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An exploration of UK legislation on the publication of film, looking into the work of the BBFC and its impact on freedom of expression and imparting ideas, comparing ‘Antichrist’, ‘A Serbian Film’ and ‘NF713’.

“…an article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect … is, if taken as a whole, such  as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely…to read, see or hear the  matter contained or embodied in it.” (OPA, 1959)

The Obscene Publications Act (1959) is the main legislation used in determining the legality of ‘any description of article containing or embodying matter to be read or looked at or both, any sound record, and any film or other record of a picture or pictures’(OPA, 1959) based on whether material is likely to ‘deprave and corrupt’. If the artefact meets this criteria of ‘depraving’ or ‘corrupting’, it is deemed an obscene publication, making it illegal to distribute in the UK. The description of the OPA is ‘An Act to amend the law relating to the publication of obscene matter; to provide for the protection of literature; and to strengthen the law concerning pornography‘, as it provides a defence of ‘public good on the ground that it is in the interests of science, literature, art or learning, or of other objects of general concern’.(OPA, 1959) This creates a distinct divide between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art forms, where material may contain obscenity if it conforms to the expectations of ‘high art’. A radical shift in attitudes has taken place in Britain, as now the censorship of literature or high art is mostly seen as unacceptable, whereas the OPA was originally brought about in 1857 to deal with ‘obscene’ literature, exemplified in Lord Campbell’s statement;

“I have learnt with horror and alarm that a sale of poison more deadly than     prussic acid, strychnine or arsenic- the sale of obscene publications and indecent     books – is openly going on.” (Thomas, p.39, 2007)

It would be possible to suggest that the OPA is, in contemporary society, mostly used against images, showing a legacy of thought dating back to the 16th century when it was ‘believed that evil influences could come into the body through the eyes, and corrupt the viewer’.(Burn, 1997) Films are not safeguarded by the law, meaning that it can be illegal to distribute moving images – under the Video Recordings Act (1964) the film need not even be ‘obscene’, as all ‘films’ (whatever this word constitutes in a society where most have access to a camera and are capable of producing moving images), that are not classified as exempt, must be rated by the British Board of Film Classification.
The BBFC removes scenes from films in line with the OPA, but also with their own guidelines, including scenes that show sexual violence in a way that may endorse the behaviour, or that encourage the viewer to identify with the perpetrator. The BBFC‘s annual reports show ‘From September 1985 to December 1990 inclusive the BBFC cut 1,661 out of 18,085 video features and rejected another 27, almost all for sexual violence.‘(Robertson, p.173, 1993) What constitutes ’sexual violence’ has changed over time, from the BBFC policy in 1925, where “girls’ clothes pulled off, leaving them in scanty undergarments”, (SBBFC)  was considered to be sexually violent. This is mirrored by the BBFC’s interpretations of sexuality; for example, in 1927, films were cut to remove ‘passionate embraces’, as these were considered sexual at the time.(SBBFC) Currently, the BBFC definition of ‘sexual violence’ is cited as “the conflation of sexual images together with violent images in such a way as to create a connection between the two”.(SBBFCa) This change begins to show the time-based nature of offence, as the former material would certainly be far less shocking now, not only because of the aesthetics of the films, but also because of the normalisation of the acts portrayed. As Freedberg suggests “…the expansion of methods of reproduction… has frequently had the result of turning the shock of first sight into the near-indifference of familiarity.’(Freedberg, p.19, 1989) This sort of desensitisation is a societal fear, along with the idea that the normalisation of attitudes or behaviour, through familiarity with images portraying them, precedes the inevitable erosion of decent social values.

The radical shifts in acceptability of imagery demonstrates that obscenity, and offence, are social constructs, completely dependent on the norms and values of specific cultures. This is demonstrated in the most depraved materials appearing throughout history: the books ‘more deadly than poison’ of 1857 (Thomas, p.39, 2007); ’the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses’, the Venus of Urbino by Titian, according to Mark Twain in 1880 (Twain, p.244-245, 1907); up to Councillor David Kelsey on A Serbian Film in 2010, ‘It’s the most disgusting, vile thing I’ve ever sat down and watched. It was absolutely unbelievable.’(Vass, 2010)


(Still image from A Serbian Film, directed by Srđan Spasojević)

David Kelsey also states ‘I just find it amazing what people can actually get away with in the cause of art nowadays – to me that’s just not art’,(Vass, 2010) raising the question of whether A Serbian Film has been afforded ‘art’ status, by virtue of not being completely rejected by the BBFC, or whether it is still relegated to ‘low art’, since it was subjected to 4 minutes 11 seconds of cuts to secure an 18 certificate. Perhaps A Serbian Film is somewhere between the aesthetics of high and low art, as it was not passed uncut at ‘18’ like Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, which was labelled an ‘art film’, but was not completely banned like China Hamilton’s NF713, derivatively labelled a ‘sex work’.


(Still image from Antichrist, directed by Lars Von Trier)

Antichrist features more explicit sexual portrayal than A Serbian Film, splicing pornographic scenes into the narrative, but shot in black and white or slow-motion, breaking its aesthetic ties to the pornographic and placing itself within the realms of the artistic. Conversely, NF713 was intended as an ’art film’ but labelled a ‘sex work’ by the BBFC, despite being written and performed by artist China Hamilton, aiming to comment on state control rather than being intended solely or primarily to arouse. Thematically, NF713 and A Serbian Film are similar, with both using sexual violence as an allegory for being subject to societal authority, with Srđan Spasojević justifying his work under claims that the film “…is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government. It’s about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotise you to do things you don’t want to do.”(Turner, 2010) Despite its aspirations to show “…almost indescribable and exploitative chaos”(Turner, 2010) through use of violence, the scenes displaying the most extreme violence or sexual violence, and therefore arguably the strongest indicators to the audience that the film has a clear position on the morality of violence, are cut by the BBFC. The film intends to make a political point about being controlled by authority, with the violence being framed as aversive and against the main character’s will, but this is seemingly not enough, with these scenes having to be cut, despite this diluting the content and message of the piece. Freedberg’s statement ‘…it is not uncommon to find that the suggestive turns out to be more provocative than the blatantly descriptive’(Freedberg, p.21, 1989) can be applied to the BBFC’s guidelines on ‘dwelling’, in that films showing more explicit and prolonged portrayals of violence or sexual violence, rather than allowing the actions to be implied, will receive more restrictive certifications,(BBFC, 2009) yet it is possible that this could mean scenes of violence or sexual violence are eroticised or romanticised through not showing their consequences. The quote also hints to the possibility that imagination is more adept at filling the blank spaces of ‘implied‘ violence, potentially creating something more depraving and corrupting than anything engineered by CGI and prosthetics to be shown on-screen.

