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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Only attractive nudes allowed

There's a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that includes nude models standing and lolling about. In fact, in order to pass through one section of the exhibit to get to the next, you must pass between two buck naked people standing very close together. In other words, you really need to squeeze by them (see the picture at right).

This in itself is moderately interesting, it forces visitors to deal with their own discomfort with nudity and closeness. However, I would imagine that European visitors are less uncomfy than American ones and, generally, if you are visiting the Museum of Modern Art (versus, say, hanging out at Applebee's in Times Square) you are already a self-selected group.

Anyway, my brother-in-law, Erich, who lives in the NYC area, pointed out something I didn't even notice. Why are all the live nude models attractive and fit? Where are the hairy men and the obese women, or the hairy, obese one-legged guy? If the point of this exhibit is to appreciate the human form, then why are we only seeing carbon copies of one body type - the mid-twenties beautiful people? But, then again, what is the point?

What do you think of this exhibit? You can see more about it below. Do you think the artist fell flat by not including different body types? Does this perpetuate the myth that the only acceptable nude body is a perfect one?

Finally, would visitors be more comfortable if the models were of larger body type or were less attractive? What about you? Would you be comfy squeezing between these people?

19 comments:

Aimee said...

I guess they wanted lots of repeat visitors!
For some truly beautiful art featuring non-traditionally good looking models, please please PLEASE check out Leonard Nimoy's series. Alas, I can't remember the name of the series, but they are gorgeous photos of frolicking fat ladies. Really good, I mean it.

YogaforCynics said...

Interesting...I read about this exhibit a day or two ago, without pictures, and wondered if the nude models had typical model bodies or more typical...um...typical bodies. Looking at this, I guess another question would be why (or if) they're all female...

Crunchy Chicken said...

I think there's at least two guys and the people standing in the doorway rotate. So, you might get two women, two men or one each.

Aimee said...

Okay here's the URL. It's called the "Full Body Project."


http://www.leonardnimoyphotography.com/7body.htm

camelama said...

I'm wondering, too, if the models felt comfortable looking at each other. Like those two in the doorway - did they look at each other's bodies? faces? eye contact? Or did THEY get uncomfortable with such close quarters too?

I'd have felt more comfortable with a selection of body sizes.

Best Of Mother Earth said...

many artists want to have their medium be "experiential" something unique to each who view it. I love the questions you asked regarding the variety of nudity revealed. Once you've walked past the naked ladies or men, what do you do with that, if you liked it do you go back for more? Is nudity visual? Touchable? Interesting exhibit

Jenni said...

I wish it was more like the Dove ads, I liked those, but that's just my (slightly pudgy) perception. ;)I like to see ALL body types. But I might kill someone to have my bod at 25 (or 15) back, lol

Anonymous said...

Do you think it's because a person is more apt to be a model if s/he feels one's own body is attractive?

Robj98168 said...

You know, I would probably disrobe and join them!

cpcable said...

Oh! Here's where I get to let my arts background shine! :) The interesting question, for me, is how this piece has evolved from its origins. What is currently being shown at the MoMA is a re-enactment of the 1977 piece "Imponderabilia" by Marina Abramovic and her then-companion Ulay, but with some striking differences.

Then: The cops were called when this piece was first performed because it was so "inappropriate"
Now: It's entered into the canon of "important" art works that is preserved and re-enacted at our country's most prestigious art venues.

Then: A male and female body were included and they were those of the artists (and were not particularly "model-like")
Now: There are multiple male and female bodies that rotate through. They are not the artists, meaning that they are anonymous bodies.

Then: The "point" seemed to be that each audience member had to choose one body to face as they passed through the doorway to enter the museum...which would they choose?
Now: That meaning seems to be lacking.

To me, this re-enactment talks more about the commodification and mainstreaming of art than it does about nudity or the body.

Condo Blues said...

My first thought was I hope the models are paid well because that's one boring gig. Cold too.

I love MOMA but am jaded because it looks like another artist creating art in order to shock you. New Yorkers may not freak about live nude models but bring that show to Cincinnati where they are still upset about the Mapplethorpe exhibit from the 1990's and there will be some serious freaking going on!

