Video artist fights ban on her art

Zoe Deno
Staff Writer

PHOTO BY ZOE DENO | The Hudsonian Student Newspaper

Digital media student Ember Sheffer addresses gender norms with her latest video art piece titled “Human.”

“I make films because I’m a storyteller. If what you create doesn’t convey a message, there is no point.”

Digital Media major Ember Sheffer found her message as she recently made a video art piece about the over-sexualization of women’s bodies. It was subsequently banned from YouTube for sexual content.

The second-year student created the video as an assignment for her video art class and simply titled it, “Human.” It shows Sheffer and a man side-by-side in a dark room. The man has a shirt on, but Sheffer is topless.

“Women are so sexualized just because they have different body parts than men; it’s wrong,” Sheffer said. “I wanted my project to show we are all the same on the inside.”

Hands reach from the darkness and pull the shirt from the man’s head. The hands appear next to Sheffer and attempt to cover her breasts with a cloth but she keeps pushing them away.

The hands disappear, leaving Sheffer and the man alone. They both begin to brush their hands over their naked chests. When their hand moves over an area of their flesh, it is replaced with a skeleton.

Sheffer decided to upload “Human” to Youtube because she felt strongly about her message and wanted others to experience it as well. She was also curious about how her video would be received online. When she uploaded the video, she did not put an age restriction on it because she said she didn’t know how, and she felt like the video didn’t need it.

After she uploaded her video, she was shocked to find that the majority of “recommended videos” alongside her own were pornographic. “Two weeks later, when my video was getting popular, [Youtube] banned it. I was informed that someone reported it for having sexual content,” Sheffer said.

She was quick to file for an appeal. Sheffer explained to Youtube that her video wasn’t meant to be sexual, and that it was an artistic statement. Youtube reviewed the video and put her video back up with an age restriction.

“I would have prefered it not to have an age restriction, but it is better than nothing,” Sheffer said. In the long run, she is just thankful that the message is still being spread.
Before making the project, Sheffer’s class had been shown a lot of video art. Many of these videos contained political themes.

However, she claims that the actual inspiration for “Human” came from a discussion in her sociology class.

“We were talking about social norms and my professor was talking about how it was wrong for women to be topless. I got so mad,” Sheffer said.

She checked with her professor to make sure they were comfortable with her appearing topless. According to Sheffer, her professor said that while they didn’t have a problem with it, she should consider that there could potentially be backlash from fellow students.
“Most of the people in my class are guys and I think that might be why she said something,” Sheffer said. “However, none of my classmates had a problem with it. They all wrote me really good feedback.”

Even through her passion for film dates back to when she was young, Sheffer said she had never made video art until this class. “I want to continue to make video art throughout my career as a director. This class has really opened my eyes to a different art form and that is really exciting.”

It has been Sheffer’s dream to go to film school since the 10th grade. “I feel like following your dreams has become a cliche no one takes seriously, but I’ve never looked at it that way. I have always been set on doing something I love,” she said.

Her passion for film started when she got her first video camera when she was 12. “I just started making videos every day,” Sheffer said.

“I panicked during high school when I was told I needed to pick a college. I didn’t.” She decided to enroll at Hudson Valley as a last-minute choice. “I really regret it,” she said. Shaffer chose the Digital media program at Hudson Valley simply because it’s as close as she could get to studying film here. She ultimately plans to transfer to a film school.

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