I just got suspended from Facebook for a week for posting the photo below. The interesting thing is that when I posted it, I didn’t even realize that I might get in trouble. I became so used to seeing nudity, that I forgot! This might seem like a good thing, but the people (and Facebook) are still out there. So I received an unfriendly reminder that there is this other point of view that sees nudity as lewd regardless of the context. Unfortunately this point of view is pervasive. It’s Facebook (and others).
For a while (about a year ago or so) I was fixated on “nipple shadow”. I had been suspended for the most minor evidence of a female nipple. I began going through my photos and removing the shadow on Photoshop (which is pretty easy) before posting on Facebook. This always made me feel uncomfortable because I felt like I was participating in something ugly. Somehow women without nipples was okay. It wasn’t just that I was hiding the nipples, but I was removing them, as if they didn’t exist. Ironically, nobody ever commented on any of these photos, saying that it was creepy. (Since then I have decided that the mosaic feature on Photoshop is best because it keeps the censors at bay without creating this creepy illusion).
I also don’t like the idea of discussing Facebook or any oppressive force in my art or my postings because I feel what I’m saying is far more important than the idea of whether or not it should be allowed. It’s bad enough that these barriers exist. I don’t want to use the free speech that I do have to discuss them (yes, I am aware that I am doing this right now).
Free speech is a great thing, a vital thing, but it can only be as valuable as the speech that is spoken itself. I believe that this photo of a group of painted naked people posing together of all body types makes a powerful statement about human acceptance. But more importantly it is a living example of it. I believe it’s an example of hope, freedom and the power of the human spirit. And I don’t like using the mosaic function on Photoshop to hide body parts because it brings in another idea, the idea of shame, where it doesn’t belong. I reminds us that there is somebody looking over our shoulders and judging on a moral pretext, when what we are doing is very pure and positive.
In today’s world, the content of our communication is often censored on Facebook (and others). I have spent a lot of time battling for the ability to share actual scenes like this with the public. I feel that fighting for freedom of expression is a worthy cause. But at the moment, I feel like we have won so much, that I choose to focus on what we have achieved and not on what we haven’t. The city of New York and Amsterdam (with possibly more cities on the way) is allowing this large scale artistic nudity to exist. For this I am grateful and I will spend as much energy as possible spreading the positive. Stay tuned for some pixelated photos.