[Milton-L] O Eve, in evil hour...
jrovira at drew.edu
Wed Nov 23 21:36:27 EST 2005
I think some criteria for the difference between pornography and art
have been formulated, and they're sensible. Some of what I've heard has
to do with intent -- pornography really has no goal beyond sexual
arousal, while nudes in art pay attention to form, lighting, etc.,
usually to make the subject beautiful. The intended effect upon the
viewer is entirely different in each case. Mapplethorpe managed to
combine these concerns, so his photos of flowers are at least as erotic
as his photos of nudes (this combination also complicates his work
legally), but I think he's an exception.
In my own thinking the first difference between Degas and Debbie Does
Dallas is context. Where do you go to see the former, and where do to
go to see the latter? What is your mindset when you approach the former
venue compared to your mindset in the latter venue? When I saw the full
nudity in Salome at the Orlando Opera I went to see a drama and
understood the nudity to be a factor in the dramatic tension, not to be
something that creates arousal (honestly, I was more curious about how
good the -opera- singer would look naked). Context isn't the sole
determining factor, of course: content can still be pornographic in an
artistic setting, but it will seem inappropriately placed: "Shocking."
Cheap thrills and even cheaper media coverage.
Kierkegaard does quite a bit of thinking about this topic in _Concept of
Anxiety_; sensuality per se is not sin, and certainly not in a state of
innocence/ignorance, but once spirit posits a differentiation between
mind and body (postlapsarian state) sensuality becomes inextricably
bound up with sinfulness. I don't recall him considering the
possibility of a postlapsarian innocent sensuality; sometimes the
aesthetic personality can acheive this, but more often the aesthetic
personality collapses into itself, into what Kierkegaard called the
"inclosing reserve," the demonic.
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