Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Facebook Project

In 1917, under the pseudonym “R Mutt”, Marcel Duchamp submitted ‘the Fountain’, a ceramic urinal turned on its side, as an entry of ‘art’, for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York.  The selection committee rejected the piece despite the fact that entry rules stated that all entries would be accepted as long as the artist paid the entry fee.  When it was made public that a prominent artist was behind this ‘prank’, it launched a major Dadaist debate on what art was. Today, that work of avant-garde art has been hailed as one of the most significant landmarks of 20th century art because it forced people to evaluate their own preconceptions of art.

Nearly 100 years later, that same debate still continues. Today however, the platform of social media allows for a much wider audience to examine and react to ‘art’. Based upon the viewer’s life experiences and reference points, individuals are allowed and compelled to instantly respond with their own critique. Ultimately the critique will be directly relational to the viewer’s firmly held beliefs and biases. And the degree of positive or negative response is ultimately, in direct relationship to an individual’s perception. 

When a viewer responds to an image, it is often not the work of art that they are reacting to. It is the subject matter that triggers their immediate opinion. Rarely is an image evaluated on its artistic merit: the composition, framing, construction or play of shadow and light etc.  If the subject matter is something they agree with or find enjoyable – then there is a positive response. Inversely, when the subject matter is something they cannot agree with, or find distasteful, (like a urinal), the reaction is typically negative.

I applaud those who have definitive opinions and encourage them to express them. I find it highly objectionable however, for one individual to prohibit another from expressing their own opinion.  When the Society of Independent Artists rejected Marcel Duchamp’s submission, they did just that. 

Today, Facebook has identified itself as the barometer of what is art, of what is ‘tasteful’ and what is acceptable to their audience. It is absolutely within their right and purview to maintain a certain professional standard of ethics with regard to what they will, and will not allow their members to share. It is however, their responsibility to exercise that standard in an equitable and non-prejudicial manner. When they actively choose to censor or remove images of two homosexual men depicted in a romantic manner, but choose to accept images of two women, or heterosexual couples in a similar context, they are displaying a clear double standard – and exposing their own homophobic bias.

All would agree that Facebook should take responsibility for drawing specific guidelines around what is, and what is not acceptable within their terms of service. And their users must agree to those terms as part of the experience of being a Facebook member. If Facebook does not accept images of two men together in any manner that suggests a loving interaction however, they should emphatically state that within their terms, henceforth, declaring their prejudicial and homophobic agenda.


In January of 2015, Jesse Jackman and Dirk Caber shared with me that Facebook had removed images of the two of them kissing because other members had reported the images as ‘objectionable’.   

They were notably upset and confused as Facebook allows an endless stream of images depicting females and heterosexuals in a very similar manner.  As a social experiment, they asked that I help recreate homosexual interpretations of certain highly suggestive images that depicted nude women, which Facebook had determined were not ‘objectionable’.  The FLYFOTO photographs that were posted by Jesse and Dirk, represent this project.

As an artist who has personally experienced this type of bias on 

I have learned that we have unconsciously and unknowingly allowed our social media platforms – to become our censors.  Like it or not, we have permitted Facebook to become our societal judge and jury. And using their morality benchmark today, the Venus DeMilo statue would be considered fine art, but Michelangelo’s statue of David – pornography.

Whether we agree with their political opinion or not, it is insignificant to the larger question; do you want to live in a society where others get to determine what “art” is - before you can choose for yourself? When we surrender this right, we willingly agree to a serious compromise of our freedom.   

And that is a very dangerous concession.

The following photographs were recreated to mimic heterosexually oriented images posted on Facebook. The original photographs were identified as 'art',  deemed as "unobjectionable", and therefore, not removed from the website:

Here are the side-by-side comparisons to the original 'non-offensive' inspirational images that were defined as "acceptable" by Facebook:

 Credit: Best Lesbian Sex In the World: Riley Reid and Cassie Laine (

Credit: Chennai Real Lesbian Sex: David W. Preston Photography ( and

Credit: Unknown

Credit: Lesbian Sex 2: Carli Banks and Celeste Star for Twistys/MG Premium Limited (

Credit: unknown

As for the outcome? This "experiment" most certainly elevated the conversation of 'What is Art vs. What is Porn' on Facebook. 

In Jesse's own words:

Just a quick update... between the two photos (the black and white one where we're intertwined, and the color one where Dirk is sitting on my lap), we're up to 15,000,000 views. They've stirred up quite a bit of controversy, too, which is exactly what we'd hoped for. Remarkably, though, neither photo has been banned. So "technically" the project is a failure. :) 
But it's turned into something very different… a discussion of bigotry, censorship, and what constitutes "art." There's tons and tons of support for the photos, but there's also a lot of criticism which is definitely falling into two camps: the "fucking faggots" camp (mostly men) and the "this is pornography, think of the children!" camp (mostly women), with a sprinkling of Jesus freaks thrown in for good measure. And they almost all have bad grammar and spelling. :) 

No matter how many times Jack and I stand up to the men and remind the women that the human body is beautiful (and our page is limited to 18+ users only), they won't shut up. This is gonna make for a fascinating article, and maybe more. There's already a pretty good article about it at Blue Nation Review 

Each of must decide what is beautiful in our own eyes. 

The Latin phrase "De gustibus non disputandum" declares: in matters of taste, there can be no disputes. (or, more eloquently, 'To each his own'...) Not everyone will agree with one another. Many will simply not even agree to to disagree - but prefer instead, to argue their opinion as right and others - as wrong. 

Facebook and other social media platforms are actively deciding for you what is right and what is wrong, what is "art" and what is "porn". You, as an independent thinker and a liberated individual, have the choice to either agree with, and support their position - or not. 

As an artist who does not - in any way - agree with the Facebook agenda, I have actively chosen not to support them - and am not a member.

Dirk Caber on Facebook:

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