BBFC guidelines demand films available to the British public conform to portraying a uniform attitude to sexual violence, allowing sexually violent imagery so long as it is unambiguously aversive, in no way endorsing or giving an unclear position,(BBFC, 2009a) even if this requires alteration of the film’s message to show this. For example, despite A Serbian Film showing intense violence in a sexual context, using this as allegorical for something unequivocally negative, the scenes must be altered to tone-down the imagery in case anyone interprets it in the ‘wrong’ way, even if this detracts from the wider points the imagery intended to make.


(Still image from NF713, directed by Michael Stamp)

In contrast to academics avoiding sexual connotations of ‘high’ art, as Freedberg explores in “The Power of Images”,(Freedberg, p.17, 1989) discussions of sexuality in film seem to ignore every aspect of its context or symbolism other than the degree of sexuality it shows, and whether it gives the ‘right’ message. NF713 is classified as an unacceptable sex work because of its fictional non-consensual abuse sequences, with the film denouncing the motivations and context of the state representative‘s actions, while simultaneously conforming to BDSM-like imagery, eroticising the physicality of the actions. This leaves an ambiguous message with the physical actions not being condemned; a view the BBFC is disinclined to tolerate, priding itself on having “a consistent and firm policy towards violence against women, particularly where the violence is in a sexual context or is sexually motivated… We know of no country other than Britain in which such a considered and unambiguous stand has been taken on this kind of material”.(BBFC, 1987)  This creates a hypocritical position where the BBFC is condemning consensual, fictional material, thereby censoring an aspect of female sexuality, while maintaining that it is beneficial to women and protecting them. In censoring NF713, the BBFC creates a situation wherein the film intends to expose the heavy-handed nature of authority in removing bodily, particularly sexual, autonomy from the female character, but the BBFC is arguably enacting this same controlling behaviour on a societal level. Within the narrative, the female character of NF713 is restrained and interrogated on charges of using her body to support an anti-State organisation, whereas actress Niki Flynn is prevented from voicing her expression against State control as the BBFC has deemed it harmful, focusing on its naked ‘female victim’ over its politics, a view Flynn brands ‘patronising and insulting’.(Ozimek, 2009)

The concept of censorship is largely integrated into the British legal system, portraying it as a necessity. Even in legislation like the Human Rights Act (1998), freedom of expression is balanced with clauses to revoke it to protect health and morals. It is partly this sort of legal precedent that makes censorship an unassailable institution, while destruction of other artistic artefacts is condemned, for example vandalism of high art, as explained by Freedberg;

“We easily concur; we do not vent our anger in this way on images in public places.     The image – or what is represented on it – may rouse our shame, hostility, or fury; but     it would certainly not cause us to wreak violence upon it; and we certainly would not     break it.” (Freedberg, p.11, 1989)

The destruction of an artistic object is described as ‘violence’ or an ‘attack’, framing it as a crime. This seems not to apply to films, although there is the distinct difference that violence wreaked upon film is by organisations rather than individuals, and done in systematic, controlled ways, justified by the greater good, not admitting to personal bias, or that the act of cutting film has any of the emotive violence of vandalism. Another notable difference is individual vandalism of art is seen as rebellion, outburst, improper display of unrestrained emotion, and all these things in this context are against norms, values or laws, whereas the organised censorship of film is propagated by institutions, and integrated into legislation, doctoring art in a much more subtle fashion than destroying it completely, changing its content before it is released to the public, allowing little comparison between the artefact in its original state as opposed to its censor-approved form. Instead of framing film censorship in the same way as destruction of other art – as vandalism, as criminal – public fear is utilised to create an environment in which film censorship is elevated to a necessity, through the moderators, viewing films the public may not see uncut until many years in the future, being enforcers of morality and decency in accordance with ‘majority‘ opinion of a public too corruptible to see the films themselves. If vandalism of an artistic artefact in a public space can be seen as a crime of passion, the censorship of an artistic artefact in private, by an organisation, can be seen as a calculated, premeditated attack on the object and what it represents, if referring to its destruction in the language of violence afforded to high art.

In cases of destruction of artefacts in public places, it is at least a visceral reaction towards the image rather than a pre-emption of the power an image may possess, as with film censorship. Freedberg explains this symbolic destruction;

“People have smashed images for political reasons and for theological ones; they have     destroyed works that have roused their ire or their shame… but in every case     we     must assume that it is the image – whether to a greater or lesser degree – that     arouses the iconoclast to such ire. This much we can claim, even if we argue that it is     because the image is a symbol of something else that it is assailed, smashed, pulled     down, destroyed.” (Freedberg, p.10-11, 1989)

In UK film censorship, sexual violence is currently the most assailed theme, as it is an amalgamation of two already hated representations, making it a symbol of moral decline on both sexual and violent fronts. Not only does this often incite the conservative or religious ‘right-wing’ side of the political spectrum to denounce such representations, the portrayal of sexual violence is seen as an equality issue, encouraging symbolically stamping out fictional inequalities, ironically creating very real inequality in using the protection of off-screen women as justification for censoring material in their name, in their best interest. With the government branding potentially arousing fictional portrayals of sexual violence, usually as part of a ‘sex work‘ although potentially stretching to isolated scenes from works classified by the BBFC, as ‘disgusting’, ‘abhorrent’, and one minister saying that the government intends to “send out a clear message that they and the people who look at them have no place in a civilised society”,(Brown, 2009) it is clear that imagery of sexual violence, even when fictional and consensual, is something to be symbolically destroyed. By creating a possession offence with a custodial sentence, it seems the aim is not only to destroy the material, but also to vilify and make an example of people deviating from prescribed norms and values of sexuality.

