Spencer Tunick’s “clothed” nudes, a protest against Instagram

The American artist, famous for his mass nude photo shoots, openly challenges the photo and video sharing service's nudity polices with a provocatively straight–laced performance in NYC.

The road to a censorship–free Instagram seems to be still long and windy. 

After receiving countless protests to its ban on nudity (with particular reference to the dullness that hits photography but not art in general, and above all to the misogyny that limits the range exclusively to female nipples, but not to post-mastectomy scarring and women actively breastfeeding), in April Facebook — that bought Instagram for one million dollars back in 2012 — announced in April that it would push the conceptual boundaries of its narrow–mindedness to the area of a less specific, and yet more reductive, “sexually suggestive” contents, letting inappropriate posts be still visible in the feeds but not reacheble throughout explore or hashtag pages.

Although the entry hasn't became part of the official Community Guideline, is clear enough how much the direction taken by Instagram, that started as an app for visual effects and filters and soon became the main tool by which we share our own everyday life, is more and more threatening to contain, control and constrain its subscribers’ freedom of expression. Especially considering that the shut–off procedure of the guilty accounts is immediate, irreversible and irrevocable.

The subject is complex and insidious, but it’s always good when someone get back to hitting a nerve. After numerous artists and activists joined the cause, now it’s Spencer Tunick’s turn to peacefully occupy a stretch of that long and windy road: specifically the one before the Instagram and Facebook offices in New York.

That has actually been the place where his latest perfomance took place on June 2nd, when a hundred female and male models answered his #wethenipple public call and posed for him.

This time though, the work the american artist famous for his mass nude photo shoots (and for his issues with justice) has made headlines for, didn’t include any nudity: performers’ genitals were in fact covered with enlarged prints of male­ nipples with women wearing male nipples printed stickers inspired by artist Micol Hebron's #freethenipple movement, allowing the photographer to avoid both the limitations imposed by the company the protest action was targeted to. An open and ironic challenge to the algorithm that Zuckerberg & Co. have expressely engeneered in order to distinguish female from male nipples.

Conceived with NCAC (National Coalition Against Censorship),#wethenipples is a step forward towards the freedom of expression on the social networks (and beyond, one wants to say) and at the same time a reflection on the dividing line between art photography and pornography and between art and life, on what makes photography an art form and, ultimately, on what art is and should convey.


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