Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Soft Power


'Soft Power' is creativity turned into a cultural tool. Art and literature are often used for international diplomacy. However when art challenges accepted morals of the ruling class, or opposes control by the elite, it is often censored, banned, or suppressed.

Soft Power Installation 

Censoring books, Soft Power Installation

Each image illustrates an aspect of a character taken from books which have been banned, censored, or suppressed in the US. The experience of living in China has given Elizabeth Briel the opportunity to reflect on the suppression of works believed to threaten the status quo. In the US, by contrast to other places, those most often moved to suppress art have been the American people themselves.  Images are of Chinese medical acupuncture models. While the models capture an essence of humanity, they remain featureless.

Exhibition at Meridian Space during Beijing Design Week 2015


Invitation to censorship




Acupuncture Installation

Acupuncture model display, one used for Soft Power photographs

Selection of photographs from the Soft Power exhibition:

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair's The Jungle

The dangerous and purportedly socialist views expressed in the book and Sinclair’s Oil led to its being banned in Boston. www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapeda…

Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)

Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God

"Challenged for sexual explicitness…Brentsville, VA (1997). A parent objected to the novel's language and sexual explicitness." www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/rea…


Allen Ginsberg's Howl

Allen Ginsberg's book of "boundary-pushing poetic works were challenged because of descriptions of homosexual acts." www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapeda…

The Invisible Man (Ralph Ellison)

Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man

Ellison’s book won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction because it expertly dealt with issues of black nationalism, Marxism and identity in the twentieth century. Considered to be too expert in its ruminations for some high schools, the book was banned from high school reading lists and schools in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington state. www.bannedbooksweek.org/censorship/bannedbooksthatshapeda…

Madame Bovary (Flaubert)

Flaubert's Madame Bovary

Banned in the US in 1954 by the National Organization of Decent Literature www.thedustyshelf.com/1-1/bovary.php

Orwell's 1984

Orwell's 1984

1984 was 'Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell's novel is "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter."' Source: www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/rea…

The Handmaid's Tale (Atwood)

Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale 

Repeatedly challenged & banned. Reasons cited include: "'sexually explicit, violently graphic [content] and morally corrupt.' Some parents thought the book is 'detrimental to Christian values.'…due to description's of sexual encounters… www.marshall.edu/library/bannedbooks/books/handmaidstale.asp


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou)

Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

One of America's most banned – and celebrated – books "The majority of complaints were from parents who objected to the book’s depiction of sexually explicit scenes, including the rape and molestation suffered by the author as an eight-year-old, but it also has been challenged for being “anti-white” and encouraging homosexuality." www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=1495

Lady Chatterly's Lover (Lawrence)

Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover

Banned by US Customs www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/classics/rea…