In a society in the grips of moral panic over sexuality and fantasy relating to violence, it is questionable as to why a work like NF713 was submitted for BBFC classification, when, in considering their guidelines on what can and cannot be shown, it was never likely to be passed for public distribution. Even when considering the Video Recordings Act, was it necessary for this small film, classified as a ‘sex work’ above all else by the BBFC, to be certificated, particularly if it could have been released online rather than in DVD format? If this is not a legal course of action, this raises questions as to what constitutes a film, distribution, and the legal status of internet material not rated by the BBFC. This reinforces a more underhanded form of censorship through film-makers knowing there are certain things that cannot be legally portrayed, or at least knowing some subjects are risky to deal with, especially when submission to the BBFC is mandatory, but also costly with fees per minute of running time.(BBFC)
With subjective legislation like the OPA attempting to control images, film, writing, and sound recordings without being able to describe what may fall foul of the law before an artefact is viewed by a jury, and the BBFC restricting potentially obscene materials before they get into the hands of the public, or the jury, it is inevitable that visual culture will be constrained by boundaries of unclear legislation. Despite advances in technology enhancing the prospects for creativity and sharing ideas, laws like the Video Recordings Act prove a barrier for smaller film-makers, and the OPA still tries to dictate boundaries of taste and decency in a society where competing and conflicting ideologies make consensus difficult.

As David Francis asks; “Does no-one appreciate that film and television will become the source materials for the study of twentieth century life, manners and artistic achievement?”  (BFI, p.21, 1986) Perhaps this very idea is the reason challenging materials that do not comply in transmitting the ‘right’ message are symbolically annihilated, destroying the place of the image, and message, in Britain’s cultural history, attempting to deny images, and views, that conflict with maintaining control over representations that can no longer unanimously be deemed ‘obscene.’

Bibliography

Books

BBFC (1987), Annual Reports and Accounts For 1987, London.

FRANCIS, D. (1986) quoted in Film and Television Yearbook 1986, BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE, London.

FREEDBERG, D. (1989) The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response, University of Chicago Press.

ROBERTSON, J. (1993) The Hidden Cinema: British Film Censorship in Action, 1913-1975, Routledge.

THOMAS, D. (2007) Freedom’s Frontier: Censorship in Modern Britain, John Murray Publishers, University of California.

TWAIN, M. (1880) A Tramp Abroad, American Publishing Company.

Films

STAMP, M. (2009) NF713 (Enemy of the State), 81 minutes, Mista Solutions (Unreleased)
[still image available online, http://melonfarmers.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/i-am-not-a-numberbbfc-bans-bdsm-video-nf713/)

SPASOJEVIC, S. (2010)    A Serbian Film, 110 minutes, Invincible Films.
[still image available online, http://fntboyblue.tumblr.com/post/811419058/a-serbian-film)

VON TRIER, L. (2009) Antichrist, 103 minutes, Artificial Eye (United Kingdom).
[still image available online, http://www.clevescene.com/reel-cleveland/archives/2009/11/13/reviews-of-the-new-films-opening-at-the-cedar-lee)

Internet Resources

BBFC (2009), BBFC Classification Guidelines 2009, available online http://www.bbfc.co.uk/download/guidelines/BBFC%20Classification%20Guidelines%202009.pdf [accessed 12/10]
(2009a) NF713 Rejected by the BBFC, available online http://www.bbfc.co.uk/website/Classified.nsf/0/F8B581E9BA5395398025758D003FB270?OpenDocument [accessed 12/10]

BBFC (2010), BBFC Cuts A Serbian Film and Remake of I Spit On Your Grave, 26th August 2010. Available online  http://www.bbfc.co.uk/press/newsreleases/bbfc-cuts-a-sernian-film-and-remake-of-i-spit-on-your-grave [accessed 12/10]

BBFC, DVD/Blu-Ray Feature and Trailer Standard Fee, available online http://www.bbfc.co.uk/customers/video/fees [accessed 12/10]

BURN, G. (1997) The Hand That Rocked The Academy, The Guardian, 6th September 1997. Available online http://www.whitecube.com/artists/harvey/texts/97/ [accessed 12/10]

FLYNN, N. (2009) quoted in British Film Board Rejects ‘Disturbing’ Sexual Torture Film: Is Obscenity Law Undermined by Extreme Porn?, OZIMEK, J. The Register, 8th April 2009. Available online http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/08/bbfc_extreme_film_legal_paradox/print.html [accessed 12/10]

Human Rights Act (1998), available online at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/contents [accessed 12/10]

KELSEY, D. (2010) quoted in
A Serbian Film can be shown at British Horror Film Festival in Bournemouth, VASS, M., 22nd October 2010. Available online http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/districts/bournemouth/8468460.___Disgusting_and_vile____film_can_be_shown_in_Bournemouth/ [accessed 12/10]

MACASKILL, K. (2009) quoted in Shock of the Sick Websites which Seek to Glorify Rape, BROWN, A., Daily Record, 19th January 2009. Available online http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/editors-choice/2009/01/19/shock-of-the-sick-websites-which-seek-to-glorify-rape-86908-21052717/ [accessed 12/10]

Obscene Publications Act (1959), available online at http://www.statutelaw.gov.uk/content.aspx?activeTextDocId=1128038 [accessed 12/10]

SBBFC, History of Film Classification and Censorship in the UK Timelines, available online http://www.sbbfc.co.uk/Timeline [accessed 12/10]

SBBFCa, Tough to Watch – Sexual Violence, available online  http://www.sbbfc.co.uk/articles/site/ToughToWatch [accessed 12/10]

SPASOJEVIC, S.  (2010) quoted in The View London Review: A Serbian Film, TURNER, M., 9th October 2010. Available online http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/films/a-serbian-film-film-review-35519.html [accessed 12/10]

