April 1, 2022

#BelfastBattleFest: Can Culture Survive The Culture Wars?

This is a recording from the Belfast Battle of Ideas, an event that took place in the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast on the 26 March 2022 in partnership with Imagine! Belfast Festival and the Academy of Ideas.

Can Culture Survive The Culture Wars?

Culture-wars divisions increasingly frame how we judge artistic works. Statues of slave traders have been ripped from pedestals, accusations of ‘transphobia’ result in the work of artists such as Jess de Wahls being removed from galleries, while books by controversial figures such as Norman Mailer and Woody Allen are pulled from the schedules by the new cultural arbiters in publishing. Musician Nick Cave has spoken for many when he said that cancel culture has an ‘asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society’. But others ask what is wrong with assessing works in line with contemporary moral or cultural mores. Given art seeks subjective emotional responses as well as objective judgement, should we really have to contend with abusers such as R Kelly or Marilyn Manson on our airwaves, Jimmy Carr’s Holocaust joke on streaming platforms or statues of colonial supremacists in our cities – especially when, for many, they are an emotionally harmful reminder of past oppression? Are culture-war rebels right to believe that banishing controversial works will help put us on the right side of history? Or, in the name of artistic freedom, should we resist the policing of art and artists?

- Rosemary Jenkinson, short story writer, playwright and ACNI Major Artist
- Phil Harrison, writer; author, The First Day; filmmaker, Even Gods
- Olivia Hartley, publisher, The Critic

CHAIR: Ella Whelan, co-convenor, Battle of Ideas festival; journalist; author, What Women Want

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