California Studies Association

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ARTICLE: ArtShift San Jose Reports on Censorship of Documentary Photography

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Whitney Aiken’s The Biggest Most Influential Thing that has Ever Happened to Me, sponsored by Space 47, removed from the Tech Museum of Innovation, later installed in WORKS

Whitney Aiken, a lonely voice in the window of Works Gallery
by Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

Space 47, a San Jose Gallery began a sociological investigation by mentoring a selected group of young people in the self-examination of behaviors on the internet. Parents, schools and sociologists have become increasingly concerned over boundaries broken on the internet. What is the subtext of shameless engagement in topics, acts and revelations that in previous generations were considered to be private, personal, embarrassing or incriminating?

On such sites as Facebook, YouTube and Myspace, young people show themselves nude, in sexual postures, drunk and passed out and in many other ways that would have been anathema to their parents’ generation. Why does the current generation seems to have no need to maintain good face, avoid public shame, and conceal “issues”? Honesty, at times brutal, is embraced –perhaps as part of a youthful idealism, mixed with exhibitionism — that we all remember from our years under the age of thirty.

Whitney Aiken prepared The Biggest, Most Influential Thing that has Ever Happened to Me, as part of the Space 47 project. Daily, for six weeks, Aiken broadcast through word and pictures on the internet her grief over the death of her father, her mother’s breast cancer, and her own fears for inherited tendencies toward cancer.

It was more than a neutral exercise in making the private public. Somehow, by bringing into the light, Aiken declares, she was able to dispel her pain, “brush the chip off her shoulder” and “move on”. Psychologists, of course, base group therapy on the healing process engendered by being able to talk about our failures and injuries, and thereby neutralizing the shame and pain.

Curiously, the photographic documents of Aiken herself with bare breasts, and her father, and mother — with scars where her breasts once were, was briefly installed in the Tech Museum of Innovation as part of that forward thinking institution’s Global Youth Voices. It was taken down the second day. Talk about a generation gap and failed outreach to youth! Not to mention thoughtless, shortsighted unwarranted censorship!

Whitney Aiken’s documentary installation can be seen in the front window of WORKS gallery on South First Street during 01SJ.

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