Posted on: January 11, 2011

Sometimes I actually want to be the sort of person who is positive and healthy and normal, just because it would make everything so much easier, if I could actually be  that instead of being this and wanting to be that. Doing things because they’re easier isn’t really a good reason to do things though, and with this I don’t really think it’s possible. Like, it’s easier to comply, do what you’re told, not make a fuss, and have all those sort of experiences at university prepare you for later life. You don’t have to conform in this way in order to live, but it makes it easier. You’ll have less problems if you behave in this way – society is set out to favour people who conform to social norms and values, and you’ll meet less resistance if you just bloody well behave, but you don’t have to. There’s incitement to, encouragement to, and aversion to not to, but you can try to behave differently if you really want to. I always had a theory that this university was intentionally bad in order to prepare you for how incredibly dickish everyone in your everyday life outside of education would be, but I never thought they’d actually advertise this themselves. Like being told that having staff say inappropriate, unacceptable, unprofessional things to me should make me stand up for myself more, and that will prepare me for life outside of university. Of course I think that’s meant as university teaching me to stand up for myself, but it more comes across that authority will bully you, and if you don’t stand up to them, then it’s your fault they’re bullying you. Even as they’re demanding someone stand up for themselves, they’re implying you’re a pushover because you didn’t realise that you’d been treated significantly badly enough to complain, because other authority denied it was a problem, and that made you think it was considered acceptable behaviour. So, the moral is, when authority tells you to stand up for yourself, you may stand up for yourself.

Part of the issue here is that I feel like I’ve been treated badly by a couple of different staff at my uni for different reasons, but that my principles on freedom of expression stretch so far as to think that it’s within their rights to behave like this. Even when it’s someone using personal insults, being aggressive in debating, and trying to impose personal morals on students, I feel that they should be able to act in that way, even though it made me feel terrible at the time. This is the difficult thing – I know that I am willing to put up with more of this sort of treatment because I dont want to silence anyone or get anyone into trouble for the things they think. That would be totally against everything I believe. And it makes it really complicated, because I’m really angry about how I’ve been treated, and I want it validated by the university, but at the same time, I dont want any change implemented through force. I filled in a feedback sheet today, and was obviously very negative because that’s how I feel. I also couldnt help writing how I felt about one particular lecturer, although I do feel that I was somewhat fair in saying that he was absolutely terrible in one-on-one sessions, but is a decent lecturer, because, on some level, he is. He’s not especially good – he repeats things, he’s very self-indulgent, he doesn’t allow anyone else an opportunity to think (edit: *talk*… interesting mistake there) and undermines people in discussions awfully, but, in comparison to the rest of the lecturing staff, his lectures are a dream because at least they have the potential of being indepth and interesting and about something. I wish I’d actually had more space to write proper comments, because I feel bad about writing such negative things and not having the relevant room to fully explain everything. I’d like to meet with someone just to talk about the issues I have with the course and the staff, but I feel like it’s my fault that I feel so badly about it. I feel as though there must be something inherently in my character that either provokes people to treat me like I’m worthless, or that I’m just too oversensitive. I realise that it’s not just me that is treated disrespectfully, but maybe other people dont care about it. I’m also not sure if there’d be any point in discussing any of this, because I’m not making a complaint. I hate how the course is run, I think it’s dull and unengaging and vague – there is no organisation, but then there’s nothing to organise because the course is just “do what you want”, which is great for someone like me because I really cant be bothered with working on things that I dont feel I have a strong engagement with, but it just means that there really isnt anything in the course for me to connect with. I like having discussions with staff or students about work or issues or whatever, but because it’s an art course, no one really has much understanding of what anyone else is doing because people are making work about things specific to what they’re interested in. And obviously the staff are often rude and overbearing. The ones that arent can be really nice, and I felt bad for still giving them negative reviews, but just because they’re nice people doesnt mean that they’re good lecturers. I think perhaps I’m overly critical – it’s welcome to find anyone at the school that isn’t a complete self-serving egomaniac, so nice but not good at lecturing is a definite improvement.

I think it’s probably fair to say that this isnt the right course for me. It was probably a mistake to take it, but I didnt realise it at the time, but at least it’s giving me a learning experience, and hopefully I’ll end up with a degree at the end of it. I think despite this not being the right choice of course for me, my reasons for seeing it negatively arent necessarily just because I’m not liking the course. I can see a lot of things that are really obviously wrong, and that a lot of people feel similarly about, but the uni seems so defensive about everything that it feels like there’s no point in pointing these sort of things out, seeing as the default position is “we’re not the problem, it must be you.”

Lots of things to worry about in the near future, mostly about university, seeing as I have an exhibition in the next few weeks that I haven’t even thought about yet. And probably won’t bother to think about, if I’m going to be honest. I’m not very good at all the things my university prizes – collaborating, playing along nicely, working as a team – so the idea of a collaborative exhibition is hell. I’m used to having to work with other people to set up exhibition spaces, and last time I had to do this I did have big problems with it, which I’m not sure I ever blogged about because I felt so bad about getting so angry about it. Basically, I waited to set up my exhibition space for 4 hours, because I had to wait for the cooperation of one of the most stupid girls I have ever met. I’m sure she has lots of good qualities, but courtesy and consideration are not her strong points. I’m by no means the most practical of people, but at least I make up for that in my absolute terror of inconveniencing other people. She had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but made no effort to not fuck things up for everyone else around her. I waited for her to move her work off the wall I had been assigned – as I said, I waited 4 hours. When she finally started doing this – because I politely (or at least restrain-edly) told her multiple times that I could not do anything to set up my work until she had moved her stuff – she explained that she hadn’t been able to move her pictures off the wall because she was waiting for the paint on her new wall to dry. She couldn’t move the things to the next wall, it wasn’t ready yet. When it was ready, she proceeded to move each image (there were probably about 15) separately, peeling them off the wall, removing the blue-tac, then putting them up on the new wall, in their right positions, across the other side of the room. It was so frustrating to watch I had to go and pace around the corridor and stand in the stairwell to compose myself, going back every 10 minutes of so to check whether she was done yet. I made a point of not bothering to help her move the giant bedframe I’d propped against the wall, because I wanted to test out what it felt like to know that I was doing something completely inconsiderate, but ignore social convention and do it anyway. Turns out, after 4 hours of wanting to shake sense into this girl, it doesn’t feel so bad to be incredibly rude. I also have to add that all of the pictures were of ponies, which I could at least find entertaining, because I was having to wait 4 hours for a blonde to move her pictures of puppies and ponies. The only thing I liked about her work was something she hadn’t even made – it amazes me that putting your horseriding uniform on a mannequin and having a saddle on a table counts as art. That sounds terrible, because I realise that anything and everything can be considered art, but I wouldn’t say that it’s good art, or that she counts as the artist.

