Artists have always battled the vagaries of bureaucracy and the biases of self appointed guardians of social decency when it comes to displaying art that shows the human anatomy. Now it seems Facebook has appointed itself the overarching determinate of what its viewers should be allowed to view. Thank goodness there are alternative channels to Facebook.
Few would argue that there shouldn’t be limitations imposed upon the display of indecency and pornography and boundaries in place to protect people, in particular children from exploitation. Equally few would propose that artists in general seek to promote pornography or exploit either women or children.
The irony of bans such as those imposed by Facebook to the image of a person heavily tattooed backside (pictured) is that the ban becomes newsworthy and an increasing number of people want to access the very image that has been banned – so that they can judge for themselves what all the fuss is about. In effect, banning an image because it displays aspects of nudity often defeats the very purpose of the ban in the first instance.
In this instance a Facebook user posted a video along with images of his lower body tattoo. The video showed both a front and back view, but did not show the person’s genitals. Facebook removed the video but allowed the images to remain online. What’s the point? The average viewer would not have logged in to see a ‘bum’. They would have logged into see the tattoos. As it is, now more people have a greater interest in the nudity than they do in the art form. Then there is the dichotomy of Facebook censuring a video of a nude person; while at the same time being part of a social media environment which encourages people to share the most intimate and personal details of their lives online. Facebook could argue that its viewers have the option of not posting personal information and we would argue that those that prefer to not look at a naked tattooed bottom will chose to not do so.
Any assumption that one person, or a faceless group of people, can dictate social tastes is flawed. From a business perspective such an approach provides competitors with an opportunity to attract viewers.
Then there is the wider question of when does art become offensive? There are countless examples of sculptures and statues in places of public viewing throughout the world, complete with fully detailed sexual parts – but we know that these are not real people – therefore we can disassociate ourselves from them.
The ‘tattooed bum’ images were from a consenting adult. They were designed to show off an accepted art form. The nudity aspect is nothing more than any person, adult or child would see daily on countless television shows, in the movies, in a variety of magazines, on the beach, in the home, at a party, the local swimming pool or in the mirror.
Art reflect life as we know it. Art doesn’t bring us anything new. We can pretend to be shocked, but are we really? We all know, or suspect that Facebook doesn’t have a team of human beings censuring every image on its site. That role is left to a mathematical algorithm. A video featuring a pair of butt checks must have sent the algorithm into a tailspin – and made Facebook look stupid. Maybe Mark Z will send out an email delivering a virtual spanking to all the little robots. Just to bring them back into line. We suggest the Mark Z invest some time in bringing the algorithm into the 21st Century and maybe take an opportunity to learn a lesson that has been applied to many others in supposed position of power in the past.
That lesson is this. Playing God is a recipe for failure. Just as the masses will choose their own faith, they will choose what is good for them or otherwise. When someone assumes the mantle of ‘dictator of taste’ they usually discover the ultimate uprising of discontent shows them to be as mortal as the rest of us.