TOKYO (TR) – The British artist whose plaster sculpture of women’s vaginas was earlier this week considered “obscene” by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police is surprised by the claim.
“Japan is a sophisticated and forward-looking culture that should be able to accept all forms of creative expression,” Jamie McCartney wrote in an email to The Tokyo Reporter. “The purpose of the artwork is not to be sexually arousing but instead to be educational and alleviate the unnecessary anxiety many women feel about their genitals.”
Shukan Post (Aug. 17-24) and Shukan Gendai (Sep. 15 and 22-29) published color and black-and-white pictures of McCartney’s “Great Wall of Vagina,” which comprises a series of rows of white plaster casts of the genitals of 400 women.
The peace preservation division of the metropolitan police on Wednesday warned both magazines, deeming the publication of the display a crime of “obscene public exhibition.”
Article 175 of Japan’s Penal Code prohibits the distribution, sale, or public display of obscene writings, pictures, or other materials. The code, however, does not define what specific type of content the law constitutes as being obscene.
“The images are exactly that of female genitalia,” said the police in a statement. “The degree of obscenity is high.” The department added that both tabloids are accessible by a large number of people, which means that their influence is large.
The “Great Wall of Vagina” was displayed in public at the Hay Hill Gallery between May 8 and June 2 in London. It will appear at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan, Italy between December 5 and March 10, 2013. A show in Tokyo is now in the planning stages, McCartney said.
“I’m sure that once the Tokyo police are persuaded of the distinction between my work and pornography they will take a more moderate stance,” McCartney said. “This is about the human condition. Sometimes art can be a powerful tool for social change but it can be very threatening to those for whom change is not seen an necessarily good. Provocative and cutting edge art is always going to have objections.”