Sunday, 25 September 2011

Hidden parts

We all have hidden parts in ourselves; both emotional and physical. These hidden parts are our true selves, the parts that just are, without reason or question. What is it about these hidden parts that we are so afraid of expressing?
In society and every day life images are forced upon us, and whether we like it or not, we take in these images both consciously and subconsciously. In magazines and newspapers, advertisements on TV, in films, posters/billboards, etc..we find images of women with their 'bits' hanging out, displaying 'sex' and so-called female confidence. If absorbed, these images have an effect in pressurizing women and young girls into thinking that they need to look a certain way in order to gain confidence and adoration - into being 'liked' and 'accepted.' Wherever we go, we can't escape from it.

Last week I submitted an artwork to a gallery space, the theme being 20x20 - anything could be submitted on a board as long as it was 20x20 inches. I handed my work in and was looking forward to going to the opening which was a couple of days later.

On the board I had stuck on two photographs, one of my face decorated with a delicate leaf and the other photograph I displayed my 'bits', - my hidden parts - my truest self laden bare, also decorated with a leaf. I then placed a veil over the board, a symbol of  protection; my nest; my web. The photos were taken over a year ago, and I have never shown them before. I wanted to keep them hidden and wait until an opportunity came along to show them, which I felt was at that moment. I was ready to express myself in such a way.
A couple of days after I'd handed in the board, I received a phone call from the gallery. They said that it would be a problem to show the work because it would probably cause offence to the public if this work was to be shown. I was quite surprised, my intention with the work was not to offend at all, and the images, in my opinion, are not in any way offensive.

It disheartened me a little, to have my work rejected like that - maybe I was naive? I could understand where the man was coming from, he was worried about upsetting the public and what effect that would probably have on the gallery. ''It's a public space and we have people coming in here from all ages, backgrounds and religions, and we really wouldn't want to upset anyone.'' Fair enough, I thought, but would people have really been upset by this? Really? If anything I think it would have broadened their minds and led to stimulation and discussion..isn't this what art is meant to do? To broaden and expand our thinking? To keeping moving and changing. To open up our state of mind; to tickle our consciousness; to wake us up; to expand? 

Every day images of women with their tits n bits out in newspapers and magazines are forced upon us, displayed and viewed by men and women of different ages, backgrounds and religions. So why is it that the image of something so natural; something every woman has and where we all come from, is so offensive? Is it really? Maybe an image that expresses truth and is displayed for what it really is, rather than fake portrayals of what beauty or sex or femininity is, scares us, because we're not used to seeing things that are true any more. If people are so offended by this image, how come these images of young women and girls half naked, are so accepted in our society? And especially accepted for girls as young as nine to look up to and to dress and act like these so called 'role models?'

But yet and image of nature and truth would upset them, would it?


  1. I think you make some interesting points. I recently collaborated on a project on Onanism with a photographer (I was the model). The project was a series of photographs depicting this taboo subject set in everyday surroundings. We knew it would be provocative trying to bring this project into the public arena. Sadly we were unable to find any gallery willing to exhibit the images and allow a public performance. It seems nudity in general is still a difficult subject but that especially applies when it comes to displaying the male bits in an aroused state and performing an everyday act! The project was aimed at provoking a strong reaction but by doing so hopefully encourage a debate on how public attitudes have been shaped by media into what is acceptable and why? Unfortunately the photographer is no longer around as she has returned to her home in Cyprus and the work will forever remain private! Finally I do like your work above and personally have no problems with it. Lets hope society may shift in the future to allow it to be displayed properly!

  2. thanks for your comment andy, it's good to have some feedback and hear others thoughts about it.
    it's sad that there aren't many (or any?!) galleries out there willing to exhibit anything like this (this being art that depicts actual life..REAL LIFE) i've thought about maybe leaving the work in public spaces around other advertisements and posters that we're bombarded with everyday whether we want to see them or not, and to document it that way. could maybe think about that for your idea too? and maybe this could be the way forward in shifting the views of society?!

  3. It's an idea but the performance element of the work is an important factor as well. I may look into hiring a private space and inviting an audience but don't really know how to go about setting this up! It's a shame there isn't more tolerance but I suppose after years of being told what is acceptable firstly through religion and more recently through modern media then it shouldn't be a surprise that such negative attitudes to the naked form are so deeply embedded in the subconscious. It's difficult to change attitudes without the millions of pounds the advertising agencies spend but then that's why Rihanna or Lady GaGa videos become more accepted as mainstream and the images of a vagina or erect penis are considered too shocking even though they are Real Life!