Anyway, that story aside, I now have to deal with this, but on a presumably even worse level, as it’s not just collaborating to put things up on a wall, it’s collaborating to create the work. It’s a project that the lecturers haven’t decided whether they are marking or not, which seems highly unethical to me, not knowing whether this counts to my degree or not, but feels pretty pointless anyway. I chose a group that I thought I’d be able to work with, and probably would have been able to when I was the most dominant person in the room. When I was there, we all decided that there was no point deviating completely from our individual practices – we would gain nothing by doing something totally unrelated, and our work linked thematically to each others’ anyway. The week I’m not there, this all changes and becomes very “yes, sir, no, sir”, and the lecturer that they’d been saying wasn’t worth trying to please last week becomes the source of all wisdom, and we all rejoice that he is “very excited” about the project, which feels like was probably his idea, but he’s managed to convince the group that it was their very clever original idea. I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I can’t help being a bit cynical about people who can change their minds and principles that quickly. Of course there’s the high possibility that when I was there, it was just that I was being controlling enough to direct them to believe what I was saying, but then I don’t like how fickle they are in switching to listen to someone else 😉

But yes, so now I’m stuck having to create an exhibition, where the premise is that there are 6 of us with different styles of working, we get to collaborate, and not think about what we’re doing. The week I was there, we were planning to find our own space and work out where would be best for us to exhibit, but then it changes to letting the grown-ups assign us a space and we have to adapt to what the adults give us. That’s the idea. To be honest, when I first read all of this, it confused me so much I felt as though I was losing my mind. I literally don’t understand how you can create art based on a space, with no other theme or idea. I haven’t seen every room in my university, but I’m going to guess that they’re not really too too different. They have walls and floors and ceilings, and maybe some stuff in them. That’s it. How exactly are you meant to make something interesting in response to that, without having something else to work with?

To me, this feels like being put on a different course, or at least going back to the very beginning when I still reluctantly tried to take part in group projects, even though they were obviously completely pointless. It’s just a scaled up version of the first week of university, being given a group of strangers and told to make things out of balloons. It only looks slightly more credible because of the lack of balloons.

I also have to mention that the posters and invitations highlight and advertise that the piece is going to have “no forethought”, like it’s a good thing. I don’t know whether this is just what contemporary art is like now, or whether it’s that it’s meant to sound clever and not actually intended to read like that. Doesn’t really matter I suppose. I think it sounds terrible academically, but I find it so funny that I can’t bring myself to point it out and risk having it changed.

Just as a quick follow-up to my posts on the ‘opt-in’ system…

MP Claire Perry actually posted this on her twitter page, unless we have someone very cleverly pretending to be Claire Perry to discredit her and her ideas.

“100% of negative or abusive commentary about opt in system for internet porn is from the chaps. Women 100% positive (so far)”

Yep, I’m not even kidding. This is the level of thinking from the person proposing this idea. ‘Negative’ (not agreeing) and ‘abusive’ comments can be put into the same category, and that they must have been from men. Uhm… has every negative (read ‘abusive’…) commentor left a scan of their birth certificate, or perhaps a photo of their passport next to their cock, on Claire Perry’s website? It’s nicely convenient to think that all the negative commentors are men. Men watch porn, so of course they’re going to defend their filthy habit. All us lovely delicate feminine beings of course agree with our female politician, invariably representing our views and interests, because our ideas are dictated by our genitals. Not that the whole country is still pretty repressed about sexuality, in part because of ridiculous laws like this, and the restriction of material from adults, and that women are probably still likely to feel ashamed about this sort of thing. If we’re trying to shame everyone about it, and views on female sexuality are still really, really outdated (as a clear example, female ejaculation still classified as urination under BBFC guidelines, and urination being ‘obscene’ under the OPA), then is it any surprise women aren’t defending something that they’re told is disgustingly anti-female, they’re exploited by it, they’re internalising…?

I have no idea how to use Twitter, so I’m at least going to put up a clear record here – I am female and I oppose this disgusting, draconian legislation.

A London borough is proposing to stop licensing sex establishments (sex shops, sex cinemas and ‘sex entertainment venues’), and not provide relicensing to businesses that already exist in the area.

http://www.melonfarmers.co.uk/ssnews10d.htm#Moral_Expectations_6187

If you want to express your views on this, you can find an online survey on this page – http://www.hackney.gov.uk/3450.htm The consultation is open to anyone, until December 13th.

—————————————————————————————–

1. Do you have any objections to the following types of Sex Establishments?
Yes    No    Don’t know
Sex Cinemas
Sex Shops
Sexual Entertainment Venues i.e. lap and erotic dancing venues)

Please give reasons for your answers

I have no problems with any of these establishments because I don’t see that there is anything wrong with them – they sell sexual entertainment, and why should that form of leisure be discriminated against? Also, there’s the more important issue of the people involved in these businesses, who choose to work in sex establishments, and it should be their choice and opportunity to be employed here. Britain still has outdated morals to sex, particularly anything to do with commercial sex, and therefore there are so many measures in place that prevent people who do not want to be involved in these establishments from having to have anything to do with them. Sex shops and Sexual Entertainment venues tend to be plain (I dont know whether this is a legal requirement), to the point where it’s difficult to even ascertain whether these establishments are sexual at all. The only objections I can see that people would have are moral, which should never be included in policy making seeing as this is going to affect the real lives and careers of people and this cannot be done according to subjective ideas of morality; alternatively, misinformation based around ideas that all sex establishments are fronts for prostitution and trafficking, which ignores the diversity of the industry in favour of reactionary stereotyping creating stigma for those who work in these places; or simply that these sort of establishments are unsightly and send the wrong message, which means removing peoples’ businesses because some people object to them. Personally, I dont see why it should matter if people object to these establishments – some people object to McDonalds or Primark because they ‘lower the tone’ of places, but that doesnt mean that they shouldnt be allowed to operate, as people who don’t want to make use of the services aren’t forced to.

