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Art + Sex: Lace Panties, White Cube (aka: Naked in the Museum)
by Lilika Ruby
2010-08-28 08:49:25
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Before I went to Art School, I went to the Kemper Museum. Hanging in one of the two main galleries was a group photography exhibit. I remember one photograph quite clearly. It was on the far wall – a temporary, movable wall, which you’ll later see is important – all by itself: an enormous print of an otherwise ordinary looking squirrel. There she sat, perched atop a giant red feeder, her little – or in this case big – hands holding onto the acorn one could assume she intended to eat.

I liked it. In fact, I liked it so much that this particular squirrel photograph made me decide that I wanted to take a photograph. But not of a small furry animal. I wanted to take a photograph of my lemon lace panties.

And I wanted to do it right then and there.

I looked around the exhibit. Into the hallway leading into the other galleries. Only a solitary guard standing just outside the door. Inside there was no one in the gallery with me. No one else looking at the squirrel, or Barney’s Bridesmaids in Pink, or Nan Goldin. No one but me, my panties and a Nikon.

A white wall is a tempting space for an artist. A large window facing a parking lot is a tempting space for an exhibitionist, er, I mean, performance artist. Put them together and…well, you see my point.

This is where it’s important to know that the wall with the squirrel was temporary. Unattached. It’s important because behind that wall was a small space, about 3 feet deep and just as narrow, where the ceiling sloped dramatically before hitting the top of a large picture window. This window faced out into the courtyard of the museum, where on the lawn sat Otterness’s Crying Giant silently watching over the parking lot.

I walked around the wall so I was behind the squirrel. I felt my legs brush together, more aware of them now than I had been before. I reached out my hand to touch the cool, blank wall – the wall of the museum – and felt just the littlest bit naughty. I stood very still between the wall and the window and let myself lean, one shoulder touching as I pulled up my skirt with the other hand – the right one – so that only my panties showed. Just a little creamy triangle of lace. I took the shot.

When does something become Art?

I wondered if the guard would catch me. Would he ask me to leave? What if I told him my action was part of a performance? Part of deconstructing the sacred space of THE MUSEUM?

When does something become Art?

What if I told him that the ideal form of the white cube is inextricably tied to the artworks exhibited inside it, and that I am simply one more objet d’art? That the female nude – especially the sensual, provocative one – is one of the most iconic images in the Western canon?

When does something become Art?

What if I said that following first-wave feminism, performance art tended to be the new naked inside of the museum? That there are countless examples across all media. That it’s about empowerment and participation and the undeniable contingency of objectification?
What if I told him the squirrel made me do it?

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Shelby2010-09-06 22:52:25
I have never understood why artists never made art with women wearing panties, instead of being naked!

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