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Writer, academic, and free speech activist Svetlana Mintcheva encapsulates the power of art by acknowledging its inherent duality and emphasizing its vitality to culture as a catalyst for social change. Artistic expression is fundamental to the development of all societies, broadening people’s perspectives on different political, cultural, and social issues. It not only serves as a tool of introspection but also as a means of questioning the world around us. Artistic expression has long been recognized as a fundamental human right. And yet, censorship of art is a prominent contemporary issue restricting the function of the artist, and consequently containing the potential for art to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.

My PIP analyses the role and influence of external censorship (moral, aesthetic, and political) on self-censorship, and the implications this has on artistic expression. I compare how censorship operates within Australian and Chinese cultures to understand if it occurs regardless of the cultural context. My aim is to reveal how external censorship at the macro level is internalized by the individual and influences the individual to self-censor, therefore profoundly inhibiting self-expression.

Both primary and secondary research methods were integral in developing my understanding of censorship culture in relation to artistic expression. My personal reflection was integral to articulate my own experience as an individual engaged with the arts, and how this has influenced the opinions I hold on self-censorship. The questionnaire concerning engagement with social media platforms and the public’s understanding of censorship served as an effective tool to deduce the importance placed on self-expression and the ability to express oneself through digital media platforms in Australian culture. Both content analyses aided in analyzing common themes and subject matter between various censored works by Chinese and Australian artists, which gave me an indication of themes that are censored irrespective of the culture in which they are created. In addition to this, extensive secondary research provided me with a variety of perspectives that have expanded my understanding of censorship culture and how it functions in the art world.

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The introduction of new media as an aspect of modernization is a central change that I identify as fundamental to understanding the various guises modern censorship operates under, and the influence it has had on the interpretation of modern art. I also focus on the repression of artistic expression through moral, political, and aesthetic censorship as a universal continuity that has sustained itself across cultures.

My cross-cultural component focuses on the change in censorship according to cultural context. I look at the existing differences between censorship in China compared to Australia and the extent to which they impact artistic expression. By comparing two seemingly opposing cultures, I am able to infer the extent to which culture influences self-censorship.

This project has allowed me to not only reflect on the presence of censorship in wider society, but it has also raised my awareness of its influence on the individual. I have developed a passion for understanding the power dynamics involved in censorship, and in particular, how the agents of censorship (moral, political, and aesthetic) interact with the individual to create an ideal situation where the licensee becomes the censor.

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