Monday, September 27, 2010

Censorship debate erupts around expletive-studded performance

A word war's breaking out today on Facebook in the wake of artist John W. Love Jr.'s controversial performance during last week's TEDxCharlotte conference. Love, an actor, performance artist and poet, says he was invited to perform an excerpt from his interdisciplinary work, Black Lily Billy, at the conference. The conference is aimed at putting forward cutting edge "big ideas" for Charlotte in the realms of technology, entertainment and design. Love has put up a Facebook note slamming organizer Candice Langston for pulling the plug on the conference's live Internet feed during his performance. (Caution: page contains graphic language). He said she did it because he used "a few" expletives during his performance. He said he'd asked organizers if they understood the nature of his work beforehand, and he'd been assured it was ok. He said the decision to cut the feed "reeks of cowardice," and amounts to "censorship in its ugliest of forms." Langston told me in a phone interview: "I was concerned that there might have been children watching...I'm very, very sorry that John feels we censored him or offended him or oppressed him in some way."

Comments are rapidly pouring into the page as it spreads through Charlotte's Facebook circles. Many support Love. Others are defending Langston, saying she had an obligation to cut off the feed since she didn't warn viewers in advance of the graphic content. I left to write my story on the conference before Love's performance, unfortunately, so I don't have first-hand knowledge of what he did. It's certainly causing a stir!

What do you think? Should the TEDx folks have pulled the plug?

11 comments:

bovinesituation said...

*IF* they knew the content of his performance, no. (I believe they knew, otherwise how would they have chosen him?) But they should have also, again, if they knew the content, forewarned people that might have chosen not to hear his message.

Anonymous said...

The mistake was in inviting Mr. Love to participate in the event without a clear understanding of the nature of his performance. The Facebook comments have been flying and many have expressed their support of Mr. Love's performance. Mr. Love and his online supporters have been quick to vilify the organizers by choosing to make the dialogue over this personal and mean. The debate over freedom of speech and censorship will wage on. I would just say, as one who was inspired, uplifted and empowered to change the world for the benefit of others, Mr. Love's performance was an odd, irrational, self-inflated ramble to nowhere, leaving a very unpleasant taste in the mouth at the end of a wonderfully conceived event. Surely the TedXCharlotte organizers could have anticipated that this would not be a fitting conclusion to the day.

Anonymous said...

Dittos on what 1st Anonymous said.

Anonymous 2

Anonymous said...

You do realize the note you linked includes some of the very language that was found objectionable by TEDx organizers, right?

I witnessed John's performance and agree with Anonymous 1 that it was an odd ending to an otherwise wonderful event. Not to diminish his performance, but it just didn't seem to fit with the overall message.

Anonymous said...

TEDx Charlotte is representative of what happens when the social elite crown themselves the Ayatollahs of culture & ideas - it's a failed, top-down approach.

The "uptown crowd" has a long history of wanting artists and thinkers to conform to their watered down and sanitized sensibilities.

TEDx Charlotte was billed at offering big ideas, but in reality it was mostly about offering the ideas of those within the organizers' clique. This is evident by the less than transparent process for selecting attendees.

When it came down to either standing with an acclaimed yet controversial artist, or protecting the corporate image, the artist was thrown under the bus.

To sum it up, TEDx Charlotte is all about protecting it's brand, not offering brand new ideas worth spreading.

Alex said...

There were children in the audience, four of them (perhaps the only four) sitting across the aisle from me. Someone took them outside after a couple of minutes into John's performance.

I don't know at which point the misunderstanding between Love and the TEDxCLT organizers (regarding his graphical wording) happend. As someone pointed out on Facebook, "a dialogue about f* people to death and then f* them back to life" is clearly not the usual fare.

Anonymous said...

Yep, typical charlotte. Heaven forbid something controversial or edgy actually comes out of the gated community, olive garden sensibilities of these city wannabes. World class my a--.

Anonymous said...

There was probably a discrepancy between the rehearsal and the actual performance, since despite rehearsals people that were at the rehearsals were suprised by the performance. Should John have been clearer about his performance, probably. Should the organizer be clearer about what they are comfortable live streaming, probably. But it was the first and entirely volunteer organized event, so give them a break. For John this wave off free publicity works out great either way so there is no downside for him to keep complaining, only for the people that invited him and put countless hours of great work into organizing a great event.

Anonymous said...

Profanity is the crutch of a conversational cripple. It was uncalled for. It completely overshadowed Love's message.

little shiva said...

Wow, it's been over 50 years since the Howl obscenity trial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl#1957_obscenity_trial) and here we are again. Greed is obscene. Waste is obscene. War, poverty, classism, sexism, racism and many other staples of corporatist society are obscene. John's work is never obscene, no matter how many fucks, cunts, cocks and assholes are in it.

Anonymous said...

The only shame to this whole discussion is that the plug was not pulled for aesthetic reasons. His performance sucked, and not for the cussing. What a stage hog.