12:38 GMT +321 October 2019
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    Finnish Police

    Don't Cover Your Shame! Finnish Court Allows Performance With Elderly Naked Lady

    © REUTERS / Lehtikuva/Vesa Moilanen
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    In a somewhat belated ruling, Finland's highest court has decided that Helsinki police had no legal grounds to cover up an 83-year-old nude model in an outdoor live performance art exhibit, which sparked a controversy back in 2014.

    The Supreme Administrative Court of Finland finally put an end to the public debate by ruling that Helsinki police violated the law when they forbade a street performance by Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven featuring an elderly nude model, the Finnish daily Hufvudstadsbladet reported.

    The court found no legal grounds for the police to ban the show, emphasizing that freedom of expression could only be limited under exceptional circumstances, which were absent in this case, thus overturning a previous decision by a district court.

    The performance Ceci n'est pas mon corps ("This is not my body") was part of the international Baltic Circle theater festival. While performing in other cities, the 83-year-old woman was almost entirely nude, wearing only a mask of a younger girl on her face and high heels on her feet.

    In Helsinki, the woman was to be put in a glass box placed in the heart of the city, but before the performance started, Helsinki police asked the organizers to cover her up, citing public decency.

    The local theater organization Q-teatteri, which produced the show, appealed the call to cover up, but as Helsinki District Court sided with the police, decided to go on with the show with the woman wearing underwear.

    ​"An image that is vulnerable and honest is made suspicious by a policeman who — without getting any phone call from anyone in Helsinki saying 'I feel provoked' — decides that the Finnish people would have a major problem seeing the nudity of an 83 year-old lady," Dries Verhoeven said at the time of the controversy, calling the police's decision "slightly patronizing." "I think that a policeman thinking for you decides that you would be provoked by an image that I personally consider more beautiful than provoking," he added.

    Meanwhile, Dries Verhoeven is no novice in sparking controversy. Also in 2014, his controversial art installation "Wanna Play?" organized by avant-garde center Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) in Berlin, was canceled only five days into its run. Verhoeven subsequently received a lot of scathing criticism for publicly broadcasting photographs and profile names of users from dating app Grindr, which is geared toward gay and bisexual men, in what was described as "digital rape" by discontented users.


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    nudity, performance, art, Scandinavia, Finland
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