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Nudity in the Eye of the Beholder

Michelangelo once said, “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful that the garment with which it is clothed?”  If you ever wonder why nakedness is feared in society, you just might find out why. Amsterdam’s sunny weather combined with some philosophy lectures compelled me to think of nudity in more ways than one and when you step out in the sun, may look around and think it too.  

Skin
Skin is a thin layer of tissue that forms the outer layer of our body. It is present all over our body and yet we are partial to the areas we cover and the ones we don’t. One might argue that the owner of the body chooses the parts to cover and the ones to uncover. However, some things may just be already chosen by the society we come from. Something so simple and mundane is perceived differently in different cultures. It could be protected due to heat or cold, It could be covered due to culture and traditions, it could be exposed for vitamins; these are all examples of the multiple ways it can be treated. But have you ever thought of it as an instrument?

Art
It isn’t uncommon knowledge that art pieces encourage nudity. Be it paintings, drawings or dance. Art is a living example of how nudity is viewed as nothing but natural. The body, when viewed in the eyes of art loses its primary quality of sensationalism, which is attributed by society and acquires the quality which deems it a mere tool of communication. But what happens when these views clash? Should it be acceptable to move around naked on the streets in the name of art? Or should nude paintings and dances be censored?

It’s all just a language game
Indeed I believe that people see what they already expect to see in something and cannot have a completely objective eye on the reality. What you see out there is relative to your reality and cannot have much influence on how you want others to see it because they have their share of expectations too. It’s all just a language game where words are nothing but the context they are used in and the same concept applies to nudity. Society in common instances would find it difficult to translate the meaning of nudity in art which may or may not lead to artists being fearful of how the progressing society views this basic and meaningless idea of being nude as something is sensational. Can one say that nudity is overrated?

According to Later Wittgenstein, language does not depict reality but the meaning attributed to it does and this is the language game. Like all games, these language games have rules. If you have your own private rules then it isn’t a language game at all. This now means that you can view nudity in two different language games. And the rules of one do not apply to the other. Thus, we make peace with it. If we cannot encourage, we learn to respect and try not to discourage it. It is very simple to establish its meaning in one language game, but its translation cannot be understood completely.

This article may be a proof of that.

Cover: Aleksandra Muther / Final Editing: Kyle Hassing

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