Monday, April 11, 2005

Would I for Art's Sake?

My wife asked me, if this happened in Taiwan, would I join in?
She was talking about what television stations and newspapers here widely reported on, the one hundred or so women who stood almost motionless, naked for hours at a museum in Berlin. The “show” was set up by Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft.
Would I join in if an artist decided to stage just such a show here in Taiwan, or elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region?
Well, first of all, I probably wouldn’t have been invited, because in the Berlin case, only women – and relatively beautiful ones at that – were asked to join. Men – and especially graying flabby elements of the species – wouldn’t have stood a chance.
Other artists have been more inclusive though, and asked hundreds of women and men to stand around naked in the street for photographs.
So would I do it? Then you have to ask first whether I think such an “artistic performance” is naturism or not. My answer is simple: it isn’t, but …
Naturism is about enjoying oneself in the nude, and that means independently of others. In other words, if you enjoy yourself in the nude, you usually prefer others around you to be naked as well. That’s why on a naturist beach, someone wearing a bathing suit immediately sticks out as completely out of place, if not ridiculous. Standing in the nude in a museum while the members of the press or the public at large stare at you – while staying dressed – is not naturism, and would not be enjoyable to most naturists I can think of.
That’s why my answer to my wife was no: I don’t think I would join in such an arts performance in Taiwan. You would also have to bear in mind that Taiwan’s media don’t have much respect for privacy, and would follow anyone around who took part in such an activity. For a foreigner it would probably be even worse.
The only positive aspect I would see from such a show, is that it familiarize the Taiwanese public with the naked human body. There is no officially sanctioned naturism here for the time being, and such a show might contribute to the acceptability of public nudity.
Though of course, for the time being, all of this is purely conjecture, because any nude activity in public faces the strong arm of the law.