A Following of 1,221,843 and Counting…NSFW: The Female Gaze
The world’s social media experience is at an impasse. Individually, we know what we post is temporal through self-curation, but we are not the only curators of our content. We can carefully arrange our 600x600 pixel Instagram squares, knowing we have the option to keep or delete based on our “brand”, “aesthetic” and/or what meme-imagery is lit that day. But deep down in the inter-webs, we all know, the platform has the power to remove what doesn’t follow a list of “Community Guidelines” that confront artists in a very specific way: No nudity or pornography, sexual intercourse, genitals, or fully-nude buttocks.
Instagram, in particular, has become the curator, not just of photographic material - but the documentation of art. The corporation gets the right to deem a painting of a nude human being ‘inappropriate’. The impermanence of any artwork is especially dangerous when social media has become the means for it’s dissemination. With the power to limit views, likes, and the audiences of artists by deleting their work, social media has become a capricious platform for women who are making art about identity and personal politics.
NSFW: The Female Gaze is a firm response to art that has become transient because of the guidelines prescribed on the Internet. The Museum of Sex Associate Curator Lissa Rivera and Vice Media Creators Editor-in-Chief Marina Garcia-Vasquez came together to curate a show of 28 consistently censored yet very-clicked, female-identifying artists. Co-Curator Garcia-Vasquez explains, “We wanted to show how these artists/artworks deemed not safe on the internet can exist in a safe place…with confidence. This is important work, take some time to observe and consider.”
The exhibition, which may be assumed to be Internet or Digital Media-based because of it’s acronymic title, is anything but that— “Lissa Rivera and I were extremely aware that this next generation of artists had more diversity in their desired canvas/medium and we wanted to include them.” There is a pleasurable balance between those artists who chose to dissect the role technology plays in sexual expression through collages (@maidenfedsrevenge) and tapestries (@erinmriley) and those taking on the female nude form from a female perspective based in traditional painting (@monicakimgarza) and drawing (@swegonamilly). “We acknowledge all of these women take a big risk in using their own experiences and we wanted to validate and support those voices.”
I grilled Co-Curator Garcia-Vasquez a bit on the line-up of the show because (I’m a millennial I guess) and I wanted to find out if there were any desired implications between large social media followings and their Not Safe For (Art) Work featured in the exhibit. She replied, “Social media was not a factor in selecting the artists for the exhibit but they did make an impact when we covered them originally on Creators. We really wanted to show distinct bodies of work with diverse politics and incorporating many forms of the female nude and opportunities for sexual representation— we were really dedicated to artists who have chosen this path with agency and have really important things to say to the world through their practice.”
I totaled the Instagram followings of all 28 artists exhibited (which will increase once this article is published): 1,221,843. (*note: only 2 of the artists did not have Instagram accounts).
Regardless of the influence social media may have had on the curatorial effort, it is inherently important to the existence of the work. NSFW is the counterpart to the fleeting nature of the Internet- making this art about female agency, permanent.
NSFW: The Female Gaze is on view at The Museum of Sex through September 24, 2017