Programmed self-censorship

Tania Bruguera
March 2007

From:  Bruguera, Tania “Autocensura Programada”, Exit Express -Exit Express -periódico mensual de información y debate sobre arte-, no. 26, March 2007., Ed. Olivares & Asociados, Madrid, España, 2007, (illust.) p. 10.
ISSN 1697-5405

Download PDF

Programmed self-censorship

by Tania Bruguera

Censorship – when it does not turn into torture – is a bad moment that may become pathetic heroism when seen as something more than a measurement of the limit, of a limit contextualized in time and space, an entirely ephemeral limit based on the needs of the power of the moment. When it is seen as something more than the formalized exteriorization of the space of tolerance –tolerance defined by the level of awareness of each party, by the place each party wants to arrive at, what model it wants to build – to take delight in showing the limits of things is lifeless hedonism, it is confusing a methodology with an end, confusing showing with suggesting, confusing the state of things with the condition of things. I do not deny the impact that being required to mark their territory of tolerance, of imposing censorship, may have for those exercising power, and therefore the effectiveness this method of increasing awareness may have, but provoking censorship may be the first step in a series of actions intended to prompt more permanent changes and not an end in itself.

Censorship, although visualized in the action carried out by the party with power, is an action provoked from the space of those who have no power, an enunciation by those who have no way to communicate with power while self-censorship, although it takes place in the party with no power, is an action caused by the part that has power, it is a mark created by it, which although it not always is permanent, at least is more effective because of the reach of its consequences; it is a change of the state of things more permanent for those acquiring it than what censorship may be for those exercising it.

Self-censorship is the way in which power imposes its long-term limits; it is a methodology of permanent control, the moment of the highest success in a political negotiation of any size.

Self-censorship is the moment in which we become just one, in which we identify with political power, the moment in which we begin to work for it, the moment in which we stop defining ourselves and let others define us, when we ourselves impose the limits others agree on.

Censorship, in a posthumous moment of glory, facing bad memory, is an act of instantaneous gratification which may be rewritten or updated on the shadow of new interests; self-censorship is a state of evolution, it is the moment in which the process of guilt can be reverted. It is when limits become more humane.

If censorship is a clear act, self-censorship, on the contrary, is a more complex act of transference in which you must be sure of believing the reasons for this perverse way to relate with a system of power. Censorship is a passive act of receiving, of reception; self-censorship is active; it is something generated and projected, a moment in which the victim tries to act as a victimizer.

Censorship and self-censorship may arise in those playing the role of censors and in those playing that of censored persons. Although self-censorship is considered a perverse way to relate with a given political system, its highest state of aberration is when self-censorship is generated from and against the political system itself: a government self-censoring itself is the most sublime form of political cannibalism.