Arnon Grunberg


Ideal form

On the whole meal and art - Diana Spechler in NYT:

'Before face-touching became potentially lethal, my friend Dave had a lot of lovers. Now he makes do with nude selfies. He doesn’t even request them, he says. They appear as if by magic. “I wake up and they are just there.” “I keep getting explicit photos from people I thought were just my friends,” says Matthew, an artist in Providence, R.I. He adds, “It’s nice to know they’re thinking of me.” Since the pandemic began, sex has changed: It’s imagined, monogamous, Zoomed or Skyped. And nude selfies have become one symbol of resilience, a refusal to let social distancing render us sexless. Nude selfies are no longer foreplay, a whetting of a lover’s appetite, but the whole meal.
Though the debate about art versus pornography has never been settled, a case can be made that quarantine nude selfies are art. Some of us finally have time to make art, and this is the art we are making: carefully posed, cast in shadows, expertly filtered. These aren’t garish below-the-belt shots under fluorescent lighting, a half-used roll of toilet paper in the background. They are solicited or spontaneous. They are gifts to partners in separate quarantines, friends who aren’t exactly friends, unmet Hinge matches and exes. (Exes are popping up like Wack-a-Moles these days.)'


'If historically the nude form in art suggested power in men (think sculptures of Greek athletes) and sexuality in women (think Francisco de Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda” and every other painting of a woman by a man), nude selfies, especially now, imbue the subject with both. The sexuality component is obvious, the power component contextual: the power to seduce without touch, to connect when physical contact is life-threatening, to impress while we’re home and unemployed (and sweat-suited) and to stir up a strong reaction miles away.'


'Sending a nude selfie is a request to be witnessed — not objectively, but through rose-tinted (or smooth-filtered) lenses. “When I choose to be seen in this way,” Kat says, “I’m taking an empowered action to receive what we all desire, and what we desire even more now in Covid times: a witness to our own vulnerability, our most private truth.” In “The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form,” Kenneth Clark distinguishes “nude” from “naked,” the latter implying an unwanted lack of clothing: “The word ‘nude,’ on the other hand,” he writes, “carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body: the body re-formed.”'


'We hit send and hold our breaths, silently asking until we receive the reply, am I safe am I safe am I safe?'

Read the delightful article here.

A few remarks.
What a drama we got here. To start with the last paragraph, sending a nude selfie apparently has become something akin to a famous scene in the 1967-movie 'The Marathon Man' (directed by John Schlesinger) in which Dustin Hofman is tortured by a dentist-Nazi or a Nazi-dentist who keeps asking: 'Is it safe? Is it safe?' If you hesitate and think it might not be safe, don't send it. But don't act as if you are being tortured by a Nazi-dentist. (By all means, watch the movie.)

Then the sentence about physical contact being life threatening, yes we should take it (the virus) seriously, and governments and citizens are taking it seriously, but it's not yet the Aids epidemic and probably it will never be. Just as a reminder, according to WHO in the year 2018 800 000 people died of HIV-related illnesses, about 800 000 people world wide die each year because of suicide, as another small reminder.
Yes, physical contact can be life threatening, as can be standing in line for the supermarket these days, even in 'normal' times crossing 5th Avenue can be life threatening, but most often you just cross 5th Avenue without any major accident.

Whether a nude selfie is art, and whether these circumstances turn it into art is a rather grotesque question. Bad art is art as well, anybody who likes to call his or her nude selfie art, be my guest. I'm not the gate keeper of art, nor do I want to be one.
But to go from WiFi as our last source of comfort to Rembrandt and Kahlo in less than one paragraph (read the article) is silly, to avoid the words 'rather pompous'.

If you needed this virus to send around nude selfies, maybe you should not complain so much but thank God that you could make lemonade out of lemons.

Since this delightful article seems to overlook the elderly I'd like to invite octogenarians to send me nude selfies. For every nude selfie I receive I will invite you, sexy or not so sexy octogenarian, for dinner in a decent restaurant. One dinner per person. You can bring your significant other. Of course, all this needs be over first.

Don't tell people you are sending me nude selfies, tell people you are sending me art.

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