2. Do you agree with a Policy that the appropriate number of sex cinemas in each of its wards is nil?   Yes    No    Don’t know
Please give reasons for your answer.

I think that just reading the reasons for the ‘nil policy’ show why it isn’t appropriate, for any of the establishments.
“• Hackney’s strategic vision for the borough in 2018:
– an aspirational, working borough, a vibrant part of this world city, renowned for its innovative and creative economy; a place that values the diversity of its neighbourhoods, and makes the most of their links across the globe to enrich the economic and social life of everyone who lives in the borough”

Using ideas like this to try to force businesses out of the borough hardly gives credibility to it having an innovative creative economy, or valuing diversity, seeing as it’s seeking to destroy a part of its economy and choice for people to enrich their social lives by getting rid of something that symbolically disagrees with the image it is trying to produce.

3. Do you agree with a Policy that the appropriate number of sex shops in each of its wards is nil?   Yes     No    Don’t know
Please give reasons for your answer.

I see no difference between the licensing of sex cinemas, sex shops and sex cinemas, so please take the reasons for disagreement as applying to all of them.

The consultation says that it wants the borough to be
“a green, cosmopolitan part of London with safe, strong and cohesive communities, and a shared sense of fairness, citizenship and social responsibility.”

I’m unaware of how a policy of denying businesses and people the right to their livelihood creates a sense of fairness, citizenship or social responsibility, unless the people working in these establishments are considered to be less worthy of these goals than the rest of the community that the council are trying to impress. It’s possible that removing these businesses would create cohesion between the parts of the community that reject these establishments, but it can hardly be seen as fair to people being forced out of their businesses because what they sell doesn’t meet the standards of acceptability of people who have absolutely nothing to do with their work, and who don’t have to be in any way involved in it.

4. Do you agree with a Policy that the appropriate number of sexual entertainment venues (such as lap and erotic dancing venues)in each of its wards is nil?   Yes     No     Don’t know
Please give reasons for your answer.

Sexual Entertainment venues always seem to be challenged by some parts of communities under the guise that they will encourage prostitution or trafficking or sex crime, but there has been no evidence for this, and it is just a reactionary section of a community wanting to control what other people are allowed to do, for work or pleasure, and even when a club does open in a community and no harmful effects are seen, the stereotyping doesn’t disappear because people are so set in the idea that they are inherently negative. Just as a personal note, a lapdancing club opened in my hometown, and there was outrage from some of the community, but, had it not been for all of the petitioning and negative publicity surrounding it, most people would not have even known that it existed, or that it was any different to the regular nightclubs in the area.

5. Are there any other comments you wish to make about the Policy?

I can quite see that this policy will go through, because once there is any inkling towards sexually repressive legislation, it doesn’t matter if there was any evidence to support it or not. If there isn’t evidence, commission a study from someone who will give the right political message. I have no idea what the consultations will show in regard to this issue, but have the suspicion that there will be far many more people willing to say that they oppose sex establishments than people willing to say that they have no problem with them, perhaps because there is still so much stigma in regard to commercial sex, and sex in general in this country. My guess is that objectors will be listened to over people who are actually involved in the industry and have an investment in the issue.
The policy is restrictive and discriminatory, seeming not to recognise how hypocritical it is in wanting to remove a sector of business in order to help the economy and unemployment rates, forcing people out of their businesses in order to create fairness and citizenship, and creating strong community cohesion by vilifying a part of society that already has so much stigma attached to it (especially in regard to Sex Entertainment Venues and their workers).

8.  Are you:   Male   Female
9. Are you:
Are you:   Heterosexual
Bi-sexual
Gay man
Lesbian/gay woman
Not stated
10. Which option best describes your ethnic background?
Which option best describes your ethnic background?

White British
White Other
Black or Black British
Asian or Asian British
Chinese
Vietnamese
Mixed Background
Other (please tell us if you wish)

11. Do you consider yourself disabled?
Do you consider yourself disabled?   Yes  No
12. What is your religion?
What is your religion?   Christian
Jewish
Jewish (Orthodox)
Muslim
Hindu
Sikh
Atheist
Not Stated
Other (please tell us if you wish)

—————————————————————————————

Feels like there’s no real point filling it in when the document says:

Next steps

Once we have had your feedback we will use this to revise the draft and ask the Council to adopt the Policy formally on 26 January 2011.

So not like they’ve made up their mind already or anything. But still, can’t complain about it when it goes through unless you at least try to do something about it beforehand, if you’re aware that the policy is being consulted.

I just watched ‘A Serbian Film’, and feel compelled to write about it, despite it being nearly 2am. By pure luck, I ended up watching the uncut version, so seem to have watched it in its purest, most ‘vile’ form, although, to be honest, I had to look up whether I was watching the cut or uncut version, because I’m desensitised like that. I would’ve been surprised that the BBFC let so much sexual violence through though.

There was one scene that I’m considering writing about in the essay I’m meant to write for Visual Culture over the next month or so… It was nicely ambiguous, so has a lot of room for interpretation. Early on in the film, the main character grabs his wife’s hair, rips her clothes to expose her, then pushes her into the bed as he roughly fucks her, with her facial expressions looking ambiguous as to whether this is wanted or not. In the context of the rest of the film, it’s more clear that it’s not a rape scene, but obviously classification and cutting takes into account that a scene can be isolated and replayed, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be within the original narrative or context of the film. Anyway, I’m thinking of comparing this sort of ambiguity to the rape scene in Straw Dogs, maybe, if I ever get round to it.

