I was at SAM@8Q this evening. An artist had put up an exhibition featuring the rare book collection of the museum and invited museum-goers to select books to withdraw from public access – essentially banning them.
Withdrawn is nice euphemism. There’s a sublime sense of clinical emotionlessness and highbrow thoughtfulness that surrounds it and permeates it.
Capturing an almost Orwellian-like totalitarian-bureaucratic zeitgeist, there was a pile of “withdrawn” books, all nicely cling-wrapped with a personally written card delineating the reasons for its withdrawal. Some of these books had threaded on feminist sensitivities, others on tightly-held personal ideologies on life. A few witty ones included a “withdrawn” copy of the arts council’s annual cultural statistics with the reason as “culture can never be measured in numbers”.
I submitted a withdrawal form for a poetry book on the grounds that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”. Lee Kuan Yew would agree wholeheartedly with me.
Beside the pile of withdrawn books is a neatly arranged shelf of books donated by museum-goers, all tagged with little blue forms filled with reasons why those books are good for general consumption. It was a painfully puny shelf.
Censorship is contractionary. Where knowledge expands, censorships encroaches. Books are subversive and reading is radical.