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Monday, December 19, 2011

Persona: the Face/Mask and the Nude Male Ass (Week 2 of the Facebook Fagcott)

It's already Day 8 of my planned 40-day hiatus from Facebook, dubbed my "Face-Lent" by my darling friend and food justice/art-maker Jessie Barr. In the last week, another exquisite nude male ass crossed my path, which I am all too happy to show you here.

For Valerie Simmons' elegant and textured upcoming show at Galerie Dentaire, one of my personal heroes of Montréal's contemporary dance élite gets frozen in time, over and over again. Known for his show-stopping performances at the Agora de la danse and Flexx, José Navas is an innate mover, strong, anti-balletic, and ageless. Simmons says her Personae ("masks" in Greek) and Trois Battements ("three beats") series are meant to show how
human behaviour “is impacted by its surroundings; when speaking of the surroundings, I am referring to human environment as well as human attire. That which encompasses us has agency over the roles we play,” 
she writes eloquently in her artist's statement. In an age where our surroundings and our relationship to them are reduced to “Liking” and posting on peoples' “Walls”, it is a relief to see a photographer taking a path that diverges from the rule of immediate comprehensibility, and strives to express something more poetic.

Works like Simmons' have weight and silent power, but also an erotic frisson from the presence of Navas in various nude or semi-nude poses. Images like “Ave Maria” (above) of the nude male buttocks can get you “reported” on Facebook, as happened to yours truly on December 10th after I giddily posted an image by French neo-mannerist photographer Vincent Malléa (Pain Capital, see previous post).

It led me to wonder how we have come to so police and diminish our visual and social worlds that one or more of my own contacts chose to report me to the site's censors rather than discuss the merits or challenges of nude male butts in artwork with me directly. 

It was a maddening experience to then be temporarily banned from the Book of the Face (for over a day), which led me to the decision of taking a 40-day hiatus which I now call my Face Lent.
As I write this I am on day 8, and already, I find I have more original ideas, an expanded vocabulary, and I had a three-hour long hang-out with a close friend I hadn't spent sustained time with in over four months. I also find myself less concerned with where I am supposed to be, and more concerned with where I am.
With the Harper Government pushing through Parliament its notorious Omnibus Crime Bill C-10, which will impose mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug and non-violent crimes, and broadly expand the prison sentences for any sexual behaviour at or around minors, the issue of nudity in visual culture is poised to become hyper-relevant once again. If Bill C-10 is passed by the Senate unamended, many readers of LGBT and art publications could be charged with exposing sexually explicit material to minors, for merely displaying (or holding a copy of) some of the artistic images in galleries or publications that happen to contain nudity when people under 16 are present. The devious and Puritanical nature of Bill C-10's sweeping new sentencing guidelines are none other than a reflection of who supports the current Government and why: social control in a punishment-based society functions on suspicion, judgement, and an irrational equation of nudity with porn, drugs with violence, and criminality with mere irresponsibility.
It is well known that poverty and discrimination are the real reasons that crime exists. Who's reporting on that?- Jordan Arseneault
Image: “Ave Maria” by Valerie Simmons with José Navas Exhibit: Jan 6-25th, 2012. Vernissage January 7th, 2012. Galerie Dentaire 1239 rue Amherst, Montreal
Photos by Valerie Simmons, Danser and model: José Navas - (Compagnie Flak)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jordan Arseneault's Facebook boycott: day 1

