The human body has always been a central subject of art. Its representations have evolved with technologies of expression: from cave drawings, to sculpture and painting, to photography and video.
Yet leading 21st century social media platform, Instagram, the most popular platform for artists who share their work online, and its parent company, Facebook, both ban photographic representations of the nude body, while making an exception for artistic nudity in sculpture and painting.
The Art Action: On June 2, 2019, the National Coalition Against Censorship and artist-photographerÂ Spencer Tunick will create a nude installation in New York City to challenge the censorship of artistic nudity on Facebook and Instagram.
What’s at Stake?
Social media has dramatically increased artistsâ€™ ability to reachâ€“and buildâ€“their audiences. Unless their medium is photography and their subject is the body.
The nudity ban prevents many artists from sharing their work online. It particularly harms artists whose work focuses on their own bodies, including queer and gender-nonconforming artists, and the bodies of those in their communities. Museums and galleries are constrained when even promoting exhibitions featuring nudes.
To raise awareness about the range of art censored by Facebook and Instagram, artist-photographer Spencer Tunick will create a public art action this June. Hundreds of nude bodies will take a stance in the streets of New York City against social media censorship of art.
We call on Facebook and Instagram to create an exception to their nudity restrictions to allow for art in the medium of photography.
Platforms like Instagram allow up-and-coming artists, and all artists without access to traditional methods of distribution, to reach global audiences on a scale unimaginable to earlier generations. Museums and art institutions can open their collections, and promote shows, to ever-widening audiences. Particularly for photographers, Instagram has opened new worlds of exploration and expression.
Facebook and Instagram users are diverse. Some may admire the human body, while others see it as a sign of humanityâ€™s fall from grace. However, individual users can always choose to block content that they dislike. It should not be Facebookâ€™s role to impose the beliefs of some of its users on the entire global community and do so in a way that stifles artistic expression.
Banishing all photographic images of the nude human body from social media, even when some of these images are in the collections of the worldsâ€™ top museums, imposes an anachronistic regime of shame and censorship.
We ask Facebook and Instagram to remove that mantle of shame and update its Community Guidelines/Standards so to allow for artistic creativity to thrive.
About the Artist
Spencer TunickÂ has staged more than 75 large-scale installations of hundreds or thousands of nude participants in urban and natural settings around the world. Yet, in order to share his work on Instagram, he is forced to meticulouslyâ€“and overwhelminglyâ€“censor himself by individually blurring each and every nipple. Even when he does, his works are often removed and his ability to use the platform to reach his audience is threatened.
NCAC’s Arts Advocacy Program, launched in 2000, is the only national project dedicated to working directly with individual artists and curators involved in censorship disputes. It protects artistsâ€™ rights to participate in the democratic dialogue by defending public access to their work, and supporting their ability to freely express views that might be unpopular or controversial. We resolve controversies through education and advocacy, avoiding the need for legal action. Controversial issues are not confined to one medium of expression or one social sphere. We work with diverse constituencies to mobilize a wide base of support, produce policy documents and materials for educational programs, and analyze censorship trends. We also train artists to become their own advocates and develop strategies to counter censorship in all its ever-changing forms.
If you’d like to discuss how we can work together to create a better environment for artists on social media, please contact us at email@example.com.
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