Will Art Review Ban Online Nudity
Latest development regarding user content and this established art publication
Last Tuesday many but not all subscribers to artreview.com received an “Important message regarding user content”. Art Review, we were advised, had recently received several complaints about content on artreview.com from their website platform provider .The complaints concerned nudity and were accompanied by a threat to take the site offline unless the offending “relevant content” was removed.
Now get this......we were told that as they “investigate the complaints over the next several days” artreview.com “will likely be removing some content from the website, including from members’ pages”. I almost choked on my cornflakes. Had nobody mentioned censorship? Was that dreaded “C” word lurking in the subtext? Reassuringly the message continued “We thank you for your understanding. We will get back to you once we have looked into the situation in more detail.”
What understanding? The message raises more questions than it answers. To my mind it’s a rat’s nest of questions and concerns. And many of my artreview.com buddies were similarly perplexed. Was it even genuine? Why was this “message to all members of artreview.com” not sent to all members? Were those who received it guilty of some visual indiscretion in their postings? Were those who didn’t, in the clear so to speak and free from offending “relevant content” and fear of deletion? Was this selectivity in sending the message cock up or crucial? Who made these several complaints and what were they? How many is “several”? Did the platform provider not understand that nudes are not unknown in the history of art and as such are likely to make some sort of an appearance on any art site? Had anyone tried to point this out to them? What, if any, nudity is now acceptable to NING or the platform provider? Would, for example, Corbet's Origin du monde get poor old Gustave in the doghouse and his "content removed"? Would the same image be acceptable if newly made by an unknown artist, and if not, why not? What are the parameters of this censorship?
So many questions and so few answers. None at all in fact. The “next several days” have been and gone and not a peep from artreview.com. Nor are they responding to the individual enquiries of their members, who have reacted with playful indignation. A petition has been launched objecting to the “censorship of our art dictated by the ISP” and in a “massive icon intervention“ various members have taken to displaying the proud manhood of the Cerne Abbas Giant as their personal Artreview.com icon to great visual effect en masse. Whilst several entertaining discussions have started up with titles like AUTHORIZED NAKED and DEAR CENSOR aimed at protesting against this apparent censorship and provoking some sort of coherent response from Art Review. So at least somebody seems to care that the dead hand of censorship has reached into a site many cherished.
To be fair to Art Review the censorship is still apparent not actual. To the best of my knowledge no one has yet had any images deleted.
To be fair to Art review, artreview.com may not be a priority. The friendly but ramshackle site has been malfunctioning for months and members’ efforts to report the issue have gone largely unheeded and unanswered.
To be fair to Art review, they didn’t wish this upon themselves. They are probably under undue pressure from their platform providers. And as they say, they will get back to us once they have looked into the situation in more detail.
But their several days are up and key questions remain unanswered. What lies behind these complaints - aesthetic ignorance or ideological zeal and an excess of virtue? Whichever, are Art Review blithely folding under that pressure or defending both their contemporary artists’ right to represent the human form and the associated traditions of the nude in art?
If artreview,com is going to present itself as “unique blend of editorial and community content, combining the insight and critical weight of some of today’s most important artworld voices” it is vital those voices are heard, not censored nor silent. Ultimately we must ask the question.....can an art site function at all if huge chunks of the art historical canon breach conditions set by the platform provider? Words : Mike Hinc - Artwork: ROY LICHTENSTEIN Nude with Blue Hair, 1994
And the naked truth is that whilst Art Review stays schtum..... we just don’t know the answer.