Bleeped: There’s No Sin In Cincinnati
In 1990, a groundbreaking exhibit by artist Robert Mapplethorpe arrived at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and practically turned the city upside down. “The Perfect Moment” was a collection of 175 black-and-white photographs shot in Mapplethorpe’s signature style, including explicit depictions of BDSM acts between men, as well as images of nude children. Listeners at work will probably want to grab their headphones for this episode—Bleeped host Matthew Billy gives frank descriptions of the transgressive, homoerotic works that sparked a media firestorm and shook squeaky-clean Cincinnati to its core. Billy also takes a look back at the sociocultural climate of the late 1980s that fueled swift local backlash to the exhibit and culminated in a highly publicized obscenity trial. This new documentary series explores the battles with censorship that have shaped American law and culture, and the historic debate sparked by Mapplethorpe’s controversial exhibit offers an example of the power of individuals and communities to protect freedom of artistic expression. Throughout the episode, Billy touches on the legacy of those who fought the Cincinnati officials trying to shut down the exhibit, raising larger cultural questions about the nature of art, pornography, and who should get to define those categories.