Pornography as Art @ The National Library
I’ve read a few blog posts over the last several weeks regarding a pornography exhibit at the National Library in Paris, I also saw the story in The New York Times that ran on Wednesday about it. Today, Littera Scripta posted a great overview of the exhibit, and the current politico-cultural climate in France. The exhibit, bathed in red lighting, is entitled “Hell at the Library Eros in Secret,” it includes hundreds of pornographic literary works, including those by Sade, photographs by Man Ray, audio excerpts recorded during coitus, silent pornographic black & white movies from 1921, and official historical documents such as a police report that lists all the houses of ill repute in Paris circa 1900, and what they charged for their services.
Library Director Bruno Racine said, “In an era where sexual images are a product for popular consumption, the library has decided to lift the veil on this world of imagination and fantasy,” he added that, “The library is a very serious institution, and the project was done with gravity. But we also perhaps are different from what you think — and there is humor here too.”
Overall, it sounds like a fantastic exhibit that showcases some very rare cultural works. Somehow, no matter how serious it is, or how many Master’s works are represented, I don’t think a similar exhibit at The Library of Congress would be greeted with such enthusiasm by puritanical America, even if the exhibit was restricted to those ages 16 and up. At any rate, it certainly illustrates the difficulties in distinguishing the differences between pornography and art. Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder, be it nude women, crucifixes in toilets, or performance pieces where people walk barefoot across shards of glass as they bleed.