Friday, December 28, 2012

Canadian Makeup Artist Acquitted of a Cultural Crime No One Can Define

Canadian Makeup Artist Acquitted of a Cultural Crime No One Can Define:
Saturday a Montreal jury
 special-effects artist Rémy Couture of
"corrupting morals" by creating gory photographs and short films
for his now-defunct website, Couture was
arrested in 2009 based on an Interpol tip from Austrian police, who
initially thought his work, featuring the actions of an imaginary
serial killer, documented actual crimes. The prosecution argued
that the material, though fictional and produced without harming
any real human beings, "undermines fundamental values of Canadian
society" by illegally mixing sex and violence. Couture, who
faced up to two years in prison, testified
that the sex was merely an "accessory":
I create horror. I'm not a pornographer. The goal is not to
excite; it's to disgust....
The objective of anyone working as a make-up artist is to make
people believe their work. My objective was to create horror, plain
and simple.
Can a man's freedom really hinge on this distinction? Under
, yes. The Canadian definition of obscenity includes "any
publication a dominant characteristic of which is the undue
exploitation of sex, or of sex and any one or more of the following
subjects, namely crime, horror, cruelty and violence." In addition
to arguing that the sexual content of his work was secondary,
Couture maintained that its artistic value should shield him from
criminal liability. Evidently the jury accepted one or both of
those arguments. "It's the end of a nightmare that lasted three
years," Couture said. "I want to thank the jury and all those who
supported me."
I am glad Couture was acquitted of something that should not be
treated as a crime, but the process by which that happened hardly
epitomizes the rule of law. The government said his images were
obscene, and he said they weren't. Until the jury voted on
Saturday—based on imponderables such as the nature of art and how
much exploitation of sex is "undue," which in turn
on how much a community is prepared to tolerate, itself
an utterly subjective and self-verifying judgment—there was no way
to say who was right. How can people reasonably be expected to
conform their behavior to the law when it is impossible for them to
figure out what actions it proscribes until after they've been
arrested and prosecuted?
The same
, of course, afflicts obscenity prosecutions in the
United States, even without Canada's special sex-plus-horror
provision. Ira
, a self-described "shock artist," presented a defense
similar to Couture's, saying he was deliberately trying to
"challenge the viewer" with his films, which featured
scatology and bestiality. Isaacs said he was an artist, but a
federal jury said he wasn't, and now he faces up to 25 years in
prison. Why? Because his movies were, like, totally gross. This is
no way to run a criminal justice system.