As for the perfect body type models. It could be a bunch of factors - artists choice for a boatload of ascetic reasons or statements, or what body type was desperate enough for cash that standing in a hallway naked for 8 hours a day for weeks on end. Either way it's an interesting question to ponder.

Brad K. said...

Why the young, attractive people for models?

Often artists use archetypes and ideal images to showcase the concept they wish to express.

The ancient greeks posited the "forms" of virtues, including a form of beauty. Their philosophy held that one is as beautiful to the degree one resembles that composite, culturally defined ideal of physical beauty.

Where this exhibit expressed nudity it was likely important that the models all be of a reasonably similar build and appearance; the more interchangeable, the better. This keeps the focus of the exhibit on nudity in art. There was a reference to one woman that had participated in performance art, of each of the items in the exhibit; perhaps the models were chosen to represent her at that stage in her life.

But selecting a single body type - young, attractive, unadorned, simply groomed - the concept of nudity is made more strongly. If the models had ranged in body types, races, ages, they would instead have been portraying the range of the human condition, and body acceptance - a different topic from the impact of nudity on art and on the art viewer/visitor.

Note that all models were abstracted from there environment. They are still, or nearly still, their actions, background, setting, culture, craft, exposure to dirt or injury or even tanning are all subdued or absent. They are meant to portray nudity, not people that happen to be nekkid.

That, or the only models available to stand around a museum naked were all young, attractive, and similar in genetic stock to the woman that formed the theme of the pieces.

At least, that is the way it seems to me.

For a broader range of people, I kind of like the photography of Imogen Cunningham (including the "Imogen and Twinka" photo by Judy Dater, cover photo on Dater's book on Cunningham's work).

msbetterhomes said...

I recently modelled for Spencer Tunick's photo shoot at the Sydney Opera House, as did a few of my friends. There were 5,200 naked people standing around together for several hours. Everyone was 'ordinary', and of course, that in itself was beautiful. The general consensus was "we're all the same, and we're all so different".

everydayfrugaleverydaygreen said...

Somehow this show seems contrived, not to mention deritive, as cpcable points out. While the human body can be beautiful in all its forms, the use of the human form in this experiential show is a big yawn.

Snappy Di said...

I would have no problem squeezing between the two naked people but I find the entire exhibit to be too strange and have no idea why anyone would want to attend it. Just dumb no matter what types of bodies are represented.

Di
The Blue Ridge Gal

Luisa said...

I don't know what to make of the exhibit. I guess hey as long they are comfortable doing it.
Also thanks for mentioning the honey cleanser I actually gave it a try felt good.

Rosa said...

what cpcapable said - it's not as interesting to use the same kind of models we already see near-naked in every form of media, and to make them "objects" you experience in just one way - they're not named (I bet - I haven't seen their names in articles) and don't have any agency in the exhibit.

And it's not like fashion modeling - art models come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so the models were chosen by the exhibitors to look a certain way.

(p.s. Crunchy it's kind of rude to use attractive without any qualifiers and oppose it to hairy and obese - some of us find hairy obese people attractive, or ARE hairy and obese. You know that from your waxing/shaving comment threads.)

Katy said...

Well, its not much of statement is it? I mean, we see these type of people everywhere all the time don't we?

I think the use of differnt body types, "Real" people as it were, would have brought more meaning to the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

As to why the artist had only fit models, what Brad K said is accurate.

By having fit nude models, you emphasize an archetype in this case; nudity itself. I believe this was what the artist was going for, along with peoples comfort level when encountering it. When you put in non-conventional body types, obese, hairy, one-legged, ect, you start to emphasize something else in addition to the nudity.

For example:

You display a nude fit man, you will have most of the audience thinking... "naked man".

You display a nude obese or fat man, you will have the most of audience thinking... "naked fat man, is this suppose to be a comedy or satire??", or something along those lines or whatever other thoughts come up, which takes away from the emphasis of just wanting to display nudity.

Also the point of the exhibit was not to appreciate the human form, it was test people reaction when confronted with nudity. Having a wide range or body types, would have made people more comfortable, or put them off depending on the person, which would have take away from this confrontation.

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