Happy New Year, everyone! We're only a few weeks into 2013, and already there have been some interesting developments for me. Christmas treated me pretty well-- 2012 was a fantastic year for new music, and I'd been waiting until Christmas to get it all. I got something like 12 new CDs just in December. As usual, I got home from Florida totally exhausted a few days before New Year's Eve, because I traditionally spend it with some friends in Mission. I've been sort of recovering from the holidays for the past few weeks, although I did have my first volunteer shift of the year at the gallery. And the biggest shock had to be showing up in North Vancouver the day after to pick up some paintings I had in a show there, and finding out I'd sold two out of the three!
Alright, so, now that I'm back, I'd like to open a topic for discussion. I don't generally touch on subject matter like this, but-- I've been clicking around dA recently, and it seems to me that this is something that needs examination.
My question is, with the current way that artwork on dA is trending, do you think the site-- consciously or not-- promotes or propogates chauvinism?
It's not a question I ask lightly. I realize this could be a controversial topic. Personally, I don't think anyone who actually works on dA's staff has this intention in mind. That isn't what I'm getting at. I just wonder if the way the users have been using the site, and quite possibly the way in which the site is structured, may be contributing to an attitude that cavalierly objectifies women.
Case in point: I have spoken before, about the nude photography community on dA. My position is, the question which gets tossed around so frequently here-- "Is it art or pornography?"-- is moot to begin with. First of all, it presupposes that one can't be the other, and I don't think that's true. But moreover, it's a question that can't possibly have any single "correct" answer, because it's completely subjective. Not only does the answer depend on the content of the photo, but it also depends on the viewer. Although no one will ever really be able to say what the actual intention was (aside from the artist), by no means does nude photography necessarily evoke a sexual response. I've seen a lot of stuff here that is very academic and conceptual. As a conceptual artist myself, I can appreciate that.
More recently, though, I've also been noticing an upswing in popularity of a whole different kind of artwork: fetish art. I'm sure you've seen it too, if you've given half a wayward glance at the site outside of your own page and those of your friends. On dA's front page, I've seen increasing amounts of work which contain an appeal to some sort of specific fetish community-- feet, bondage, inflation, vore, etc. And quite honestly, I'm not sure what to think of it all. It isn't my place to judge people's... preferences. At the same time, though-- the overwhelming majority of the stuff I've seen on here depicts females, and something about that, when taken en masse, is really starting to bother my sensibilities. When the site regularly puts drawings of female characters having their chests increased to implausibly gigantic proportions under the heading of "Most Popular", the egalitarian inside me blanches. Pictures like that are completely indifferent to any notion of gender equality; they satisfy a particularly pronounced incarnation of Male Gaze which is only interested in women as fetish toys.
I guess it bothers me, because when I was growing up, my father had already retired and my mother was the one who had to work. I saw her give her best years to Metropolitan Life, and I just know, in the corporate culture of the late 80s and 90s, that she was very acquainted with the glass ceiling. I know she struggled to be taken seriously. And she was always the one who helped me find my inner strength as a kid, too. So, to see such rampant two-dimensionalization of women kind of hits a sore nerve for me.
I'm not arguing that it's not art. Some of it, from a technical standpoint, is rather accomplished. But from the angle of content-- I'm really starting to question its motivations and, more significantly, its effects. The whole "Internet is for porn" meme that has been floating around since Avenue Q first put it into our collective consciousness-- I'm sorry, but in the context of an "art" site like dA, I see it as a flimsy arbitrary excuse, a massive cop-out, and an accountability dodge. When I was trained as an artist, I was taught that I had to take responsibility for my contributions to our public discourse, be they positive or negative. Things that happen on the internet do have real world ramifications, regardless of whether you want to be willfully myopic or not. Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but this trend on dA does make me curious of how reflective it is of our cultural priorities. Is constant exposure to material like this on dA going to desensitize us and play some role in normalizing objectification of females off-line? And to what extent is the structure and administration of dA culpable for that?
I welcome your feedback.