Window display: alive and naked
I like art; I'm especially interested in classical one. You can take me to Paris, the Louver, the Musee de Orsay, Madrid, the Reina Sofia, or the Prado, and I will get lost among the works of art. If art is hidden between four walls, it is a matter of an individual who sees the exhibition. However, when we put it out in the open among people, the line between free artistic expression and unworthy behavior can quickly blur.
In April, the FotoPub exhibition in Slovenia came to life. Fourteen naked bodies instead of dolls were standing in the window. The leaf that adorned Adam's crotch was replaced by bags on artists' heads. The installation Breathe upset one of the passers-by so much that she could not simply walk past it and continue with the flow of her everyday thoughts. So instead, she called the police, who found the artists guilty of a crime against public order as they displayed their sexual organs. But can the naked body, the reflection we encounter in the mirror every day, be so disturbing that the hands and voice start to tremble?
The European Court of Human Rights advocates artistic expression that upsets, shocks, and even offends. Such an artistic expression has a high level of protection. On the other hand, we commit a crime against public order if we upset someone or act maliciously against someone. For example, having a fight, yelling, showing off genitals, and having sex in public is prohibited by law. In the installation Breathe, two worlds collided. Which side to choose is purely subjective.
Art has always been provocative. Do you remember Courbet's painting, photos of hungry children, or descriptions of sex in literature? Also, nudity has always been exciting, although it is well known to everyone. I vividly remember all the peaches, penises of different shapes and sizes, the breasts with big or small nipples that I observed on the nudist beach I was forced to visit as a child. Today I remember summer days by the sea, eating pate and staring at naked bodies.
Art displaying nudity to random passers-by is risky. We go to the nudist beach because we want to, we also visit the exhibition of nudes because we are interested. However, if someone undresses in the middle of the street, leaving only socks and gloves on, such an installation or performance can quickly elicit disgust from some individuals. The more the body is natural, the more realistically portrayed, the greater the disgust and discomfort with viewers.
Many artists today know that observing human acts is very personal and full of emotions. It is easier to watch it if the character played by a real person gets undressed in front of us. This is what happens, after all, in all theatrical performances. Debbie, the movie character, undresses in front of us and not Maryl Streep- this is easier to process. Unlike some personal performances in the theater. The older ladies who saw a show like this still say with a lump in their throat today that it was too obscene, perhaps taking the performer's nudity as an attack as well.
Although many wonder what is wrong with nudity, what bothers people about naked bodies if they have them themselves, the naked body as the central motif of a work of art or installation often triggers criticism. Why? Many people mainly think about sex, they are struggling with the thought of having it, but sex is private, intimate. When nudity is publicly displayed, it puts people in a difficult position.
If I had the opportunity to observe the already mentioned installation, I would not watch it for very long. I'm still not sure if I'd stop in front of the window at all and examine all the fourteen naked bodies in detail. It would not occur to me to call the police. Still, I allow the possibility that I would be embarrassed as an observer because you want to look at naked bodies and evaluate them. Still, you also know that you will be left to the judgments of other passers-by, who will be more than at exhibition, horrified at your staring. Much like I felt walking around Amsterdam's Red District.
Nudity catches the eye; nudity excites. Art knows that. Artists who resort to nudity to display higher ideas need to be aware that the essence is hidden from the eyes of most passers-by. Therefore, they must be prepared for some people to see in such art a violation of public order and not the artistic value of the installation.