As the official star-studded judging panel is announced for the Guggenheim’s YouTube video art Biennial (meet the judges below), YouTube gets more active in censoring nudity in uploaded video art works. Their passive-aggressive nudity policy and Guggenheim’s refusal to consider video art from U.S.-sanctioned countries like Cuba and Iran casts a disconcerting light on this potentially fantastic art event.

These are YouTube’s vague-ish Community Guidelines on nudity:

YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content… Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary and scientific content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic.

The guidelines make no mention of nudity in artistic content. Yet, Susan Mogul’s 1973 video Dressing Up, a deliberately unsexy reverse strip-tease that’s been uploaded by a gallery in 2009, has now been yanked off YouTube by its censor-bots. How will this policy affect the Guggenheim’s video art Biennial? A video does not have to be explicit to be art, but these limitations are more appropriate for a high school art class rather than a hyped, international artistic event. Will these 6,600 and rolling submissions be undergoing a puritanical purge?

Major kudos to Guggenheim for their jury selection though. It’s a hefty, hip and multidisciplinary cast. Meet the judges below. Links to some of their NSFW and Not Safe For YouTube works are provided for counterpoint.

Takashi Murakami, artist and giant anime boob milker
Ryan McGinley, photographer and prolific disrober of young fashionable people a.k.a. “less creepy Terry Richardson”
Darren Aronofsky, filmmaker and here’s that depressing xxx scene from Requiem for a Dream
Douglas Gordon, multidisciplinary artist and here’re some more breasts
Marilyn Minter, artist, photographer and here’s a partial nipple

Alright, I’ll stop. The others: artist Shirin Neshat, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, performance/sound artist Laurie Anderson, musicians and experimental video collaborators Animal Collective, and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Plucking out nudity examples proves nothing… except that nudity can be powerful or extremely pedestrian. It’s just a tool for expression. Since hits don’t seem to be a primary factor in Guggenheim selection of 200 finalists (then 20, to be displayed in the museum), it doesn’t seem that OH MY GOD THEY’RE NUDE!!!! would somehow pervert the selection process. Will YouTube revise their policies for this project?

Another problematic issue is that this international event isn’t entirely international, according to the project own’s critera:

To be considered by the Guggenheim for participation in this Biennial… You cannot be a resident or citizen of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Myanmar/Burma, Syria, Zimbabwe nor any other U.S.-sanctioned country.

Artistic institutions sanctioning entire countries and denying a voice to people that need it most is wrong, especially for a project this innovative and interesting. Also: one of the Biennial judges Shirin Neshat is an Iranian artist, living in New York. What is her opinion on the art sanctions?

Despite all this, we’re really looking forward to viewing the selected work, assuming it makes it past the censors.

Image: Ryan McGinley, censored