Why Not Ban The Jock Sturges Exhibition

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Why Not Ban The Jock Sturges Exhibition
Why Not Ban The Jock Sturges Exhibition

Video: Why Not Ban The Jock Sturges Exhibition

Video: US photography exhibition in Moscow closes after complaints 2022, November

September 25 at the Lumiere Brothers Moscow Center for Photography the exhibition of works by American photographer Jock Sturges was closed. A wide discussion of the exhibition began after a blog post by blogger Elena Miro in LiveJournal, who called the exposition "an exhibition for pedophiles." On Sunday, members of the public organization "Officers of Russia" blocked the entrance to the gallery, after which the leaders of the Center decided to close the exhibition. Journalists were invited to view the exhibition; a man who entered the hall with the journalists poured urine on Sturges' work. Earlier, Senator Elena Mizulina and the new children's ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova drew attention to the exhibition, who called Sturges' work child pornography.

Jock Sturges is known primarily for nude photography: for several decades he has been photographing nudist families in France, Northern California and Ireland, for many years he has been friends with the families of his models and has been shooting for the third generation of models. “These photos have been published all over the world. Both galleries and museums around the world have not seen pornography in them. It's just not there, - the photographer commented on the closing of his exhibition. “These are my neighbors, my friends, whom I have photographed with their families for forty years. In my photos there are about 25 families that I have photographed since the 70s of the last century. " In 1990, FBI agents and police officers confiscated Sturges' computer, cameras, photographs and negatives. However, the art society defended the photographer, and later the San Francisco court did not bring any charges against him.

We asked journalists, an artist and a social anthropologist what they thought about the closing of the photo exhibition and whether it was worth evaluating art from a moral standpoint.


Maria Semendyaeva

editor of The Art Newspaper Russia

The closing took place at the request of the representatives of the photography center themselves: they decided to go for self-censorship, in order, obviously, to avoid any bigger problems than just closing the exhibition. This, apparently, was more convenient than insisting on leaving everything as it is. I believe that it is necessary to close exhibitions only if there has been some kind of big public discussion, everyone who has anything to do with this has spoken out. We are the state, we have laws, there are procedures in order to protect someone's offended rights. Everything that happened had nothing to do with these procedures or legal methods - just young people came, dressed in an incomprehensible uniform, behaving in a threatening manner, did not let people inside. In any other situation, I think the police would come and these young people would be taken to the police station. In this situation, for some reason, this did not happen.

At the same time, a representative of the Public Chamber said that the exhibition was closed, as if he had come and closed it. In fact, he has no right to do this, even if he is incredibly offended - in our society, still no one openly denies that citizens have certain rights. If their exhibition is closed, then there must be an appropriate resolution, some explanation. But these explanations were not given, and none of this happened. The most disgusting thing is that in one day a group of citizens who, even if they express someone's point of view and even if this point of view is widespread, simply imposed their will on another group of citizens. Moreover, it is completely obscene - some young man came and doused everything with urine. In general, it all looks disgusting, no matter how you look at it.

In fact, the artistic value and artistic value of Sturges' photographs should not be assessed by a representative of the Public Chamber - this should be assessed by a person who, at least, has seen these photographs at least once before.At the same time, he himself confirmed that he did not see the photographs that were sent to him the day before at the exhibition, but other photographs still outraged him. He is not the kind of person who should decide what exhibitions are held in Moscow. This requires some kind of consensus, several people who will discuss this. From my point of view, all this is at least very wrong from the point of view of society and, in an amicable way, we cannot agree with such things, we must not allow this to happen. It is necessary to demand at least a conversation, discussion, and as a maximum - at least police intervention in such a completely illegal situation.

Honestly, I am not a great connoisseur of Sturges' work. But I know that in America radical citizens also expressed their complaints against him. However, there is nothing surprising in this: many artists do what people do not like and many artists fight for their right to slightly violate the so-called norms. For this, artists are needed - so that we sometimes look from the outside at some things. I absolutely do not support any child pornography, it is simply monstrous, but, in my opinion, these photos are not that they have nothing to do with it - I do not understand why people associate them, because they are different things. Sergei Bratkov had a series where children pose with painted lips. These works are exhibited and sold, and everyone knows them well, and, of course, no one would think of doing something like that. We must still distinguish between art and horrible, disgusting pornography created for profit. These are completely different things, and I am surprised that I have to explain this.


↑ Jock Sturges, Anette & Oreganne. France, 2012

Maria Mikhantieva

journalist, author of the isqoos telegram channel

Closing of the exhibition “Jock Sturges. Without embarrassment”at the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography without investigation and trial is at least illegal (although we know those courts). It is also stupid and ridiculous - including from the point of view of morality. If we imagine that morality is a set of prescriptions and taboos, then, of course, any phenomenon that does not correspond to the norm can be called "immoral" and considered dangerous for society. A society consisting of individuals who cannot independently distinguish between good and bad and need a tip from above, a muzzle and a leash. I will note that Mr. Tsvetkov himself saw the exhibition at the same time.

But if you consider morality to be a product of a free conscience and conscious choice, you will have to abandon the idea of ​​judging works of art from the standpoint of morality and equate ethical values ​​with aesthetic ones. A work of art does not require people to agree with it, does not report any facts, does not give orders; its main function is to stimulate thought, its main merit is expressiveness. The critic Susan Sontag wrote about this in her essay On Style: “Art does not rape, it seduces. Yes, the experience offered by a work of art is imperious. But art is powerless to seduce without the complicity of the perceiver."

Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle: works of art (and not only) still influence us and we often lack criticality in perception (otherwise there would be no point in talking about the dangers of sexist stereotypes in advertising and cinema - after all, these conversations in ultimately boil down to the fact that virtual images are capable of shaping reality - or that European art has long objectified the female body). In addition, it would be sly to say that there is nothing at all in Sturges' work - some of his photographs are difficult to perceive outside of sexual discourse, and adolescent sexuality is a complex and frightening topic, which was shown by the discussion of the scandal in the 57th school.

The problem is that now it is impossible to talk about it.It is impossible to criticize a barbarously closed exhibition or a work that has been attacked, because, of course, any criticism in a situation where aesthetics is replaced by politics is perceived as just another "atu". Prohibitions cannot make great art less great, but they can give indulgence to art that is controversial or simply mediocre. Why fighters for morality want to step on this rake over and over again is a mystery to me.


Denis Saltykov

social anthropologist, film researcher

In the story of the closing of the Jock Sturges exhibition, I am primarily interested in the discursive positions of those people whose rhetoric and actions led to success. As soon as a person uses the term "pornography", the conversation immediately goes into the area of ​​prohibitions. This word does not indicate any universal set of clearly verifiable features of an image, sound or text - the "content" part changes depending on the social context. It seems to me correct to define porn through a system of moral or, more often, legal prohibitions - this is what the dominant discourse in a particular situation considers excessive, obscene and worthy of prohibition. In this sense, the scandal around the exhibition in the Lumiere Center allows us to assert: in Russia in 2016, Sturges' photographs are pornography.

The only problem is that such a definition says almost nothing about Sturges, but it says a lot about the people who are at the origins of public outrage. After all, taste primarily classifies its carriers, and not the objects of their judgments. It is important for me that the initiator of the scandal, blogger Elena Miro, who actively promotes fitness, chose the motto of her LiveJournal: "Beautiful people read me!" In the section "About Me" it is honestly written: "I am watching you!" Miro evaluates human bodies and is able to quickly classify anything that comes into her field of vision. The point of view of this fitness blogger clearly identifies pornography: naked girls are depicted in "sexually inviting poses." The sex appeal of posture is an important assessment that clarifies the speaker's point of view. For example, I do not see sexual appeal in the poses in the photographs that Miro cites as examples in his blog, but my point of view is important here only to demonstrate the relativity of such an assessment. The point of view of the accuser in this context is the point of view of the rapist, who is able to see a call to violence in the objects of the surrounding world that are initially unrelated to him. Miro, acting in the same logic, responds to the call - and commits violence with the help of his text.

This logic is quite naturally developed by a man pouring urine over photographs. Of course, he was "forced" to do so by the pornographic content he saw there. This is all the development of the same structure of thought, which is proposed in Dmitry Kiselev's deceptively soft reporting on the official channel: the right to close the exhibition in some way follows from the right of Russia "to its cultural identity", which is used by Muslim countries or "some kind of Holland." These examples show very clearly how culture acts as a repressive apparatus, acting from the position of a rapist.

Art, in turn, as a social institution, develops an autonomous system of assessments, according to which Sturges is not pornography, but an art object. These assessments are not outside the bounds of social norms, the fact is that social norms as something uniform do not exist in principle. There are systems of classification that are opposite to each other, and now those that are closer to the state apparatus have demonstrated that they are capable of dealing with others. The exhibition is closed. As Miro put it in another post, consistently continuing to identify herself with the rapist, “I did not allow” (as if Mizulino-Kuznetsov's Russia itself utters these words).As one famous character said: "Good … Bad … The main thing is who has a gun."


Margo Ovcharenko

photography artist

No exhibitions should be closed. In conditions of freedom of the market and freedom of speech, exhibitions are closed ahead of time, because they are of no interest to anyone. The State Museum may not give money for the exhibition. Censorship in private institutions by a public organization is, of course, unreasonable, scary and humiliating. Fanatics attack works of art with hammers, paints and whatever happens. But when censorship is introduced regarding private initiatives, despite the fact that there is almost a cultural vacuum in the country, it harms everyone.

Art also makes the invisible visible. Before I saw the photographs of Nan Goldin in the museum, with people thirty years older than me who used drugs, had sex, lived in chaos and tried to create some kind of alternative to the consumer society, I did not understand at all what kind of struggle it was against everyone. Struggle to make others live differently today. Boycotted Mapplethorpe opened my eyes to expressions of sexuality and sex appeal in gay men that I could never understand except through art. The fact that there are people in the world who are experiencing something alone and without support is a tragedy of the homo sapiens species, and art, along with other things, fights against this.

Is it worth evaluating art from a moral standpoint? In this particular case, as in any other, no, it’s not worth it. I may add that I don't particularly like Jock Sturges. He does not understand the process of maturation of the female body and is trying to capture it somehow, using the methods available to him, from his old male bell tower. I believe that when an adult man takes pictures of anyone naked except himself, this is a rather boring statement that flows into the whole history of Western male art with slender rows of odalisques, bathers and nymphs. And I want something else for myself. But I want others to be able to look, choose and understand for themselves what a good photograph is.

Photos: Jock Sturges / Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography

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