Introduction: “This was unlike any conference I have ever attended. Taking its title from the Arab proverb ‘All That Is Banned Is Desired’, and described as ‘the first world conference on artistic freedom of expression’, this was an historic, wide-ranging and often emotional gathering of musicians, writers, painters, photographers, dancers, film-makers or publishers who have all suffered from censorship, but have been determined to carry on, despite imprisonment and torture, or threats that ranged from financial ruin to physical violence and even death.”
Written by Robin Denselow, a British writer, journalist and broadcaster who reports for The Guardian, BBC tv and radio, this report is a catching, touching and enlightening publication about the current state of freedom of expression among artists around the world.
It reflects on the numerous accounts and incidents of censorship, persecution and imprisonment of artists, as they were revealed in testimonials and panel debates during ‘All that is Banned is Desired’, the first world conference on artistic freedom of expression which took place on 25-26 October 2012 at the Oslo Opera House in Norway.
Over the two days of the conference, more than 50 artists and individuals involved in the arts addressed vital and complex issues concerning artists’ freedom of expression. To honour the histories of the struggle to advance the freedom to make and use art, we placed the artists at the centre of this gathering. Artists shared both their experiences of censorship and the many strategies developed to claim, defend and advance their freedoms as well as the freedoms of other artists.
It is our hope that the conference was the beginning of a concerted effort to enhance the monitoring of and defense against violations of artists’ freedom of expression worldwide. In recent years, hundreds of artists have been attacked, persecuted, imprisoned and even killed because they insist on expressing themselves through their art. Many have become symbols of resistance against dictatorial regimes, religious extremists, corporate greed, and oppressive cultural, gender and sexual norms.
The entire conference was filmed by VIMAGO and each session, as well as interviews with artists, can be found on www.artsfreedom.org
We would like to thank the artists for contributing and sharing their experiences and artistic expressions through statements, speeches, dialogues, film screenings and live performances.
The programme committee
Marie Korpe and Ole Reitov, Freemuse
Bente Roalsvig and Rune Eraker, Fritt Ord