But back to the actual film. It’s just generally very interesting. It’s a relatively slow-paced affair, but filmed in such a way that makes it gripping while it sets up the story. It’s a film that I genuinely enjoyed watching, because of the contrast between the pacing and the climactic scenes – it’s not all horror and suspense. It’s kind of difficult to talk about the parts of the film that aren’t ‘controversial’ for some reason, I suppose because they’re what stand out because of all the hype.

To me, none of the scenes are especially disgusting or disturbing, although I’m pretty desensitised to media and try to have a grounded view that none of it is real. The only thing that ever really gets me at all is copious amounts of blood, just because it makes me feel a little sick, but that’s a cheap trick.

I think probably the most interesting thing to me about the film is that it’s supposedly allegorical about Serbia, which is something that I’m not really going to talk about because I know nothing about Serbia, or that for non-Serbians, it’s about the brutal, demoralizing effects of pornography. Obviously because of my own views, I read it slightly differently, not as the anti-porn piece that some take it as, but instead as commentary on moral panics, and that people genuinely seem to think that the things that happen in ‘A Serbian Film’ happen. It’s back to the Snuff phenomena all over again! I find it immensely strange that people can realise that films are films, but when it’s a pornographic film, there must be some degree of reality to it. I thought that it was interesting that most of the ‘upsetting’, ‘disturbing’ scenes within A Serbian Film are presented as a film within a film, somehow giving them more credibility as a semblence of reality within a fantasy setting. The hyperreality of the internet seems to have created an environment in which people can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, because filmings are low-quality and people don’t seem to expect that porn films will be acting – that everything expressed is genuine.

Anyway, a fantastic commentary on what I see as fictitious views of the pornography industry – the very worst fears of the general public, touching on all of the most taboo issues; incest, rape, snuff, necrophilia, and paedophilia. I thought that how the film dealt with some of the paedophilic themes was wonderfully artistic, but of course these have been cut out of the UK version – a projection of a young girl sucking a lollypop while a woman gives a blowjob to the main character, and the same girl putting her hand on the main character’s thigh as he refuses to fuck her. Too morally ambiguous and fraught with myths that children want abuse, it would seem.

(Image from ‘A Serbian Film’. Tell me this screenshot isn’t artistic/erotic…)

As I was watching it, I also couldnt help but think that isolating many of the scenes within the film would be a criminal offense under the Extreme Pornography Act. I wonder whether isolating a scene that’s sexually violent but not explicitly extremely violent would mean that it was illegal, or whether it could become illegal because of it’s original context in the film. For example, isolate the scene where a woman is shackled to a bed and fucked, before it becomes graphically violent, and could that still be extreme pornography, perhaps just because of the narrative in the original film, even if the violence isnt captured within the video clip that you possess? I often find that horror ends up filling the deficit within pornography, seeing as pornography really isnt as violent or degrading as is suggested. By criminalising extreme pornography, access to more moderate scenes is restricted, so material that is sexually violent but intended to be arousing isn’t allowed, meaning that imagery allowed within mainstream films, where violence can be gratuitous and sexual violence can be shown so long as it’s aversive, is substituted for erotic material. This is just going to be personal opinion, but that as someone into BDSM material, pornography doesn’t really offer the sort of fantasy narrative of film, and film doesnt offer the imagery of pornography. Obviously ‘A Serbian Film’ isn’t the sort of thing intended as wank-fodder, but it presents scenes that do border on being pornographic, as many horror films do (if ‘A Serbian Film’ can really be categorised as horror), showing something relatively tame in the beginning (although maybe other people wouldn’t classify a woman being punched to the floor, or a woman shackled to a bed as tame, but I do seeing as it’s so obviously acting), that only becomes non-erotic by how much it escalates to become graphically violent.

Don’t really see what all the fuss was about though. Nice to know that I was able to watch something that film critics said they found hard to watch though – I’m all for ultra-violent, extremely pornographic films becoming mainstream, and obviously am a niche in the market that needs more graphic films to be happy. A Serbian Film is certainly a commendable effort at not shying away from showing violence, sexuality and sexual violence though.

Edit: Reading other reviews of this film on blogs, I really feel like the minority. I dont understand how anyone can say “I dont believe in censorship, but… there are some things that just should never be shown on film”. I think A Serbian Film is a fantastic step forward to making sure that anything fictional can be shown. I feel slightly like I must have a better grip on reality than the other people I’m reading, seeing as they seem to be so disgusted by it. I find it partly funny and everso slightly worrying that people are reacting so strongly to it and seem to think it’s impossible to view it without cringing and wanting to turn it off. At least in my opinion, it’s really not that bad. I cringed a lot more when I watched Hostel, probably because there’s not all that much bloody violence in A Serbian Film – the bits it has are graphic, but they’re not constant. And as for the infamous baby rape in A Serbian Film, I have to wonder whether the people complaining about it saw the cut or uncut version. I have the suspicion that the cut version is actually going to make it more disturbing to people capable of being disturbed by this sort of thing, seeing as it takes out all the visuals to allow viewers to imagine what the characters are responding to, whereas in the original version, you see. And when I say ‘you see’, I mean that you see a very clearly prosthetic baby (thanks for clarifying that it indeed is prosthetic, BBFC, I was so totally worried that it was real!) held up against a man, thrusting slightly in the baby’s general direction. Maybe it’s just the sort of person I am, but personally I found the sight of the newborn child the most disgusting thing about it. Desensitisation isnt a bad thing, it really isnt.

