Sunday, February 6, 2011

.Savannah Spirit vs. Facebook: How Fb Censored a Sexy Art Show and Pissed off the Art World

.Savannah Spirit vs. Facebook: How Fb Censored a Sexy Art Show and Pissed off the Art World
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

Photo Credits: Photo still from Jacob Pander and Marne Lucas's film The Operation, ©1995

Savannah Spirit vs. Facebook
February 6, 2011, New York City:

Sex, Lies and Videotape in the 21stCentury and how the Art World is facing off against Facebook

What do sexy art shows and Facebook have in common?

Well, absolutely nothing, if you ask Goldman Sachs. Or at least, that is what they would like potential investors to believe.

Rumors are that the recent purging of all-things-racy on Facebook is due to the upcoming IPO.
Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs and Digital Sky garnered a $50 billion valuation after taking $1.5 billion funding for Facebook from foreign investors. This funding round was made infamous by the controversy and ire it stirred up in the investment world.

To the chagrin of Goldman's clients in the US, the offering was only made to overseas investors because the firm was concerned that “recent media coverage could have violated securities guidelines installed to rule private investments.”

This fear apparently also prompted a wide sweep of content on Facebook, for a number of members accounts were taken off for reasons officially unknown.

One particular victim, whose social networking exile drew a lot of attention and ire from the art community, was Savannah Spirit, the curator of the hit show Hotter Than July:A Sexploration, which is currently showing at NY Studio Gallery.

This incident has drawn so much attention that it even attracted New York Magazine art critic, Jerry Saltz, who chose the show as one of his picks of the week, calling Savannah a “whip-smart curator” in his review.

For certain, the show is sexy. Its unifying theme is “what feels good and what gets us off,” bringing together a group of work from various artists that represents sex without judgment or shame.

The thrust of the exhibition is to show that much like sexual pleasure, a powerful piece of art, can “carry the participant to a new level of consciousness. Hotter Than July flirts with you and f..ks with you, just enough to leave you wanting more.”

Understandably, the show is meant to stroke and provoke, which it apparently did enough to alarm the censors at Facebook to take action.

Ms. Spirit excitedly told me the whole story over dinner last week at Fanelli’s Cafein SoHo.

On Saturday evening, January 15th, the night after the show opened, Savannah was home alone. Prompted by a slight bout of loneliness, she logged onto Facebook to see what her 2,000+ fellow artists and friends were up to.

She was shocked to see that when she logged on she received a message informing her that her page had been disabled.

Taking a big bite of her burger Savannah explained to me, “I wasn’t happy, because I couldn’t get on, and so I couldn’t get off either.”

Later that evening she discovered that her BFF Marne Lucas, who also happens to be one of the featured artists in the show, had also been given the boot off Fb.

Being a woman-of-action, Ms. Spirit immediately told her friend, artist Chris Lee, about this and he proceeded to post a note to the site, notifying the masses that Savannah had been banished from the virtual world by Facebook. Another friend and fellow artist, Greg Letson, also set up a group page dedicated to her reinstatement.

Needless to say, Savannah was miffed. “I was incredulous. Being on Facebook is important to my business and my life in general. And I wasn't about to let Facebook dictate my future and my work.”

Defiantly, she created an avatar for her avatar—SavannahSpirit-wascensoredbyfb, so that she could temporarily reconnect with everyone until this matter had been resolved.

Savannahhad a pretty good notion as to why Facebook had kicked her off, but still felt it was clearly unjustified.

“Marne and I believe that we were kicked off because we were posting imagery on the Hotter Than JulyFacebook event page that was 'sexually suggestive' (Those are F…book's words, not mine). That’s hypocrisy at best, because a well-known pornography magazine has THREE pages on Facebook alone—Playboy Mag, Playboy UK, and Playboy TV. So what's the deal? Where do they get off telling me I’m ‘suggestive,’ when they let Playboy on? How can some people slip through the cracks while others don't? Facebook obviously needs to realize that there is a BIG difference between great erotic art and pornography. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg should come see the show. He might learn something.”

Holding her finger up she added, “And by the way, this censorship issue goes way beyond Marne and I. I believe the art community is extremely tired of people getting kicked off because of their work. If there is a way to figure this out with Facebook I would be game. The problem is, Facebook has us by the balls and we are too dependent on this site because it monopolizes our network of friends and associates. I would consider paying to be on a networking site that allowed me to own my images and say whatever I wanted. Unfortunately, there isn't such a space, just yet.”

Entrepreneur and all-around-entertainer extraordinaire, Splurt Zillionz, is likewise perturbed by all the recent changes that affect the art industry, a community of millions that has embraced Facebook and made its virtual home. He recently explained, “They don’t let you put links up to your website anymore. Or at least now they bury them, so that it is hard to find.” He suspects that it is make way for the billions of dollars of advertising revenue that Fb will garner once it goes public. “They don’t want us putting up links, because it takes users away from Facebook. They even have a bigger margin on the right for advertising now.”

In 2010, Facebook’s online advertising revenue reportedly grew to $1.86 billion, more than doubling last year’s toll at the cash register of $740 million.

Incidentally, last week, a 39-year-old Staten Island man, Mustafa Fteja, filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Facebook for essentially cutting him off from his social circle, according to the New York Post.

Denying that he did anything inappropriate or that he was spamming, Fteja said he has tried for months, since September, to get a response from Facebook and be reinstated, but to no avail. He is seeking monetary damages, as well as the restoration of his account.

With more than 600 million users, who now spend more time on Facebook than they do on Google and or any other website, the social network has emerged as the place to go and be on the Internet. Apparently, it is also the place to meet, communicate and keep up with all our friends as well, and being kicked off is tantamount to, or worse than, losing your cell phone, your e-mail accounts and your high school yearbook.
Savannah, is happy to report that both her and Marne’s accounts were eventually restored, just in time for the Hotter Than July Closing Party, which will take place this coming Saturday, February 12.

The sassy and saucy curator adds with a smirk, “Facebook had impeccable timing. Being kicked off there drew so much attention to the show, that I am almost grateful. If I hadn’t been booted, Jerry Saltz may not have come down to see the show. For that I have to thank Facebook. Their ignorance became my bliss.”

“And in a way, it looks like I got off on Facebook after all.”

NY Studio Gallery is located at 154 Stanton in New York City.

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