By Kasharn Rao
Is nudity an art form, or is it just attention seeking? Most love scrolling through their feed and coming across an article featuring rude bits. Whether it’s due to an appreciation of expressionism, or a cheeky gander, not many between the ages of 14 and 40 have much to complain about. But does it really have a place among the likes of Picasso and Banksy, or is it just sex culture masquerading as ‘a bold form, don’t question me or you’re an old fart’.
Nudity has been present in art since the age in which we dragged ourselves through our own shit screaming at each other because we had just discovered a way to make dead mammoth not taste like dead mammoth. Every culture presents nudity in its art at some point in time. Whether it’s the boobies on ancient pottery, dongs in old paintings, or the overwhelming presence of vaginas in psychedelic art, the bare is there.
As culture has evolved, we have come to grow these strange things called ‘standards.’ Not a lot of them make sense, but we’ve learned to live by them for a long time. Towards the 1800s, women’s fashion became so extremely concealing, that the sight of a tit was rarer than a good student meal. This idea around nudity being taboo multiplied in the 1900s, especially aimed towards women. You’ve heard it all before, sexism, racism, grey suits, milkshakes, and a very strict policy on censorship. Many forms of media that contained nudity were banned in western society, which obviously lead to the formation of an underground nudity market. Widely revered and infamous nudity medias such as the Tijuana Bibles are responsible for why nudity suddenly seems so outrageous when it’s casually presented on your average Buzzfeed article.
As we move into the age of self-empowerment, speaking your goddamn mind, and emojis, nudity has become an abundant feature in art. There are barely any laws against it in western culture, especially if you slap a label on it that says, ‘it’s art bro, oppress me if you dare’.
In places like China however, they haven’t exactly followed grey suit. The Golden Shield operation, consisting of numerous Titanic censorship programs, prevents citizens of China from accessing things like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and yes, anything related to nudity. It seems we met a fork in the crossroad, we went one way and they went the other, buttoning up their shirt as they did so.
So in our current culture, where nudity is widely accepted as an art form, how do we discern where the limit is? How sultry does it have to be before it becomes pornographic, something that is generally looked down on? It’s a fine line, one that grows finer every time Facebook receives a report from an angry mum. There are certain conventions to look for that expressly state when something is pornographic, but apparently tweaking the lighting a little can count as artistic venture. Anything really can be art if you describe it as such. Someone left their glasses on the floor of an art gallery some time ago, people thought that was art. Someone sold blank canvases, attached with a description of its symbolic meaning, people bought it. Someone decided to yell ‘DJ Khaled’ at the start of someone else’s song, people genuinely consider him an artist. However, while anything can be art, not all nudity is pornographic. Perhaps to your grandmother it might be, but nobody cares about her outdated opinion. You have to really scrutinize it because unless it has a PornHub logo it can be quite hard to discern.
How does one snap a dick pic and label it as art? Through some bullshit poetry. If there’s one thing high schools are good for, it’s teaching you to write copious amounts of poetic bullshit about something you know absolutely nothing about. Take this excuse for instance:
“My work explores the relationship between gender politics and counter-terrorism.
With influences as diverse as Kafka and Joni Mitchell, new insights are crafted from both orderly and random meanings.
Ever since I was a postgraduate I have been fascinated by the endless oscillation of the zeitgeist. What starts out as vision soon becomes corroded into a dialectic of defeat, leaving only a sense of nihilism and the chance of a new beginning.
As spatial replicas become transformed through diligent and academic practice, the viewer is left with a tribute to the edges of our condition.”
Even if this quote is paired with an image of a butt, how do you argue with it? It has become too easy to spread sex culture under the guise of artistic venture. For all we know, the Massey paper ‘Drawing the Human Body’ is just after a sneak peek, while feeding us lines about ‘form’ and ‘empowerment.’ Same goes for nude photographers. You could literally capture anything else in the world, just fess up, we all know you just like the ability to see skin without looking like a creep (spoiler alert, it comes off as a bit scungy anyway, so there’s not really any point).
Sex culture has exploded in the last few decades, we know sex sells. Yet we are afraid to embrace sex as a normal part of our mainstream culture, so we have to find some way to advertise an ass without someone shouting “preposterous!” after adjusting their monocle.
Is it really such a bad thing though? Nudity does have its place in art, seeing as it was stuffed into a societal trash bin and shoved under the desk for nearly a century. We’re supposed to be moving on from sexism and milkshakes, and while I concur that in many parts of the world that’s not something we’ve achieved, there’s no harm in embracing the freedom that has been granted us. No longer are art galleries full of splotches of paint accompanied by bullshit poetry, now there’s every chance you could see weiners or titties accompanied by bullshit poetry, and that’s an exciting thing. While the explanation for nude presence may seem pretentious, there is some truth to it. Many artworks featuring nudity can be breathtaking, incredible images that make you feel all sorts of funny. There’s a lot we can do with this medium, and in many cases, nudity can be a show of empowerment, of raw self expression, and of outrageous defiance.
It’s food for thought, and I’ll leave you with the example of performance artist Milo Moiré. Give her a Google search and decide whether her work is art for art’s sake, or whether she’s just looking for followers.
A good indication of where you stand on the matter is whether you choose to search in incognito browser or not.