While London looks increasingly like a city under martial law it is nice to see the Met still have time for pursuing nonsenses as well as going round looking like characters from some post-apocalyptic FPS game…
There were no complaints from the public when a Mayfair gallery exhibited a dramatic modern rendering of the ancient Greek myth of Leda and the swan in its window.
But the sensitive souls of the Metropolitan Police took a different view when they spotted Derrick Santini’s photograph of a naked woman being ravished by the bird.
Personally I quite like the picture and I think it’s a bit more “artistic” than “ravished”.
An officer took exception as he passed the Scream gallery in Bruton Street on a bus. He alerted colleagues and two uniformed officers from Harrow arrived to demand the work be removed.
“Alerted”? I mean this morning a copper in Leeds on his way into work spotted and then alerted his colleagues and then apprehended a double murder suspect. That’s “alerted”. And why two coppers? I dunno though in the current climate of Olympic and Jubilee paranoia I guess it’s lucky they didn’t send a SWAT team.
Jag Mehta, sales director at the gallery owned by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood’s sons Tyrone and Jamie, said: “We asked them what the problem was and they said it suggested we condoned bestiality, which they said was an arrestable offence. The show, Metamorphosis, had been running for a month and was really well received.”
Now that is the nub of it is it not? Bestiality is illegal though to be fair I’ve always tended to see it as it’s own punishment. But is “condoning bestiality” or indeed condoning anything actually illegal. Or did the cops just take offence and make it up? Like when they made-up a death penalty for being a Brazilian electrician in South London?
The final day of the exhibition was on Saturday and the gallery was taking down the artworks when police arrived. Ms Mehta pointed out that for prim Victorians, the myth of how Zeus, in the form of a swan, raped young Leda and produced Helen of Troy, was an acceptable form of erotica. But the explanation that the picture was based on a legend that had inspired countless generations of artists failed to cut the mustard with the police, she said.
“They didn’t know anything about the myth. They stood there and didn’t leave until we took the piece down. They asked us whether we had had complaints and we said quite the contrary. Lots of people were intrigued by it.”
As I said I rather like it. What is this about, really? I suspect at some level the cops were acting due to the our old friend - the absurd and illiberal Violent and Extreme Pornography Act. To summarize. This act potentially makes almost any image deemed pornographic potentially illegal. Everything from an old copy of the Sun (with Sam Fox aged sixteen back when that was legal) to this rather famous example of Japanese art**. Yes, it is retroactive and yes it applies to paintings or drawings or CGI as well. It is not just victimless thought crime (though it is) but it’s a also a strict liability which means that if a court decides it is Frankie Vaughn or could be construed as such you’ll be taken up the Gary Glitter.
It is understood that the incident was not recorded by police as a crime.
Because it wasn’t one. Or shouldn’t be. God knows. The law doesn’t.
*Or even a passing aquaintance with English law or Peel’s Principles of Policing. Or a Terry Pratchett Watch book.
**A peculiarity here is that this image would be regarded as very naughty by the Japanese due to the depiction of pubic hair. In comparison here it would appear now that a shaven woman is more likely to get you into trouble for making the image look child-like. Yes, an image seen to be of a child regardless of the model’s actual age can be illegal. Yes, the actual age of the model is no defence. And neither is the purpose for which the image exists. Here is a theoretical example. Let’s imagine my wife (33 - but still sometimes gets IDed for buying wine which like nude modelling is an 18+ thing) and I take some foxy piccies of her in the buff. I have potentially committed a child pornography offence even if it is entirely for private purposes. Of course if this photo-shoot ends with us having sex that is OK but filming or photographing it might be illegal if it was deemed by a court as a representation of a minor. The fact that this was an entirely consensual act between a married couple for their own fun with no intent to sell this is as kiddie-porn would not be a defense. This is strict liability recall.