Art Censorship Wielded on Karachi Biennale’s “Karachi Killing Fields” Exhibit

Art censorship and repression have become issues that have received annual reports detailing documented cases of intolerance to artworks. In light of the threats posed to artistic freedom, Freemuse published a report last April 2019, captioned as “Whose Narrative Counts;” presenting hundreds of documented cases of art censorship from across 80 countries during the past year.

The most recent case that the Freemuse organization will like include in its next report is the closing down of the “Karachi Killing Fields,” sculptural exhibition of Paskistani artist Adeela Suleman. A few hours after the courtyard of the historic Frere Hall opened to display Suleman’s 444 tombstone-like sculptures, a pair of plainclothes policemen arrived and ordered the biennale organizers to shutdown that particular exhibit.

Suleman, who teaches at the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture, held a press conference to voice her reaction against the censorship; saying

“My work was just a story of incidents that took place in Karachi around a year ago.” — There was nothing in it that was not already public knowledge”

However, Pakistani authorities also ordered the discontinuance of the press conference, since Suleman was referring to the numerous incidents of extrajudicial killings carried out by local police authorities working under former police chief superintendent Rao Anwar. Her tombstone sculptures reminded people of victims that died as a result of instantaneous and wide open summary killings.

Actually, Suleman’s tombstone sculptures were also knocked down and the door leading to the “Karachi Killing Fields” exhibition was padlocked. The head of the Karachi Parks Division later told Samas TV said that the exhibition was removed because Suleman’s installation was as a form of vandalism

Biennale Organizers’ Reaction to the Shutdown and Destruction of Suleman’s “Karachi Killing Fields” Exhibit

The shutdown of the exhibit mounted by Suleman sparked outcries of protests coming from both local and international artists and activists. Some even staged a “die-in” protest against the censorship, but to no avail.

The Karachi Biennale organizers issued a statement saying that they are also against censorship of art. However, with regard to the exhibit in question, they came to realize that the artist’s perspective was not compatible with the biennale’s theme of “Ecology and the Environment” and the ethos of the biennale under KB No.19.

UK Study Provides Proof that the Arts and Culture Offer of Communities Pose as Place-Shaping Factors

In 2017, the Arts Council England commissioned Wavehill Ltd to conduct research to determine whether the arts and cultural offering of an area is a factor that attracts individuals and businesses to settle there; and of how that area’s cultural offer shapes local identity of that place.

The report on the study entitled “The Value of Arts and Culture in Place-Shaping” was published on August 21, 2019, giving insights on the impact of arts and culture in shaping six (6) different places: Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham, Halifax, Hastings, Southampton and Redruth. In conducting the study, the research company examined 1,756 responses to the UK-wide survey launched in 2017. The report proved that funding for the arts is a valid cause, as the analysis showed that art and cultural features have been instrumental in attracting new residents to the smaller communities.

Nicholas Serota, the chairperson of Arts Council England and former Tate director, also wrote an essay in The Guardian, giving emphasis to the hard evidence provided by the research. He elaborated on how the study shows that the arts matter to people across the country, giving support to the importance of making greater investments in cultural dwvelopments.

Based on the latest report commissioned by the Arts Council England, Mr. Serota wrote of how from Hull to Margate, creative projects not only brought money and life back to high streets but also also boosted wellbeing, among community dwellers. Moreover, the study also revealed how people tend to base decisions on where to live by looking into the arts and culture, in addition to offers of good schools. The Arts Council England chairman wrote

”There is not only tangible value in investment in the arts, but also huge public demand for it.”

The City of Hull Sets a Good Example of How Investments in Arts and Culture Create Positive Impact

In the essay, Chairman Serota cited the city of Hull as the most obvious example. The positive impact of art and culture made Hull the City of Culture in 2017. Hull’s economy received a boost from their programme, as the local tourism industry generated £300m throughout the year.

The Art Council England chair also wrote that the benefits experienced by the city went far beyond economic growth. Arts and culture helped instill in the local people, a renewed pride in the history of Hull and in boosting their confidence over its global role. At the end of the year, 75% of Hull residents said they were proud to live in the city.

Even worth mentioning is that Hull’s achievement has been replicated by smaller towns, including post-industrial, coastal and market towns.

Studies Prove the Importance of Emotional Connection to Creative Marketing Ideas

Marketing professors Kelly Herd of the University of Connecticut and Ravi Mehta of the University of Illinois recently conducted experiments that proved the importance of emotional connection to the effectiveness of creative marketing ideas.

