Return of the “origin of the world”?

by Yule Heibel on January 3, 2006

I heard about this:

Posters designed by a group of artists are causing quite a stir in Vienna. The image of three people having sex while wearing nothing but masks of Bush, Chirac and Queen Elizabeth is proving particularly controversial. Politicians are outraged and artists have offered to withdraw the two most shocking posters.

Just as Austria takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union, a dispute about good taste is raging in the country’s capital. The art campaign “euroPART” has landed the group, named “25 peaces” and led by former Austrian Broadcasting Corporation culture boss Wolfgang Lorenz and federal theater boss Georg Springer, in hot water.

A topless woman sprawls on a bed with her legs spread wearing blue panties decorated with the EU’s symbol, a circle of yellow stars. A few streets away three individuals are hard at it: their unambiguous, naked poses show them indulging in a menage à trois. The participants wear masks of France’s President Chirac, the British Queen and United States President George W. Bush. The images have caused an uproar among the Viennese since they were put up on Dec. 27. [More…]

What I didn’t know, not having seen the photos of the billboards till now, is that the image of the woman with the “Euro-panties” is a straight rip off Gustave Courbet’s “Origin of the World,” a little painting that caused much brouhaha in its (19th c.) time, too. In that painting, there was just lots of pubic hair, no panties. The pose and body-type were identical, though. I believe there was talk then about how there was “nothing” there, where the woman’s sex is; I wonder whether the present image (with “euro-panties”) is supposed to conjure up the idea that “there is nothing there”? See here for a bigger image of the billboard. If that’s the idea, it’s pretty weak.

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