The Artist, The Censor, and The Nude: A Tale of Morality and Appropriation
By Glenn Harcourt
DoppelHouse Press. 190 pp. $34.95
by Glenn Harcourt
Of all the topographies that exist in the world, that of the human body is perhaps the one that has been the most relentlessly contested — both the actual body comprising flesh and blood, and the virtual body as it is written and visualized in representation. This is true of the body both male and female, and of the body both clothed and unclothed. Issues of personal and cultural identity; of sexual and theological politics; of religious and political ideology are all articulated in terms of the body and its represented image. The body as it is lived and pictured serves both to instantiate and to adjudicate cultural norms and to facilitate their transgression.
Thus it is that both the body and its image have come to be censored, at various places and times, and under many cultural regimes. That censorship has certainly been a fact in post-Revolutionary Iran, where laws governing the dressing, adornment, and deportment of the physical body, as well as the body’s image in cultural production have been continuously in place, if at times somewhat erratically enforced.
In the realm of cultural production, the western artistic tradition (grounded as it is in the depiction of the human body) has been a specific target. Yet even though works of western pictorial art may be especially targeted as un-Islamic in the essence and carriers of an alien “westoxicated” culture, such western images still circulate more-or-less freely in Iran, although they are often subject, for example, to the hand censoring mark-up that we can see in a copy of Alan Cumming’s Eye Witness Companion to Art that was fortuitously re-imported into the United States…
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