Hi and thanks for taking the time to read something other than your friends' status updates. I know Facebook (or the Book of the Face as I was once fond of calling it) is an effective, yet addictive medium that many have bemoaned in recent years. Against our better judgement, most of us born after 1970 in the high-speed internet zones of the industrialized world have become entranced by its efficacy for transmitting undeveloped thoughts, emotional blurbs, and, most effectively of all, digital photographs and event promotion details. Notwithstanding my utter enthralment with this "social" network website, a recent incident of reporting/censorship has alerted me to the need to step back from it, and remember that, like ALL successful profit-based tools, its primary function/purpose is threefold:
1) To make its users/buyers feel is it is a necessity__________; 2) To promote related or unrelated products and services we do not need ______________________________________________; 3) To perpetuate ITSELF.
As a profit-based tool, the Facebook is also, always, at all times a reflection of the socio-political mores of its makers, and of their historical context. It is entirely a tool of its time in that it may be used to transmit valid or valuable ideas or information - but that is not and will never be its main purpose. Try as we might to use FB to, for instance, raise political awareness about issues, promote benefit parties, or share news stories about natural disasters, wars, and bad/good/OMG things happening to our fellow human beings, the content of Facebook will always be muted by its function: and its function is to give us the illusion of connection, and to ensure constant, ever-increasing profit for its makers/owners. Much has been said (by Wipeout Homopbobia on Facebook, for example) and many status updates made on the issue of Facebook's user-based "reporting", which is but one example of Facebook's amoral, entirely contemporary nature. Facebook's abject refusal to allow for nudity or the depiction of illicit drug use, or other "offensive" material (which, to its credit, supposedly includes racist saying/images) says more about what my generation's superego wants to show about itself than about who we are and what we think about the people and world around us. When one of my one thousand, three hundred and ninety-eight "friends" reported (in a two-step mouse-click process) Vincent Malléa's Pain Capital late Friday night, (early Dec 10th, 2011, mere minutes after I posted to my "wall") it was the second time such a "report" had been made on my profile, and the second time that it involved that oh-so-unequivocally sexualizable photographic representation of a nude male buttocks. I will refrain, for the time being, from discussing why I think one of my Facebook contacts might have chosen to report this particular image, and concentrate instead on the all-too-obvious notions that underlie it:
1) Porn is everywhere, and available everywhere online, but a significant consumer population disapproves of nudity and equates it with porn_____; 2) Facebook must at all costs maintain its "all ages", "child-friendly" PG13 status in order to ensure constant and immediate access to teenage and child users who will become as addicted to it as I was ___________________________________________; 3) One of my own contacts believes that it is within his or her right (or obligation!) to control what I show to my other 1397 contacts, when and how.
All of which leads me to one conclusion: I have to get off the Book of the Face before I lose touch with reality and with the inherently profit-based and malignant nature of such a website's underlying structures. There was a time before the Facebook, before Myspace, and before Friendster, and there will be a time when even Facebook will become obsolete. This is why I am NOT boycotting Facebook by deleting my profile. Sadly, many, many of my contacts have been made solely through its interface, and it remains one of the three main ways groups of people to which I belong communicate valid, usable information. I am not "going off-Book" because I am scared of its impact on my "privacy", whatever that is. Nor do I decry its flattening of social interaction: frankly, there are a lot of people whom I was all too glad to have only limited, superficial contact with, such as the people obsessed with cat videos and "I/ my-boyfriend" statements, whose stories I have been "hiding" since that blessed function was introduced. I am boycotting Facebook for two succinct reasons:
1) One of my contacts believes in censorship and in profit-based control of society. I decry their motives and challenge them to criticize my posting of partial non-frontal male nudity to my FACE, to my actual fucking FACE, you bastard! THEN we'll having a meaningful conversation, you coward (whoever you are)!
2) I need to prove to myself that I can function effectively off its all-engrossing, White Eurocentric capitalist American-made system of manipulation. If the medium is the message, Facebook's message is "profit is more important than nude male ass," and my message is: "blog and write and share images using less intrusive web interfaces now, while the Internet is still affordable - at least in most parts of Canada and the industrialized West."
And fuck you forever you homophobic art-hating censorship-loving piece of shit who reported Vincent Malléa's Pain Capital image post. I will be making weekly updates on the progress of my albeit half-assed boycott via this blogspot, which, thank you very much, you can fucking report if you fucking want to: I know Wordpress now!