News from NAG – Oct 2017
Change of Address:
NAG has a new postal address: The Risings, Kington Lane, Kington, Worcestershire, WD7 4DH. Please send any letter or donations by cheque to this address from today.
If you have written or sent us a cheque recently then please don’t worry, we have arranged for post to be forwarded from our old address. It is our custom to acknowledge all correspondence so if you haven’t had a response by 20 days from posting then by-all-means contact us again.
Alternatively, you can email us via the website, or message us via Facebook.
Tim Cooper, in an article for The Standard (21/07/2017) asked: ‘In 2017, why is nudity still taboo?’ The question came about because a photographer friend of Cooper’s had trouble with social media when she posted invitations to her exhibition ‘Gender Trouble’. It got Cooper think, why is the naked human body taboo in some situations but not in others. In general for social media nudity of any kind is forbidden, unless of course it falls within a limited number of categories. Yet, acknowledges Cooper, go on the internet, with a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can find themselves on a sexually explicit website.
It is his last paragraph, quoted here in full, that I find interesting: ‘I understand of course that some people are offended by nudity but surely that’s their problem? Or their religion, which is their personal choice, rather than one to impose on the rest of us. We should not be afraid of the naked human form, whether it’s male or female. I’m not banging the drum for naturism here: I’m just as shy and repressed as anyone else, and you wouldn’t catch me dead at a nudist resort. But I’m sensible enough to realise that that’s got entirely to do with my own hang-ups and I enjoy looking at art. Including nudes of both genders. Nipples and all.’
In order to get around this absurdity some Social Media accountholders have taken to mutilating their pictures to make them compliant with rules that should not really exist. I include two examples taken from Bare Oaks FB page.
Art and Naturism
One of the areas that social media doesn’t seem to mind is in classical art, but can you imagine what something like Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Resting would look like if we doctored it for FB’s Puritan Police? Not sure which one of the two examples above you’d want to see; the little hearts over the model’s nipples and genitals, or the version made up with large blobs of water colour.
In a competent article looking at British artist, Jordon Blum of Young Naturists America has given us a few examples of his other work that includes the nude, both male and female without comment, including Benefits Supervisor Resting, which was sold for £36 million in 2015. So we value the nude when its on canvas or photographic paper, or carved from a block of stone, but not in the flesh. How strange?
Just for the record; I have visited an exhibition of Freud’s work and found his early work rather spooky, especially the eyes. But that should not lead us to dismiss his later work, with his mastery of skin tone showing regardless of whether we think ourselves as pink, black or brown, we are in fact a mixture of many colours. The works I enjoyed most though, were his unfinished portraits; maybe that’s just me and I’m peculiar like that.
And on the Stage…
The theatre is another art form that has an issue with nudity. In On Stage Blog, Anthony J. Piccione asked, should it? He wrote in 2015: ‘The modern-day theatre community – in terms of both the majority of theatergoers and the artists who produce the shows – has always been considered to be more edgy and progressive than much of the mainstream in American society. Yet still, there do seem to be quite a few people that are reluctant to see or be involved in a show where an actor is seen without clothes on for the entire audience to see.’
Since that was written, New York has staged nude versions two Shakespearian plays. First came the ladies, with The Tempest, created by members of The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society in the summer 2016, with it being described at the time as ‘the most brave and beautiful thing you will see today.’ It was followed last summer by the men with a production of Hamlet. Our actors are admired world wide, the London Stage in particular, but would they dare to put on something similar? Perhaps the ghost of Mary Whitehouse still hangs over theatre land, as I don’t think so?
These stories are not about naturism, not directly anyway. What they are saying is that we, as a species, are quite happy to ogle depictions of the naked (more often female) body when it is daubed on canvas, printed on photographic paper or carved in stone, just as long as we can call it art. Now, I personally don’t go along with Tracey Emin, when she said that it was for the artist to decide if their work is art or not. They can certainly offer it as art, but it is for the person viewing it if it is or not. More often than not, those who find the naked body offensive will steer away from the Facebook pages or websites or events that feature it, as for the rest of us, surely we can decide on a case-by-case basis. If naturism can be depicted correctly by the Arts then we have a chance to get our message across and so more of the general public will understand us and not jump to conclusions that do not exist.