Another idea of the day for the online York Festival of Ideas: Off Limits? Art, social media and censorship. Panel discussion, 8pm, 9/6/2020

Will anything be Off Limits when online censorship of art is under discussion tonight?

TONIGHT, the online York Festival of Ideas holds a panel discussion on art censorship in the age of social media.

Taking part, under the chairmanship of Michael White, will be art historians Amy Werbel and Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani, from the University of York, and contemporary artists Joanne Leah and belit sağ.

“While on the surface we live in a culture that appears to be ever more permissive, restrictions on the circulation of images is increasing at a very fast rate,” contends the Festival of Ideas website.

“In particular, demands for social media companies to show responsibility is leading to many images being removed.

“But what are the implications of this for artists who increasingly need to use social media to build their audiences and careers? Many are now faced with navigating algorithms designed not just to remove unwanted photographs, but even drawings and cartoons.

“In addition, a huge amount of historical art represents acts that would be considered objectionable and reprehensible. Can they be circulated online?”

As artists and museums move increasingly into the space of the internet, tonight’s expert panel will discuss where we should place the boundaries between freedom of expression and social responsibility.

After the 8pm discussion, Michael White, head of the University of York’s history of art department, will host a question-and-answer session.

Admission is free but booking is required at:

About the speakers

Joanne Leah’s image-based work explores themes of sexuality, isolation and identity from her base in New York City. She focuses on live models who exist on the fringe of society: sex workers, people from the BDSM and LGBTQA+ communities, as well as non-traditional body types.

Exhibitions include Acid Mass at the Not For Them gallery in Queens; NSFW: Female Gaze at the Museum of Sex and the performance/installation project, Fletish.

She founded to provide a liaison between artists and social-media policy makers. Examples of her work can be found on her Instagram page @twofacedkitten and at

Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani is a postgraduate student in the University of York’s history of art department, researching the politics and ethics of spectatorship of atrocity images in contemporary art.

Her main focus addresses issues of visibility and invisibility in the same context. Her broader research interests cover the ethics of photography/photojournalism, contemporary art and issues of spectatorship, artistic “genealogies” in art history and arts and politics in general.

belit sağ is a video-maker and visual artist who lives in Amsterdam. Her moving-image background is rooted in her work within video-activist groups (VideA, karahaber, and in Ankara and İstanbul.

She was a resident artist at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York, and Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam.

Her practice focuses on the role of visual representations of violence in the experience and perception of political conficts in Turkey, Germany, Netherlands.

Amy Werbel is professor of history of art at the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY) in New York. She is now researching art censorship as a Fulbright Fellow at the University  of York.

Amy joined SUNY in 2013 as a specialist in the art of the United States and is the author of numerous works on the subject of American visual culture and sexuality.

Her book Lust On Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock (Columbia University Press, 2018) won the 2019 Peter C. Rollins Book Prize of the Northeast Popular and American Culture Association.

Michael White is head of the University of York’s history of art department, working chiefly on the inter-war avant-gardes. He wrote his doctoral thesis on Theo van Doesburg and has a special interest in De Stijl and modernism in the Netherlands.

He was the external curator of the Tate Liverpool exhibition Mondrian And His Studios in 2014. His books include Generation Dada: The Berlin Avant-Garde and the First World War (Yale University Press, 2013).

Brought to you remotely by the University of York, York Festival of Ideas is full of ideas until June 14, gathered under the new umbrella of Virtual Horizons. For full details, visit