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Title: The life model : between nude and naked
Authors: Sant Cassia, Paul
Keywords: Nude in art
Art, Modern -- 21st century -- Exhibitions
Nude in art -- Exhibitions
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: Malta : Council for Culture & the Arts
Citation: Sant Cassia, P. (2009). The life model: between nude and naked. The Life Model Exhibition, Valletta. 1-7.
Abstract: Our human evolution and cultural variability is manifest and realized through our bodies. From an evolutionary perspective we are the tool wielding, hairless, ‘naked ape’ who developed clothing as an adaptive device enabling us colonize the whole globe from our African origins. From a cultural perspective our bodies are decorated and clothed to communicate signs and properties: of gender, age, sexual attractiveness, status, and wealth. Of all the species, humans have made their bodies as a result of evolutionary processes, cultural decisions, and applied techniques. Both ‘naked’ and even more so ‘the nude’ are specifically human cultural constructs. Strictly speaking, other animals are neither naked’, and even less so ‘nude’ – only humans are. And within our western Judeo-Christian tradition (though not for the Greeks) ‘naked’ is something ‘minus’; ‘nude’ is something ‘plus’ – which helps explain why the Renaissance, which drew upon ancient Greco-Roman models, re-discovered the nude attaching the definitive article ‘the’ to the condition of nakedness and thus re-creating ‘the nude’ as an object of aesthetic contemplation. In so doing, a long-standing tension was initiated with the guardians of morality, the holders of ecclesiastical and political power, and the displayed representation of the naked body became both a vehicle through which, and a territory over which, socio-political and ideological battles were fought – indeed over the ‘nature’ of human beings and of what is ‘proper to’ humans. If nakedness is culturally variable; ‘the nude’ is a culturally specific aesthetic construct.
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