And nakedness was created in the mind of the beholder


Genesis 3:7"...So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves Loincloths."

To begin with, being naked simply means not wearing any clothes or just being yourself without being looked at.
There was a time when nudity evoked formality and the distinction between nude and naked was easy to perceive. When Kenneth Clark came to define it in his pioneering 1956 book, The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art, he saw the nude stripped of all its sexuality and awkward associations. The nude was highly idealized, it was divine.

Masaccio's Expulsion of the garden of Eden (1425)

"The Greeks perfected the nude in order that man might feel like a god, and in a sense this is still its function, for although we no longer suppose that God is like a beautiful man, we still feel close to divinity in those flashes of self-identification when, through our own bodies, we seem to be aware of a universal order." (The Nude: A Study of Ideal Art by Kenneth Clark (1956)*

As a matter of fact, through art's history the boundaries between the two groups has been broken many times. From Lucian Freud's unsentimental depictions of the human flesh and Bacon's carnal nudes to today's performance artists presenting actual naked bodies as a work of art. Physical perfection is not an issue anymore. To echo Frances Borzello, the new nude is a very naked nude treating issues and contradictions associated with the body in our time.


Mother and child by Ron Mueck (2001)
Though the nude has never ceased to be greatly admired by the art world without being categorized as cheap or perverse, our reaction to its presence has dramatically shifted. We're so comfortable admiring old-fashioned, idealized nudes in the museums, but we
cannot confront the image of a real woman's nipple? How do we distinguish artistic expression from empty exhibitionism and how do we determine how one should label them?

Art? Miss LNI by The Imagist (2017)
In fact, it is striking how we rush to reduce to a mere vulgarity an instagram post depicting nudity, while we immediately (and often without any art-history skills whatsoever) accept the artistic value of a nude of the 19th century. As long as it is hung on the walls of a hyped gallery or museum, our personal judgment and curiosity are conforming to the art world norms. Therefore, ''art'' becomes a luxury for the few. In addition, FOSTA/SESTA* has become a worldwide threat to free speech and coupled with social media's (double)standards, this shapes our ability of discerning what is of a high aesthetic quality. Consequently, the Kardashian's butt pictures are safe content for the kids, Gustave Courbet's The origin of the World is censored as pornographic and, ironically, the surplus of sexy Instagram selfies are more often than not asexual...
We live in times where cultural illiteracy is spreading, thus the value of an artist is counted by their followers and likes instead of their social impact. As the nude remains a powerful representation of a society's culture, we should better understand why we strip the nude off its humanity.

Venus of Urbino by Titian (1534)
Strangely, our virtual culture seems to re-adopting the same criteria of an acceptable public female nude during the 16th century European art scene. We're stepping back to old religious codes of behavior, but without the artistic technique or cultural awakening of the Renaissance. Paradoxically, the butt selfie parade on instagram is more of a sign of puritanism and sexual ennui than of a sexual liberation.

For instance , this is an acceptable female reclining nude of the 16th century Venice: beautiful,modest, passive, benevolent gaze and almost divine.
Likewise, this is an acceptable female nude on Instagram: bright, shiny, without really showing off anything, soft, not sexually provocative and passive.

Just as the Venus above, nobody reported me for this picture too. It is ''aesthetically approved''.
Not only is the perception of a nude as artistic or pornographic is ultimately subjective, but it has been altered throughout history and cultures. One's person's erotica is another one's pornography and without further historical contextualization we are not able to define them.

Nevertheless, I'm a defender of pornography and sex work and, on the contrary, I find this old-fashioned viewpoint of the representation of the human body very derogatory especially for women. It seems to me
that women don't want to wield their sexual, chthonian power for fear they'll be 'slutshamed 'and not taken seriously.




Olympia by Éduard Manet (1863)
To demonstrate better this old puritan threat, this is Olympia by Éduard Manet (1863). Despite its obvious reference to Titian's deity, it portrays a known model and prostitute*. She stares defiantly at the viewer. By not abiding by the art critics definition of the nude (a body at ease, confident and idealized), it created a huge scandal. Olympia was very humanly represented therefore she was naked and not nude. What's more, its proportions (one meter and thirty high and almost two meters large, much bigger than Titian's Venus) were usually reserved for mythological or religious representations. From my perspective, he reversed the definition of what is supposed to be sacred.
In a similar manner, this naked, and not nude, picture of me was censored and reported many times. Not to mention its huge contribution to my unsolicited 'dick pic' collection and the charming condescending messages by random voguish females or de Beauvoir inspired feminists...


In the Salon at Rue des Moulins (1894) - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
In short, we're turning a blind eye to the historical fact that the muses of some of the greatest paintings the world has ever seen w ere prostitutes. They were those free women who, by replacing goddesses or respectable ladies, served as models for all those masterpieces we admire today in the biggest museums: The Young Ladies of Avignon, Lautrec's Moulin Rouge's
prostitutes, Schiele's exhibitionist women, the Grande Odalisque and so many others.

Importantly, those women were not depicted as abnormal or perverted, but as joyful and normal. In fact, by portraying sex workers, the avant garde artists achieved to disassociate their creations from the rigid art form.


I can only assume that our social obsession with the representation of the human body only proves its constant position as a major political issue. In the aftermath of the current excess of flesh, we've paradoxically become less tolerant to fleshly thoughts. On the one hand, I feel this attitude mirrors a culture that is far more influenced by religious ethics than by humanities. On the other hand, and since all religions has first condemned women, I would say it reflects this archetypical dichotomy of the Mother/Whore complex: the asexual woman is still the reliable Woman.

In a nutshell, we're becoming more irrational and superstitious although we're becoming more publicly undressed. And, to quote Stevie Wonder, ' 'When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer, Superstition ain't the way''. In the contemporary pursuit of happiness through social connections, fear and suffering conquered rationality. Interestingly, in Greek philosophy, on the antipode of superstition (deisidaimonía, dis for bad + daímōn for spirit, demon) is eudaimonia (eu for good + daímōn for spirit, demon). It describes a state of fulfillment which, unlike happiness, can only be achieved by knowing thyself and becoming, according to Aristotle, one perfect whole (incidentally, this is the first time I've realized the link between Stevie Wonder songs and Aristotle's philosophy!)

Definitely, I don't believe the nude has lost its ability to be subversive - it depends on its context. However, I believe we should pursue through the use of the nude, at its most or at its less, naked, to become complete and self-sufficient.

Erotica, nudity or pornography are the discourse of our sexuality and human condition. For this reason, to represent more facets of the psychological, physical and fleshly aspects of the body is as crucial to our culture as to our own fulfillment.
Frankly speaking, I believe in the divinity of the flesh with all its dirty appetites.
We're (W)Holy Women Amen
END
Footnotes

* This passage explains a lot about the sacralisation of modern pop idols. Page 1

* Law intended to curb the online illegal sex work(signed by Trump, March 2018) Both bills — the House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — have been hailed by advocates as a victory for sex trafficking victims. Page 2

*Victorine-Louise Meurent associated with Manet's masterpieces of 1863, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which include nude portrayals of her. At that time she also modeled for Edgar Degas and the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens. Page 3