Can you define shock value? What do you think of shock value for the sake of shock value? Is it cheap? Is it purposeful? Does there need to be a greater reason or meaning when pushing boundaries? Should such work be censored? Should any work be censored? Can we draw a line, or should judgment be based on a continuum, when censoring work? Would it be acceptable to put an artist’s depiction of rape on the wall of an elementary school? The idea of what should and should not be censored is in large part due to the society, how, as artists, do you address delicate subjects to allow them to be addressed and discussed by society at large? How have you, as an artist, used or eschewed shock value in your own work to accentuate an idea, an emotion or a moment?
How do you communicate to people and what are they willing to listen to and accept? Sometimes creating a shock can be a good way to be heard in this world. Do people awake from their daze, do they feel something stirring in them, good or bad, is their heart pounding with exhilaration? That’s shock value. It’s that bold enough statement to elicit a heavier emotional response than might be normally expected from someone, a group or a culture in general. It might be shocking to some in the middle east to show a woman in a bikini drinking a martini, while in most parts of the world a picture of rape on the wall of an elementary school would be abhorrent.
What’s important in a work of art is message, communication and purpose… In Gottfried Helnwein’s “Lebensunwertes Leben”, where a dead child is face down in his food, we have a great example of shock value and message being most powerful. The image represents the concept of a Nazi era forensic Psychiatrist who admitted to poisoning and killing hundreds of children, calling the practice “Humane.” Helnwein wrote a personal message along side the piece. It was shocking for most but it did an incredible job of waking people up to the fact that this man was still employed and working in the community. So what seemed at face value to be grotesque shock actually had a peaceful message and a purpose to bring awareness and change the world for the better. Now, that’s amazing. I find his approach mesmerizing and brilliant because he knows exactly how to get people’s attention and create big effects.
In my own work, I break rules technically to create effects that coalesce with my message and purpose, but I wouldn’t call it shock. In a way I don’t feel a necessity to use it. But I would if I had to.
As far as censorship, we all have basic human rights that we’re entitled to, including freedom of expression. What I choose to see or not see is also my choice, but of course it would be nice if more people would be a little more responsible for their expressions. That’s just a matter of ethics.