Is nudity art?
May 25, 2000 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Is nudity art? Or is this USF student just a flake?
posted by baylink (13 comments total)
My philosophical standpoint on many things is that defending speech and actions you're comfortable with isn't especially brave or impressive. That sort of question comes up a *lot* in the world of art; the controversial 'Piss Christ'/NEA fracas of several years ago being a good example.

It's so hard to know if someone is really creating art, or merely trying to see how much they can get away with. I don't doubt this artist's motives, but how do you tell?

And how do you deal with comments like the thing at the end about "well, this will make life harder for other artists"?
posted by baylink at 12:36 PM on May 25, 2000

I think maybe this artist has already been living in a cave. To spend $5000 on a site-specific performace piece about nudity, vulnerability, and privacy seems strange in an era when so many people have their own webcams.

What's really unfortunate is that an artist with a weak [-sounding] piece might force defenders of free speech to rally behind him in a battle that's hardly worth the effort.

If he's really committed to getting his work shown, he needs to find another venue, rather than dwelling on the censorship issue.
posted by owen at 1:25 PM on May 25, 2000

There's more on this story at the miserable USF student paper, The Oracle.
posted by ahughey at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2000

Why is being naked such a big deal in America - big enough that exhibit viewers, who all have genitalia themselves, and see and handle both their own and their lover's equipment every day, cannot see this exhibit as it was intended?

And why is it ok to exhibit a Kouros, but not okay to exhibit a willingly nude live man next to it?
posted by sperare at 1:50 PM on May 25, 2000

It's actually better to have a weak artistic piece when arguing aspects of law. Since the law should apply to all works, good or bad, you don't want to be distracted by the merits of the work.

Think of all the landmark cases about copyright and fair use that were set by 2 live crew. We have them to thank for the Supreame Court's ruling on parody. We have them to blame for the awful, awful parody that caused the case in the first place.
posted by captaincursor at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2000

That's a very good point, Cap; almost the opposite of my thought, but accurate just the same.
posted by baylink at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2000

He may be an artist or a self-promoter (or both), and the truth is pretty subjective. But if you believe in artistic freedom, it doesn't matter.

Having said that, all artists are bound by constraints: Network-TV writers can't use foul language or write scripts that exceed the hour or half-hour allotted to them, performance artists can't kill people, novelists (in general) can't expect to get a 3000 page story published.

Part of creating art is having a dialogue with your constraints: how can I tell a great story in exactly one hour? But in order to do this, you must KNOW ahead of time what the constraints are. Then you can use some of them to your advantage and circumvent others.

In light of this, I wonder if the USF artist knew about his constraints before he started his project. Does USF have a clear policy about student projects? Are there "no nudity" and "safety" policies that are made available to all students?

If USF has an apparent policy of supporting total artistic freedom yet in reality it silences certain projects, that's one thing. If there are clear constraint policies, that's something else.

I'm NOT saying that I support silencing in cases where constraints are posted. But I do think it is important to know before continuing this discussion.
posted by grumblebee at 3:56 PM on May 25, 2000

In legal terms, the question is: "can you call it art?"

In artistic terms, the question is: "is it any good?"

The two have pretty much nothing to say to each other.
posted by holgate at 3:56 PM on May 25, 2000

>In legal terms, the question is: "can you call it art?"

I'd love to hear more about this. Do you mean that there is a legal definition of art? I've heard about legal definitions of parody, but never art.
posted by grumblebee at 4:42 PM on May 25, 2000

i can't believe he wouldn't fight the ruling if nudity was such an integral part of his work.
"it's just too hard to fight this," he says, but i think that continuing to go on with it destroys his principle.
posted by sugarfish at 5:09 PM on May 25, 2000

I don't know about legal definitions of art in general, but isn't there are three-part test for obscenity? The Miller test, maybe? No artistic merit, appeals to a prurient interest, and the other part I can never remember...
posted by mrmorgan at 6:06 PM on May 25, 2000

Let's not forget that this artist was going to live in this thing for three weeks. Another (very valid) issue raised was that he was staying long after closing time.

Now for the non-artistic, more comedic route....

* How was domino's getting in that contraption to deliver his food? Will it be free if the delivery guy can't get in within 30 minutes?

* Did this "artwork" come with a toilet?
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 6:45 PM on May 25, 2000

to answer mr. morgan:

There is a three-prong test from Miller vs. California (1973), each prong must be met in order to determine whether something is obscene.

1) The "average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest"

2) The work "depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law"

3) The work, taken as a whole, lacks "serious literary artisitic, political, or scientific value"

- from Richard Dooling's book Blue Streak.

posted by andy at 9:55 PM on May 25, 2000

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