Censorship, Art and Ideology – The Removal of Hylas and the Nymphs


Manchester Art Gallery has found its way into news coverage over the past few days since its controversial decision to take down a famous pre-Raphaelite painting. Hylas and the Nymphs, the 1896 classic by JW Waterhouse, depicts a seductive scene of naked women, enticing the young Hylas into their lake. The curators have explained that the removal of the piece was intended to spark discussion around the representation of women in art and media, reflecting the current climate of discussion and debate surrounding sexual exploitation and harassment. Visitors are encouraged to leave post-it notes where the painting once hung, giving their reactions to the decision. The debate has now spread to mainstream media, with many feeling outraged by the ideas of artistic censorship and extreme political correctness.

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Institutional Disparity and Discrimination: Let’s Make Change.

Here in the UK we have a tendency to look down on America. As we sip our tea and nibble our crumpets, we shake our heads in disbelief that millions of its citizens voted for the orange idiot who dominates our TV screens. When news stories crop up about shootings and police violence, we haughtily scorn their undying patriotism and criticise the inequality that seems to infiltrate their justice system. Though our critiques are valid in many respects, our sense of superiority and self-acquittal in the UK is misplaced and misjudged; it is time we take a look at our own accounts of  injustice.

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Having an Eco-Conscience. Does It Matter and Is It Even Possible?

A recent study from the University of Manchester has highlighted the negative environmental impact of Europe’s microwave infatuation, reporting that our companions of convenience emit the same amount of CO2 emissions as 7 million cars each year. In the UK alone, 93% of households possess a microwave, a 20% increase over the past 20 years. Increased environmental awareness has attacked the sanctity of our most beloved electrical appliances, triggering some of us make an effort to cut down on our energy consumption and leaving the rest feeling guilty but complicit. As more studies illuminate the impact of our modern lifestyles, attacking our excessive food waste, plastic profligacy and now our counter-top cookers, it’s easy to feel that there’s no point even trying. But it remains up to us, not large corporations or policy makers, to make the small changes which can make the biggest difference.

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Should We Be Afraid of a Digitised Future?

We are living in the age of the Digital Revolution. The past 30 years has seen the birth of the internet, closely followed by the smartphone and our beloved social networking sites, search engines and online streaming. Our dependence on technology is ever increasing as more areas of our lives are being digitally enhanced. Whereas before our world consisted solely of the physical and, depending on your beliefs, the spiritual, we now also inhabit the network of connectivity referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Soon anything and everything could be wirelessly connected and more daily tasks and professional roles will be taken over by our digital counterparts. Should we fear our a digital society and the potential for a ‘Black Mirror’-esque near future? Or does our world of increasing automation open us up to a lifestyle of leisure and an approved state of being?

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#MeToo – Stop Debating The Hashtag, Start Debating The Issue

In the wake of Catherine Deneuve’s open letter, the debate surrounding the worth of the #MeToo online movement has been at the forefront of media coverage in the past day. #MeToo first hit our Twitter timelines in October 2017, after actor Alyssa Milano publicly accused producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, sparking dozens of women to come forward with their own stories. The phenomenon soon spread and thousands took to their keyboards to share their experiences of harassment in the workplace, though like any form of patriarchal dissent this soon triggered backlash. Critics of the campaign, including Deneuve, have deemed #MeToo supporters hypersensitive, arguing they confuse normal sexual advances with abuse and foster a “hatred of men and sexuality”. Though this seems obtuse, softer critics have also come at the campaign for presenting women as victims and conflating flirtation with harassment. Others see the hashtag as an empowering movement; an easily distributed means of raising difficult questions about an institutional approach to women and consent.

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What Came First? Advertising and Social Norms

All of us are bombarded with images and sounds on a daily basis. Wherever we are, what we see and hear trains our brain to digest the world around us. For the majority of the global population this means we are constantly accosted by advertising, whether it’s the in your face advertising of the urban landscape or the more sporadic public presence of brands, images and corporate ideologies that is found even in the most rural settings. Without our conscious realisation, our brains become attuned to the information in the peripheries of our awareness and implement it in the way we think. So if we are constantly surrounded by advertising, it is fair to say that it has a large part to play in forming who we are and how we view reality.

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