Felicity Small


Artists hold up a mirror to society and present controversial thoughts in both implicit and explicit ways. Moreover, society expects artists to be different in their expressions and vision.

The more controversial the art, the more interest and engagement they can receive from audiences. It is a popular passion to discuss the radical artists’ intentions and draw out inferences. This can be inspiring and stimulating for people.

If the intent is to shock, the controversy itself can be the avenue to fame (or infamy) for the artist. Thus, they want to be named.

However, there is a difference between presenting popular controversial ideas and unpopular ones. In effect, society has drawn a metaphorical ‘line in the sand’ that indicates things that it deems you cannot or should not say.

While at times this line is hard to see,  it is the point at which anonymity and being unrecognised is important to the author or creator because the ideas are too shocking, and too anti-establishment to be accepted and adopted by society. Yet the authors feel they need to say it, although they are concerned for their reputation. It raises the question;

How strong is the narrative that publicly writing about a controversial idea is career limiting?

The following mantra may help you to decide- ask yourself:

Do I have to say it?

Do I have to say it now?

Do I have to say it now to this audience?

This quick reflective test can help you to avoid constructing a moral hazard for yourself and others. If the answer is “yes” to all three then you put your name to it.

If the answer is no, maybe you need to do a little more thinking about your motivations before you share your controversial idea.

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