Upon completing the latest music video for our quarantine project, Dark Side Of Light, we were shocked, but maybe not surprised, to see it immediately red-flagged by the various big tech companies for the makeup design I had created with our team, makeup artists, Sven Granlund and Yazmin Vinueza.
When you look at the alien we painstakingly brought to life, you are, in a way, forced to make your own determination. What do you see? Do you see a flower? Or do you see something else?
Let me explain: For "Pull My Strings," I had this idea of embodying an interdimensional being who came from a place where the structural framework of its universe could only support floral/plant-like beings. I designed its facial characteristics and breathing/sensory apparatus based on the iconic painting (of a flower) Grey Lines with Black, Blue, and Yellow (c. 1923) by the controversial feminist and visionary artist Georgia O'Keeffe. The creature is electric blue but has yellow, slit-like, reptilian eyes and a completely different method of breathing/sensing the world around it. This creature, which has inhabited parts of my conscious and subconscious mind since I was a child, is shockingly different from us and subsequently reviled but eventually accepted by the various humans it encounters on its Kwai Chang Caine/Kung Fu-esque journey.
Of course, the blunt instrument, the "artificial intelligence," they use to determine what flys and what does not within the 3 or 4 platforms that matter in today's online universe, flagged the video immediately and arbitrarily decided that the makeup team had applied a gigantic "vagina" to my face. This semi-hilarious, but I guess, reasonable assumption put our video in a kind of nether world as we were unable to move forward with its release until we'd dialogued with the powers that be and explained that the face was, in fact, based on a famous painting of a flower. Luckily, for the band and for all of the people who'd worked tirelessly on the music video itself, there are several websites and art-friendly avenues for partnership and some form of dissemination. But the work still needs to live or be hosted somewhere. To say that this has been an eye-opener on where we currently reside regarding censorship and what is deemed appropriate or inappropriate, and by whom, is very interesting. To put it bluntly, robots are deciding whether or not you, the viewer, get to see another human being's hard-fought art battles. And it ain't easy making a music video these days. The budgets are so low, they're practically non-existent. And then, we, as artists, are limited to launching the work via the primary platforms of dissemination—the very ones who've monopolized modern communication.
I could better understand their concerns if the facial apparatus were being licked, sucked, or penetrated. This could be construed as lewd and inappropriate, and I would get it (kind of), but even if I had intended the being's facial apparatus to resemble a vagina, why is this such a huge problem? Some masks feature phalluses from the jokey to the Inuit everywhere, and it is accepted. Why is the female form so controversial? Do we think we are protecting women? Is the female anatomy too interior, too intimate to be featured? Is the female structure so dangerous, so salacious, that it is still deemed obscene even when depicted as a flower?
I believe this was a point of controversy in the 1920s when O'Keeffe first unveiled her masterpiece, Grey Lines with Black, Blue, and Yellow. Hard to believe it's still an issue 100 years later.