I wrote about censorship, art, and #Survivor at Luna Luna Magazine. Here is an excerpt:
At work, I made coffee. It was a typical Monday. I made more coffee and some tea, read emails. I posted a photo to my Instagram of a project I’m working on, called #Survivor, which is a photo and interview series that explores trauma in the body and landscape, finding ways to highlight how we survive despite unimaginable pain. This photo series is going to be published as a forthcoming book from Arkay Artists in 2020, and will also live as an ongoing project that exists and will develop on my website. As you can imagine, I take it pretty seriously—and it’s been a focus of my attention—and rightly so.
Humans are beautiful creatures that are capable of so much good. Everyone has a story and everyone can learn from each other. We can find beauty and love and inspiration even in our pain and survival—sometimes especially so. This is not to say we need to suffer or find beauty in suffering—but we can empower ourselves through words and vulnerability and art. This is my mission with the project.
I don’t think I get everything right all the time. I have a lot to learn, but I try to learn, and I do that largely through my art. I’ve spent my entire life questioning the status quo, wanting to fight for a better life for us all.
So, a few hours after I posted the photo, which was a photo of myself nude, as much of the project focuses on bodies, some nude and some not, it was reported. One photo was from July, a shot where I was actually wearing white underwear, but “side boob” was visible, was reported. The second photo that was reported, the latest one, was of me naked on a bench from the side, also showing visible “side boob.”
Photographing survival and trauma isn’t sexual; nudity isn’t and shouldn’t be inherently sexual.
(And sexuality in itself, especially expressing consent and celebrating positive sexuality, shouldn’t be shameful either.)
What does it say that we report and ban nudity, and censor positive projects that help survivors of pain, such as sexual trauma? What does this say in 2019 with a president like Trump floating around like a bad dream, a monster in our closets who lurks in the dark?
Let me say this: I know what I do is a risk. I know it’s provocative. I should have censored the photos like I normally do, but I’m tired of censorship. I’m tired of us policing ourselves because social media sites, that we use as safe spaces (because they are promoted as connectors, and in many ways they are) also aren’t controlled by us—and happen to have restrictive ideas and policies.
Context and nuance matter when it comes to art and it’s something I strongly stand by. We deserve to have platforms that support this. We deserve to have spaces and institutions that support this, and promote it. Social change happens because we challenge mainstream ideas that are outdated. We live in an age of technology, we should be able to use it for good.
The real issue is, context doesn’t matter anymore—and everything is about context. How can we understand context if we have generalized rules regarding expression? Expression is complicated at best—and deserves attention.
Full piece here.