A current display in the Contemporary Art Gallery has raised a few eyebrows and aroused possibly more than just a little curiosity. The exhibit “Technically Intimate” by photographer Evan Baden features images of young adult women in the nude, re-enacting the poses of adult film stars in innocent and private spaces. The idea is to explore and exploit the fact that more and more young women are redefining intimacy by mimicking what they see in social media and on the web. The exhibit has sexually-charged images involving young women with cell phones, digital cameras and webcams.
The debate is whether or not to consider Baden’s body of work as art or pornography. The images are a little hard to look at, and some people are calling them distasteful. But the unease that Baden inspires is part of the point. He wants the viewer to struggle with what to think about the imagery. It isn’t just about lewd images on a wall.
Youths today are so dependant on the Internet, and sex is infectious in social media and advertising. Baden is making a powerful statement to make viewers take notice of this. He is pointing out that women are shown a specific portrayal of the female body in pop culture and across the web, and it is the wrong portrayal. He also makes the comment that technology is injecting itself into the definition of intimacy. “Technically Intimate” sparks interest and gets you talking. It poses the question, “Why are these girls posing like this?” And when a question is posed, human nature urges us to pursue an answer.
This is the route that contemporary art has been going in our era. The idea is that art without purpose is not art at all. Art is intentional; it is the artist’s expression of ideals, emotions and senses. Good art gets the viewer involved in the commentary. Baden expresses his idea that there is a problem with our youth.
In his statement about the exhibit, which should be read before directly judging his work, Baden states the following: “I want to contrast the sexually charged poses with the youth and innocence of the character and their environment. I want the viewer to be unsure of what to think of the character in the image, to be torn, to be unsure whether the character is a young girl in need of protection or a sexual object to be lusted after. These are the issues that the viewer is supposed to struggle with.”
This is his purpose, and it is what makes his work art. The very fact that there is controversy and talk surrounding his work proves that it is effective art. But instead of just talking about what it is, we need to talk about what it means. Dig a little deeper. Spark the conversation about how the voyeuristic quality of his art does or how it does not have an impact. The images and the idea are one; they cannot be separated.