facebook referring to a thematic project, like- Narcissus, Skin, Public performance, In-between, etc. 'Censored Image' - the same nature of Facebook project had been started on 2015. Here Wakil dealt with similar axiomatic images but he has applied typical censor tools or digital manipulation to achieve his conceptual growth of censorship. But exactly how Wakil became able to connect our recent socio-political scenario of 'Censorship' with art aesthetically and conceptually in a single image?  

Wakil's series starts with censoring some Landscape images, where he doodled rectangular color patches or lines, which creates a different layer of composition on the previous image and a banal image turned in an abstract aesthetics to its viewer. But in this series, few images are very significant, they are images of Intimate indoors - selfie, friends, and body in bed or simply unmade beds, which hardly seems banal if we overlook the manipulation! We know, it's difficult in photography to overcome the superficial power or subject; the concept and statement must be quite convincing in themselves to win over a dramatic and compelling subject situation. And exactly at this point, Wakil has appropriately used the tools of 'Censorship'.  In a cautious way, he has censored the images identification elements (part of beds, body, faces), that precedes or enhances the audience's curiosity at a different level.  The audience starts to intrigue the concept of morality, judgment, social behavior and starts to feel like an intruder in Wakil's personal space, which feelings are deeply rooted in our cultural behavior.

Furthermore, in some images of roadside snapshots, he censored some parts with red color, censoring random roadside frame galleries iconic or random faces, erasing the written slogan on Legendary Noor Hossain's [1] back, blocking some parts of animal sacrificing scenarios - extremely inflame our thought on the political dialog. 

 

Actually, Wakil uses these manipulated elements on some ordinary images as symbols of the typical censorship tools used in the Media, TV or Film's image to provoke us about our recent political (and partly religious) censorship on internet, social media, Viber, You-tube, blogger & free thinkers, newspaper and electronic media. We know these censorship issues openly came from our Government when they approved an autocratic law of (ICT) Censorship. This Law as Section 57 raised concern among the writers, journalists, bloggers, and human rights activists as it directly interferes with the freedom of expression and right to privacy as guaranteed by Articles 39 and 43.  Now Wakils ridicules starts to become sensible to us, why he self-censored his works. Since it was not easy for Wakil to express his thoughts concerning these issues openly! Through 'Censored Image' Wakil narrated the ethnography of censorship of art, literature, film, media, and religious tolerance to public speech on our unnerved political space. Thus, simple way Wakil has drawn audience's curiosity in a space of personal & political.

Finally, as we know, most of the time Power breeds corruption. It also invites ridicule. The ridicule often provokes retaliation from the powerful. Criticism and insults directed at the powerful is one thing, but ridicule cuts deeper. 'Censored Image' has tried to give this same deeper cut onto its viewer mind for using some banal images and ridicule manipulation to express a radical contextual discourse of our recent socio-political state of 'Censorship'. “The government is always the guardian of tradition, and art is the guardian of innovation. If there’s no friction between the government and artists, it’s abnormal. “- a quote from Alexander Melamid’s reminds us Wakil's art is not just about artists and artworks. This exhibition has the most important insight from a sociological approach to art.

 

-Written by Kehkasha Sabah

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Footnote:
[1] Nur Hossain’s back: On November 10, 1987 the valiant Nur Hossain went out on the streets of Dhaka with a bare torso and words written on both the front and back of his body that the ruling regime found so provocative and powerful that the 26-year-old could not be allowed to breathe on this earth for another second. Minutes after he was photographed, the military shot Nur Hossain dead. "Shoirachar Nipat Jak, Gonotontro Mukti Pak" (Down with Autocracy, Let Democracy be Unchained) written in white on his body was quickly covered with the red of his blood.

 

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