Representation, pt. 2

(Here is the previous post, which was more about movies.)

I don't think that I'll ever spruce this page up with any pictures (apart from Luigi on a dirtbike). It might be nice, on some level, to have a unique, aesthetic photo – of a naked person, or naked people, I guess? – at the beginning of each post. But, I think it'd be worse than this pared-down, minimalist, black-text-on-a-white-background look (now sporting a few green accents, thanks to the chi.st admin! I never woulda done it without you).

I am not a photographer. Thus, if I put photos on my blog, they will probably be photos I took from the internet. I won't be paying anyone for these photos, obviously, but that's not really even the problem. A more alarming issue, for me, is that I will be at pains to find photos of nudists of colour. I will thus perpetuate the idea that nudism is the exclusive domain of white people.

The representational naturist internet – that is, the part of the naturist internet that is composed of photographs, cartoons, and other visual depictions of nudists – is full of white people. It's clear enough, too, that the institutional naturist movement exists almost exclusively in Europe and in eurosettler countries like Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. Cursory internet research on nudism in South Africa, and even in Thailand, still turns up evidence of a majority white crowd involved in the formal associations in those countries. It is clear enough, too, that there is no open naturist movement in many countries, many of which happen to be majority non-white. Insofar as naturism is legalistic, and insofar as many of these countries' laws and jurisprudence can be assumed to be more comprehensively opposed to nudity in all circumstances than, say, even the United Kingdom (where nudity, in itself, is not illegal), I suppose this makes a certain amount of sense.

But it doesn't explain it fully. The visual representation of nudism on the naturist internet is overwhelmingly white, far beyond the demographics of the majority white societies – and like, I already mentioned South Africa, which is not a majority white society by a long shot. I have never been involved in any part of the naturist subculture (unless my forays onto certain websites counts), but it's clear enough, even from a distance, that there is a racism problem going on that has an effect of excluding many people of colour.

As it is with lots of other subcultures, too.

In anarchist visual media, representation is also a knotty problem. I think that “the anarchist space” is a lot more racially diverse than “the naturist space”, whether at the scale of the whole world or the scale of many local scenes, including my own. Nevertheless, there is still a perception (which is certainly true of many local scenes, and definitely including my own) that the anarchist space is majority white. Thus, there is a question: how should we represent ourselves in art?

I will provide a concrete example. Let's say someone wants to make a poster for an upcoming mobilization that – in the hopes of the artist and their collaborators – will manifest itself in a confrontation with the normal functioning of capitalism (i.e. a riot, a blockade, an occupation, etc.). The goal of the poster is to depict a group of people engaged in this sort of radical action, i.e. doing crimes.

So, what does the crowd look like?

This question is linked to other questions. One that is likely to come up, at one point or another, is about the racial identity of the artist. If they are a white person, is it okay for that person to depict people of colour engaged in crimes? Regardless of whether the artist, specifically, is white or not – or anyone else involved in the organizing – is it okay to imply that more people of colour are involved in local anarchist stuff than is actually the case?

These questions are fraught (like, bashing-head-against-the-wall fraught, in my opinion), and they have the potential to distract from the purpose of the poster itself, which is to publicize the fact that a mobilization is going to take place on a given date.

One work-around, I have noticed, is to elide the issue of race by depicting animals doing crimes instead. Squirrels occupying buildings, cats throwing billiard balls through windows, caribou going ham on pipelines, furries doing basically anything...

But that's not an option for me, in this case. First of all, I'm no illustrator either. Second of all, insofar as it's a non-issue to depict animals naked, it sort of seems contrary to my purposes anyway.

For confrontational mobilizations, it's also possible to use abstract depictions of people, but those don't work for me either. It's possible to just depict the carnage, and avoid depictions of people entirely. Once again, not relevant for me. I think just having no pictures serves me best.

Incidentally, no matter what I think about copyright or whatever (I'm against it!), I wouldn't really want to post a bunch of randomly obtained pictures of naked people on my blog with neither attribution nor compensation anyway. I also just kind of hate pictures of random naked strangers (of which I have seen plenty in my efforts to plumb the naturist internet for something worthwhile or promising). There are exceptions (like this), but I consider a picture of a (probably white) person standing in their own living room naked, or a naturist couple taking a shower together at some sort of resort or landed club, completely unremarkable. It's like a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. It's been done to death. It's not interesting.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: more nudity, and fewer representations of nudity, please and thanks.