For my first blog of 2011, I was trying to think of good topic to start the year off. I came across an interesting article by a Toronto photographer, Andrew Mann, that discusses the age old debate of trying to define the difference between art and pornography. Although I thoroughly enjoying reading Andrew's comments, this so called "hot topic" in the art community is becoming old and tired in my opinion. My initial reaction to the article was for me to weigh in with my own two cents of worthless opinion, but after pausing for a moment I couldn't help thinking that it is really another example, of a number of different issues, that we seem to care about, when I think the real question we should be asking is why? Why do we care? What difference is it really going to make if once and for all we can define the difference between erotic art and porn? The obvious futile nature of the debate really makes me wonder why we do spend so much time and energy on the topic. The subjectivity of art will ALWAYS prevent this question from being answered definitively. Standards about what is acceptable vary from country to country, state to state, city to city and even within parts of a specific community, not to mention, that these changes in standards also occur over time. What I consider art, you may consider porn. What was considered porn in the 1920's would be tame by todays standards.
It all brings me back to my initial question... why do we care? Why, as a community, do we spend so much time worrying about what everyone else is doing or thinking? Why do we spend all this time and energy trying to impose our own personal, political or religious views on our neighbours and then vilifying and policing those that do not share our opinions? We like to pat ourselves on the back and pretend like we live in a society that embraces change and diversity. But the reality is, we don't seem to have a lot of tolerance for people who are different from ourselves in some way. A quick glance at one of the various online art portfolio sites like DeviantArt.com for instance, is an interesting place to see the anonymity of the internet at work, allowing people from around the world to pass judgment and condemn those who do not share their own particular view. I see images on sites like this all the time that "I" would consider questionable, and certainly do not see them as "art." But I also realize that I have made a conscious choice to visit that site and view those web pages, which ultimately means I have to accept responsibility for being there whether I like what I see or not. On a few rare occasions I have had people tell me that what I do isn't art. Fair enough. I respect your right to have an opinion, but what amazes me about this type of interaction is that the person leaving me these messages is under the misconception that I care about what they think. Which inevitably leads me back to asking why do they care?
I've tried to take an "if I don't like it.. don't look at it" approach to viewing other peoples work. As opposed to looking at it, getting angry and then telling them that they are wrong for creating such images and are horrible human beings for doing so, which seems to be the sentiment of many of the moral authority types that feel the need to leave their opinions. It's like a vegetarian going to a restaurant that they know serves meat, and then getting angry when the person next to them orders a steak. Mmmm... steak.
My point is, I think we all spend a little too much time worrying what other people are doing or thinking. Christians spend too much time worrying about who isn't a Christian. Conservatives spend too much time worrying about who isn't right wing. Homophobes spend too much time worrying about who is gay. Art Nude Photographers spend too much time worrying about Glamour Nude Photographers who think their work is considered fine art. Who cares? The answer is, we do. So the real question is, why?
I leave it to you to decide.