(WARNING: Content for persons over 15 years old and may offend :-))
Naked… Nude… Pornography…
What’s the difference? Not a lot, and a matter of perception.
As I found out during a tour of the ‘Nude: from the Tate Collection’ exhibition, “naked” is merely without clothes and common and “nude” is an idealised artistic expression of nakedness. And “pornography” brings up the image of unacceptable nakedness and base.
Lord Kenneth Clark, one of the most respected art historians of the 20th century had this to say (in his classic book, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form),
“To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word ‘nude,’ on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled, defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body.”
So naked is vulnerable, nude is power?
What delineates one from the other? Is it a nude because it is deemed ‘art’ or is it ‘art’ because it has been idealised?
Does the classification as ‘naked’ or ‘nude’ make the subject or its message more or less powerful?
Here are some pieces of art (as they have been pronounced to be so and exhibited as such 🙂 ) from the exhibition.
Nude, the art form as goddess (yes, usually female) and reverent beauty.
Nude as a form of ‘style’. Naturalist, and gone is the marble-like skin. Real and vulnerable.
Nude as body politics, and confronting.
Nude denoting distance or intimacy, pain or love. The power of the images speaks for itself.
Nude as eroticism and love.
What do these images say to you? Are you enticed, enliven, inspired, repulsed, embarassed,…? The intensity of your reactions to them is indicative of the power of their message, does it not?
And pornography? Well, pornography shall be invisible. It subsists in the underbelly of sexual desires, does it not?
Depictions of naked bodies and sexual acts have been around for centuries. But the concept of pornography didn’t really exist until the Victorian era when explicit sexual acts depicted in paintings were condemned for their licentiousness. Looking at sexual imagery became outlawed. Therefore, pornography is not a creation, rather a definition.
Society since then has prescribed acceptable ways for the display of our naked bodies and how to perform sex acts. As I see it, this does not make other ways “wrong” or “bad”, merely uncommon. And the stronger the “rejection” of this recent construct called ‘pornography’, the greater the attraction for its illicit ‘nature’. Fancy that?!
My opposition to sexually explicit images is their treatment of the subjects. Is it respectful? Is it exploitation – physical, mental, emotional or financial? Is it harmful as subjectively experienced (not “objectively defined”)?
So the dilemma is this: the human body, male or female, is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. A line is crossed when it symbolizes, or is in actuality, an ab-use of our bodies. What is that line? For you? Are we guided by societal norms or political agendas when we look at naked human forms – nude, pornography or just naked?
Art is conversation, so keep talking 😉
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