Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where is Ai Wei-Wei?


In support of Ai Wei-Wei, his fans have rallied in a digital protest... in the NUDE.  Ai Wei's photograph, One Tiger, Eight Breasts has been deemed "pornography" by Chinese authorities.  When confronted by the police, Ai Wei said "Nudity is not pornography." 

As acknowledged by Justice Stewart in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184 (1964) (concurring opinion), defining pornography is difficult. Mere nudity would be harsh test for pornography since most people, other than some baptists, are born nude.  Some courts have proposed that nudity becomes pornography when it is created with an "intent to arouse."  See U.S. v. One Book Called Ulysses, 72 F.2d 705, 706 (2d Cir. 1934).  That may help a bit, but "intent" and "arousal" are also difficult concepts to define.

Manet Olympia (1863)
Titan Venus of Urbino (1583)
Going the other direction on the scale, consider the difference between being "nude" and "naked." This has been fertile dissertation material in the field of art history.  A classic contrast of the nude and the naked is found in the comparison of Titian's Venus of Urbino and Manet's Olympia.  In the juxtaposition of these two images, viewers have found two different modes of representing an unclothed female.  Foucault suggests that the difference arises from the nature of the gaze from and between the subject of the painting and the viewer.

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