  4. Very much agree with you. It's a shame it wasn't included in the exhibition. As you say, I guess you can understand the guy not wanting to include it as it may have caused offense - his decision to include it would almost be an action in itself, saying 'this is okay'. It's a shame, as well, that the public *may* take offense, as there is no reason to. Glamorised, idealised sexuality in the mainstream media seems more offensive than genitalia, and more of a possible bad influence on young 'uns. I say go for it, leave your work in public spaces, something to combat the idealistic advertising that has a monopoly on our visual sense data. It'll do good for people to see it and hopefully could reaffirm their belief in what's normal, make them question what they're normally shown as good and decent. Make others question their expectations of what people should look like, too. Good work.

  5. I can't see why the work you were proposing should be considered unsuitable, whilst I do think an erect penis is arguably something different.

    I am sad when religion is associated with not celebrating what is what I consider a great gift of God, namely our sexuality. In fact Christianity should be at the front, although we have what you might consider a disadvantage is that we want to celebrate it in a way you might consider too restricted!

    You started off by saying about hidden parts and my argument regarding erect penises and more aroused female parts is that maybe they are made more special by being hidden apart from to those who are going to do the loving of them. The unaroused like you showed (and I've always had an idea of placing the male and female parts (unaroused!) next to each other by way of meditation on who we are) in your work is about the meditation on who you are and I found it quite powerful even in the smaller scale.

    Just to add I do see a place for the erotic in art - it is part of life to celebrate - but not in the stark way of the erect! Less the stark and more connected to the emotion love behind it all. If you make it just about the parts it almost says that's all it is whilst the erotic is about all the parts - brain, coffee, flowers, and bed

  6. Thanks for your comment 'guywuy' I'm definately going to go with leaving my work in public spaces..the more people see it the better. I'm not into the whole buying and selling in art either and maybe this would motivate/inspire people to be a little more braver with their work and not wanting to make money from it but to have their voices heard. Really appreciate the feedback..thankyou :)

    I agree with what you say about 'the erect' too 'artforgod' i think that kind of work is maybe more pornographic than erotic and that could be seen as quite offensive to others as it's more sexual and less about life and more about sex.
    Thanks so much for you're comments too, muchly appreciated and thankyou for reading.


  7. And yet sex is part of life!

    I think I can see the distinction you’re trying to make on public vs. private with sex being a more private activity and therefore not suitable for public display? However, nudity is also generally not publicly accepted and great efforts have been made from both religious and media groups to link nudity with sex. In the case of religion the emphasis was on shame and guilt (easy to control and influence an individual when subjected to such feelings), with media, well ‘sex’ sells! It is these perceptions which resulted in your piece of work originally being rejected from the exhibition!

    Just to clarify the purpose of the work I was involved in was to specifically challenge attitudes on the subject of censorship which is often self-imposed by cultural conditioning at a subconscious level. The hypothesis and what the exhibition was aimed at is that a lot of public perceptions have been formed firstly by religious groups and more latterly by media organisations. The conditioning has been very subtle and hardly perceptible but nevertheless very powerful. So powerful in fact that cultural attitudes are passed from generation to generation without people being aware.

    The argument is that these attitudes have been put forward by very powerful people that want to impose control for political or commercial reasons. Until recently homosexuality was illegal in the UK and yet once seriously challenged not only were such laws repealed but society moved to a much greater acceptance. If you want further evidence of how the views of the powerful few have shaped law take a look at the Catholic Church’s attitudes on Onanism or abortion and how it shaped past government policies. Law is much easier to pass if few objections are raised and subtle manipulation of public attitudes is an effective tool towards achieving compliance!

    I think one of the purposes of art is to challenge people and sometimes you need a shock factor. I agree that an erect penis is further down the line towards ‘sex’ and its display for sexual gratification can be considered pornographic and not erotic. I don’t want anyone to jump to the conclusion that the work I was involved in was intended to be pornographic without understanding the underlying merits of the piece itself – namely to challenge an individual’s perception and have them question the process by which they formed their perception.

    Furthermore, physically I am nothing like the typical male porn star being both overweight and middle aged and as the subject of obesity is also a topic being subtly manipulated by the government and media at the moment this provided another level of complexity for the exhibition. It was also intended to challenge people on what they may have been conditioned to expect when seeing an erect male in public i.e. those very same pornographic images you describe! Surprise and shock and very good ways to provoke thought and further debate! Great to be having a debate though even if it is only via a blog!