Copyright Chandra Johan
From The Jakarta Post, 25 July 1999.
Abridged and edited for Javafred with the author's permission.
The Question of Eroticism,
Pornography and Art
by Chandra Johan
Eroticism, pornography and sexuality is the latest hot topic. Through the penetration of mass culture and globalization, the definitions of eroticism, pornography and art have become vague and confusing.
In terms of moral issues and art the question arises: Can paintings by both Indonesian and foreign artists portraying naked models be categorized as immoral? Do works of art loaded with eroticism become non-art?
Further, must eroticism and sexuality be eliminated from cultural discourse? Does the portrayal of a naked female or male subject automatically promote eroticism? And can underwear advertisements featuring male and female models in the print media be considered pornographic?
In the world of art, the phenomenon of nakedness does not automatically count as sexual exploitation, eroticism or pornography. In differing degrees, the painters Mochtar Apin, Srihadi Soedarsono, Basoeki Abdullah, and Yoes Rizal (just to mention a few) portray naked female subjects and imply erotic themes, while Jeihan paints a naked female which is not erotic at all. "Seated Nude" and "Red Chair" (l966) by Srihadi are different from Jeihan's "Nude" (l977) -- the erotic charm is more obvious in Srihadi's work.
[The author goes on to discuss eroticism in ancient cultures, Otto Steinert's thesis in An Archeology of Morality in Bourgeois and Post-Bourgeois Times, and generally the relationship between nudity and eroticism.]