To paraphrase George Carlin, there's no obscene art, only obscene thoughts. That would seem to be the attitude of Megumi Igarashi, also known as Rokudenashiko (meaning "good-for-nothing girl" in Japanese), who's been in a spot of trouble for creating objects that, in some people's minds, resemble... errr... Well, here's Miss Good-for-nothing paddling her own kayak.
Sure looks like a little girl in a boat to me. Can you imagine my surprise when Ms Igarashi revealed that the design is based on her vagina!
Japan is said to have a thriving and lucrative pornography industry, as well as a high tolerance for displays of scantily dressed women in magazines and advertising. However, its obscenity laws prohibit public displays of genitalia.
So, is Ms Igarashi's kayak:
(a) an example of creative yet functional design?
Apparently the answer is (a) and/or (b) but not (c), because the artist didn't get into any trouble over this piece. Nor did she run afoul of the law by creating the pieces she's holding here.
A Tokyo court ruled yesterday that a set of three plaster figures in the shape of Ms Igarashi's vagina, decorated and painted in bright colours, qualify as art. Her lawyers had argued that they did not look like skin or immediately suggest female genitalia, and the judge agreed.
But obviously something had to prevent a proliferation of this kind of art. Can't have artists doing things like photocopying their nether regions! [What a novel idea! Ed.] So although the court let Ms Igarashi off the hook for her cute little objets d'art, it took a different view of a little gift she made for contributors to the kayak project.
What was it? Nothing more or less than a computer disc containing digital data that could be used with a 3-D printer to recreate the artist's genitalia. Way better than a 2-D photocopy, right?! Not according to the judges of the Tokyo District Court, who said the data, from a scan of Ms Igarashi's own vagina, could be used to create "a realistic shape that could sexually arouse viewers".
Guilty, guilty, guilty!!! The Good-for-nothing girl was ordered to pay a fine of 400,000 yen (about $3700 in real money) for distributing obscene material.
Ms Igarashi takes a dim view of the whole affair. Commenting on the ruling, she told the press "There is very much a male-oriented view of what is considered obscene in terms of the female genitalia, and my work is to overturn those notions. I am extremely frustrated that that message did not come across to the judges."
Click here to see "My body is not an obscenity", a very brief interview with Megumi Igarashi.