Art censorship as art criticism: fighting the sacrilegious and protecting the 'shell'
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Art censorship in Greece since the establishment of the new Greek state in 1830 has been formulated in relation to the ideological patterns of national identity. The influence of Romanticism intensified references to ancient ancestors, legitimised the focus on tradition, and corresponded to the need of the newly formed Greek society to establish the country’s position as a cultural equal of the other European countries. Ever since, the constant calling of Greek society upon the symbols of national identity have created rigid ideological barriers in the country. The fine arts were expected to express higher values; sculpture in particular, owing to its public and monumental character, was connected to the concept of “nation” and assumed the role of helping to visualise its constituent elements. On the part of the audience, art critics included, censorship took the form of art criticism. Sculptors, on the other hand, had to self-censor their work by adapting themselves to the requirements of their environment. Modernity became an obvious target of animosity during the 20th century. The imminent danger supposedly posed involved contaminating the authenticity of “Greekness”. During the seven-year dictatorship (1967–1974) modernity was for the first time understood as protecting — instead of violating — the essence of national identity, because of its connection to political art revolting against the regime. During the past three decades, despite the radical changes the country has undergone, a peculiar kind of self-censorship exercised by the state — on the occasion of prominent official and public cultural events — has proved the use of culture as leverage for broader political views and resulted in an ongoing introversion.