Earlier this month, 125 nude activists stood in Astor Place completely naked—save for pasties and large posters, both of which depicted male nipples. The protest was directed by photographer Spencer Tunick, who also took photos of the activists. Amongst the group was Bushwick-based artist, Eva Mueller. As an activist that often works toward liberation of the human body in her work, Mueller was proud of her participation in the protest and shared a link to an article about the protest posted by Frieze, which eventually got her banned from Facebook.
“My work had been banned from social media several times as it involves nudity and questions regarding gender identity, race, and sexuality. I have been self-censoring to be able to continue to post,” Mueller said in an email. The protest was in response to Facebook’s policy regarding artistic nudity, in which they have been asked to reevaluate. The current policy states “we restrict some images of female breasts that include the nipple,” but allow “those depicting acts of protest, women actively engaged in breast-feeding, and photos of post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”
“I feel like I’m speaking into a void,” Mueller said when talking about her vocalization towards the censorship rules. Recently, Mueller posted a photo of her own nipple (which was soon taken down) with a caption questioning the legality of the nipple: “What gender is this nipple? Who can tell with certainty? Who gets to decide? Is it a threat to the public? Does it need to be removed? Does it violate the community standard?”
Her recent photo series, GenderFuck, further illustrates the ambiguity of the nipple. “The images feature gender fluid people and trans people, where the gender of their nipples is inconclusive. So who decides whether those nipples are acceptable or not?”
As an artist, social media is extremely important to Mueller’s career as it helps her promote her new work and keep her followers updated on what she’s doing. However, she’s upset that the large presence social media plays in the art world is forcing her to censor herself. “I don’t remember this being such a big problem before social media,” Mueller explained. “I thought art lived in a so-called free world, but maybe not.”
Mueller is originally from Germany, but moved to New York in 1990. Though she finds New York and Bushwick specifically to be “nurturing and inspiring” to her art work, she notes how the perspectives on nudity differ between Europe and America. “In Germany, nudity isn’t automatically associated with sexuality,” she explained. “It’s often associated with freedom, nature, and liberation.”
Despite being repeatedly banned from social media, Mueller refuses to give up, “I want to raise hell. There’s no valid alternative.” That being said, she plans to continue to push her limits on social media and raise awareness to fight the current censorship rules put in place, “I’m sure other artists have experienced the same [censorship.] We can not continue to be silenced anymore.”
Micol Hebron was the first to digitize the male nipple pasty in 2014 and encouraged the public to use it in their posts to cover female nipples to fight censorship on social media.
To keep up with Mueller and her fight towards censorship, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her website.
Cover image is photo of Spencer Tunik’s Protest by Bojan Furlani.
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