Posted on: October 2, 2010

I think that in discussing my work next year, it will be important to give context. It’s not that I have any desire to go around to random strangers at my school and bleet on at them about what I’ve done and why, but more that for my course it is expected that I will be able to talk about my work. Honestly, this course is graded more on how well you can talk about your work than any of the work that you actually do. So it’s important to be able to discuss what you’re doing and why, and a big part of that for me is the research and experiences involved in creating my art. I wouldn’t have any of my new work without my research, both into theory and by experiencing part of the sex industry, so I feel that my work is a product of that and it’s important to talk about that research to ground the work in some context. However, it’s hard to talk to real people about things that make you vulnerable, particularly when those people are within an institution that has a record for being dismissive or negative, and denying you your right to create things that they dont feel are appropriate. Last year, I didn’t really talk about my experiences within the sex industry because every talk with anyone in authority was essentially the same – a conflict, but the sort of underhanded conflict that  tries to assert that they are the righteous party who are saving you from yourself. It’s for your own good. This was the same when I breached sex industry topics – I didnt feel I could really talk about it in my assessment, but wrote on my forms the research that I’d done, and was shyly told to think about the risks, that they had a duty of care towards me and I had a duty of care towards myself. Does that mean that I always have a duty to take the most healthy course of action for myself? What sort of control or authority do they have over the actions I take off the school premises? I’d genuinely love to know their policies.

I find it interesting that it’s demanded that I take care of my physical and psychological health when it comes to the sex industry and the use of those experiences in my work, but the most miserable, soul-destroying experiences in my life have all been to do with education. If anything is going to harm me, it will be my experiences at their university, probably a lot because of them trying to protect me from myself, my ideas, and the big scary world outside of university that ultimately seems a lot more free and friendly because of how tyrranous educational institutitons are, what with them trying to prepare you for the world of work.

I dont have all that much experience with proper society – you know, the bit with proper jobs with set working hours and superiors and all that, but I get the feeling that all education is there to prepare you for how incredibly dick-ish everyone you meet in your everyday adult life will be. So I dont have much hope or esteem for education, work, society, anything. It’s all pretty depressing really. The only thing that makes me able to deal with it is to isolate myself from it. This is part of why I love the idea of the possibility that if I did work really hard within the sex industry, I could actually make enough money to live from it, without having to have a proper job where I’m told what to do by people that I have to pretend to respect, where I have to be blank, emotionless, personality-less, and opinionless, for the majority of the day. I’m not quite sure why people see sex work as such a negative job, or why they see it as being something that exploits people more than any other job. As an example, I was pretty pissed off that the company I work for can debit money from the account that I set up so that they could pay me, without my knowledge or consent. This means that if I misbehave, or someone charges back a show, the money comes directly out of my account, rather than the money that I’ve already earned being safe and them taking it out of my future earnings. I dont feel that this is particularly good or fair, but at the same time, what about anything to do with work or money or business is particularly good or fair? Personally I think that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the sex industry is dodgy with paying its employees, seeing as they arent entitled to the same rights as other workers because they’re sex workers, and to try to force people not to work in the sex industry and promote the right message, sex workers are denied their rights. For example, at the moment, all the money that I earned from camming is effectively lost. I had all that money in an Epassporte account because that’s the only free payment method that the company could pay me through, seeing as Paypal won’t allow people to gain money from selling anything to do with sex. So sex workers are denied the safer option for their money, and then it’s somehow the sex industry’s fault that workers arent treated fairly, when actually it’s the big banks and companies that wont have anything to do with the sex industry that are causing the issue. Like at the moment, Epassporte suspended all of their ATM cards with no notice to their customers, so no one could withdraw any of their money, leaving everyone’s money stuck in their account. This money has been frozen for over a month now, just being given the occasional message that our money is safe, don’t worry, it’ll be sorted out some time. Then the money stopped showing up in our accounts. Then we stopped getting messages from Epassporte altogether. The bank who has all our money said that there’d be a resolution by the 30th September. Nothing. Now apparently we’ll be able to get our money next week. I’m still hopeful about getting it back, but mainly because I dont want to have to face that I put in hours and hours of work that I in no way found degrading, but that I wouldn’t have done for free, mainly because I see it as business rather than personal. The only people really losing here are individuals – I worked for that money which has now disappeared, customers paid money to see a show, or even tipped me because they liked me and thought that I’d receive that money instead of a company. If I think about it, I find it a bit disheartening that I’m the person providing the service that the customer is paying for, but I only get 40% of the money that I’m earning, with the majority going to a big company that just advertises me and provides the platform for me to be able to do this job. Then again, without them, I dont think I could make any money from it, and 40% allows me to continue making some money doing a job that I really quite like, rather than doing a job that I hate, probably for less money. I think it’s just a more direct, noticeable injustice, seeing as I know that a customer is paying a lot of money for a service that I personally am providing, and I only get a small amount of that, even though the company didnt really do anything. With other jobs, you dont really know how much you’re entitled to be payed, as people generally arent buying a service, they’re buying an object (ha, that’s probably what a lot of people see my job as anyway.) I dont think that a company could have treated any other group of people like this – Epassporte has a reputation for only being used by the sex and gambling industries, meaning that it’s not really seen as a big issue by anyone. We’re shady and immoral, so we deserve not to be treated with respect or given money for our work. I think if this had happened to people who were seen as more reputable, the problem would have been sorted out in days rather than months. It almost certainly would have been covered by the media. It feels like we’re not really left with any rights or means of claiming back our money – it’s a big cycle, seeing as we can’t use reputable companies because they wont serve us because we’re sex workers, so have to use smaller dodgier companies where our legal rights are sketchy because the account is virtual and our money is stuck in St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank  (where?!), and then because we’re treated badly and exploited by these companies it’s seen as a problem with the sex industry, so companies arent able to be associated with it because the assumption is that it’s the sex industry that’s inherently exploitative, not that the working conditions and rights are bad because people and companies and governments discriminate against sex workers, trying to force them out of the industry rather than making it better within it.



  • fred whitacre jr: they don,t have any sex invaled why are we so againce children being nude in pictures because of alll the sick fucking rapetist out there children
  • fred whitacre jr: she only 12 but it is not porn at all it is nude only only a sick person would want to fuck her not me but i will tell you the true she is a very hot
  • fred whitacre jr: i see noghting wrong just a nude girl no porn that would be wrong with a child but not worng with a grown up only nude pics of children is ok if no se