According to Professor Herd, the study can be linked to a 2016 report published in the Business News Daily, which found 82% of company executives sharing the belief that there is a strong connection between business results and creativity. The view relates to the current marketing strategy of sourcing new ideas directly from consumers; by asking suggestions about products or services that they want the company to introduce as new product line.

Professor Herd cited how companies like Starbucks, Frito-Lay, LEGO and even the U.S. Army, base their innovation, as well as their research and development mostly on consumer recommendations. The view is that in a highly competitive marketplace, innovation and new products based on consumer recommendations, will enable manufacturers to survive and endure the competition.

Yet mental imagery depicting consumer emotion, used creatively in marketing new products is also of utmost importance. Through their research, marketing professors Kelly Herd and Ravi Mehta, provided new evidence demonstrating the importance of creativity influenced by mental imagery and its ability to affect consumer emotion. They then presented the results in a report entitled “Head vs. Heart: the Effect of Objective versus Feelings-Based Mental Imagery on New Product Creativity,” .

How the Study was Conducted

The objective of the experiments conducted was to show, how giving value to an end-user’s feeling can be a powerful tool in developing designs for new products deemed as solutions to problems found in the marketplace.

The research was founded on the premise that initially focusing on emotions or feelings based on the point of view of consumers creates cognitive flexibility among the designers. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to simultaneously consider matters in different perspectives. In having such an ability, product designers can “shift avenues of thought” when perceiving and processing information toward creativity.

Separate experiments were conducted in which participants were asked to design a kid’s toy, to select ingredients for a new cereal for children and to reinvent a grocery cart for the benefit of the elderly. Half of the groups of participants were instructed to imagine their respective target consumer’s feelings and emotions before starting out with the task. The other half was simply tasked to perform the assignment objectively, without considering consumer emotions or feelings.

Judges regarded as experts in the subject product, were simply asked to identify the most creative design based on their own expertise and knowledge of the subject. They had no knowledge of the objective and the emotion-based approaches that specific groups received as instructions. As the judging results demonstrated, creative product designs that took into consideration consumer-emotions, proved the importance of using product imagery created by way of cognitive flexibility.

Van Gogh’s Letter to Critic Who Wrote First Printed-Review of His Artwork Now on Public Exhibit

Vincent van Gogh was a post-impressionist painter acclaimed as the greatest Dutch painter next to Rembrandt, but only much later after his death in 1890 at the age of 37. Throughout his career as a painter, this famous Dutch artist was practically unknown, and had remained poor during his lifetime.

After a series of failed courtships and relationships, as well as rejections encountered in his bid to become an evangelist, Van Gogh’s psychological condition slowly deteriorated. Hi mental decline had led to a particular incident in which he cut off his ear and subsequently committed to a mental asylum.

Today, Van Gogh paintings are ranked among the most priceless in the world, fetching owners as much as $53.9 million, (“Irises”) to $82.5 million (“Portrait of Dr. Gachet”) at auctions.

A Backgrounder to the Critic’s Letter

Even while at the asylum, Van Gogh continued to paint, to which the most notable artwork he produced was “The Starry Night.” An art critic named Albert Aurier, wrote a first ever-printed review that praised one of Van Gogh’s works, describing it as

“…excess, excess in strength, excess in nervousness, violence in expression.”

Vincent was so elated over Aurier’s positive review, he wrote the critic a thank-you letter, expressing his appreciation,

. “I rediscover my canvases in your article, but better than they really are – richer, more significant…”

Sadly, four months after sending the thank-you letter, Vincent Willem van Gogh committed suicide. Although Van Gogh was discharged from the mental asylum earlier, he was still distraught about his future and apparently found a reason to end his life by fatally shooting himself in the chest.

Van Gogh’s Letter to Critic Aurier Goes On Public Display at Amsterdam Museum

Through the years since Van Gogh became one of the world’s most important artists, Van Gogh’s letter to the critic passed through the hands of several art collectors. The last owner, a murky character named Aristophil was able to purchase the letter from an auction where the Van Gogh Museum had hoped to procure it. Aristophil though, a known schemer of investments went bankrupt, finally sending the much coveted Van Gogh letter in the auction market in Paris.

Early this month, and with the financial assistance of Hong Kong tycoon Cheung Chung-kiu, the Van Gogh Museum was able to secure Van Gogh’s letter to Aurier, and put it in public display in what is believed to be a first time.