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The Nan Goldin Controversy, Continued

The art-or-porn controversy over Nan Goldin‘s photo, “Edda and Klara Belly Dancing,” seized last week by police from an exhibition in England, has legs.
Here’s what the Manchester Guardian had to say:
Denied to visitors to Baltic [Centre of Contemporary Art], not readily available online [except, I guess, on CultureGrrl], the Nan Goldin picture remains available to anyone with money to spend in an an art bookshop. Context is all. Klara and Eddy is a kind of family snap, of a type found in countless family albums. Its subjects are not knowingly sexual, nor do they appear either posed or exploited. The message is that art-lovers who can afford books would not find it pornographic, but visitors to an exhibition might, while who knows what might happen on the internet. Smuttiness is subjective.
I liked the thoughtful analysis posted Thursday by the anonymous blogger at Heresy Corner:
Make no mistake: The photograph is a provocation. In itself, it is innocent; but it is being shown, not as a family snap, but as a work of art. And the purpose of art is (among much else) to ask questions, to stimulate debate. I have no doubt that Nan Goldin knew precisely the reaction this photograph would produce: nor that she was right to provoke it. It’s a mistake to categorise this as an “Is it art or is it porn?” debate….
Whatever one’s views on the quality of Nan Goldin’s photography, this isn’t porn. No, the trouble goes deeper than that. The genie can never be put back in the bottle: we can never return (perhaps thankfully) to the days when Lewis Carroll could take snaps of a partially-clothed Alice without anyone batting an eyelid. But we could perhaps allow these issues to be considered in the restrained and civilised atmosphere of a museum, rather than the cauldron of the media, let alone the rule-bound world of the police station or the courts.
As a character in Avenue Q put it so memorably, the Internet is for porn. Art galleries are for art. There’s a difference.

Interestingly, the Heresy blogger appended a comment to the Guardian’s opinion piece, saying that soon after he posted about Goldin, his “hitherto lonely and little-visited blog was attracting a considerable number of ‘hits.’ And whilst it would be nice to think that visitors were interested in my opinions, a more detailed break-down of the search-terms revealed that a substantial proportion were on a smut-hunt.”
I know why this happened: It wasn’t because he posted the photo, as I did (without any appreciable increase in hits). It was because he titled his post: “Elton’s Porn Panic.” I deliberately kept “Porn” out of the headline of my previous post, because I knew, from past experience, that it would draw the wrong kind of international “traffic.”
Here’s what two CultureGrrl readers had to say about the Goldin photo:
From composer William Osborne
A criterion for determining whether or not something is pornography or art would be to judge whether it has artistic worth or value (even if such terms are notoriously vague.) I have trouble seeing much art in the top photo. Goldin is famous, but does that alone make every shot she takes art? If you want to defend the photo as art, how would you justify that claim? I would really like to know, because I wonder if I am missing something. I see a photo that is very provocative, but mostly just tacky and rather banal.
From artist Charles Hankin
Neither image [the Goldin or the Richard Prince image of the young Brooke Shields, reproduced in my last post] is porn. There is little of sexual interest in these photographs. They are both depicting young girls that are nude or nearly nude. The mere fact that they have no cloths on does not in of itself provide the viewer a physical response. That being said, one could ask if they are art. Both images are boring in their composition….In the end I would say that they are both dull images of interest to the curious.

an ArtsJournal blog