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BoMu. Short film/Performance Event/Photographs.   


(After photography, short film and filmed performance event featuring a model taken as photographic body, receiving projected images and being cleansed of them¡­.)






Received ideas and the receiving body. And we receiving the spectacle¡­ as the body receives water¡­ a reception where the image of the flesh remains, even as the image is removed. Our removal from the image, the presence of the body cleansed, at once a removal of what is received and a removal in place and time, we part, once removed, in receipt of a gift.



Theme: art as covering, art as veil; so suggesting that there lies a place ¡®beyond the veil¡­¡¯ Topics: woman, the body, representation and art, representation as art (concept and object), subject as object and therefore personhood or interiority and society. The presence of a male artist and female model repeat but also evoke (and so problematise) the typical power relations of what is historically a male gaze. The medical settings (of some photographs) are also gendered in terms of power and authority.


The male artist calls his own gendered subject position, his identity, and the power relations, into question. Evoked are the gaze, the frame, the content relation, and the right to treat the body as a mis-en-scene; all called into question. As with Duchamp (¡®guest artist¡¯ in the art work) in ¡®La mariee mise a nu par ses celibataires, meme¡¯ (La Grand Verre, 1915-23/¡¯The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even¡¯, and the fragment of body image framed in ¡®Etant donnees¡¯ (posthumous).


(Note the image where female model covers eyes/face in the face of artist/photographer¡­ modesty/refusal¡­minimal privacy¡­reference to the interior as sequestered, separate, inviolate?)










The Body as Surface: receiving projected images.


Projection 1: the ¡®Mona Lisa¡¯, Leonardo after Duchamp¡¯s, ¡®LHOOQ¡¯, (1919). It is important to note the presence of humour and parody¡­ most ancient and most efficient means of critique; adding grotesquerie to image acts as an auto-critique¡­ Not least in the ¡®Mona Lisa¡¯ after its ¡®defacement¡¯, or appropriation, by Duchamp (the reference to Duchamp reminds us of his other proto-conceptual art work, as mentioned above); so it is that the projections, the ¡®beard¡¯, involve a double parody (the artist re-inscribes himself after Duchamp in a further layer of parody¡­). The match of beard and body hair offers a grotesque visual pun with the resulting humour as proof of the mismatch of projection and receiving surface, the body in question¡­ so the becoming aware of the layers superimposed on such in our everyday actuality.










Projection 2; Violin, with an echo of Ingres after Man Ray (¡®Countess Casati¡¯ (1928)). Beneath the parody (the ¡®curves¡¯) the question of music in its relation to representation¡­ Even more than the Lyric (a subgenre of verbal language and its writing) the most directly emotional of the arts (here not present in its written form but as symbol: as metonymy, the instrument depicted makes music; or metaphor (via synecdoche, a part comes to stand for the whole). The meaning of the violin symbol. The projected curves of the violin enact the same trope as that of the Mona Lisa and her ¡®beard¡¯; a visual pun (simile, metaphor, resemblance) based upon a part of the body. If more subtle than the grotesque humour of the ¡®beard¡¯ this projection (upon, imposition upon) the body, nevertheless reminds one that an implied comparison is taking place¡­ the ground of which is pleasure (predominantly, but not entirely, the pleasure of the male gaze). The visual pleasure of the shared curves of violin and body, the aural pleasure of music as the expression of feeling. And so woman as (reduced to) place of pleasure (the metonymy of the ¡®beard¡¯ also points in this direction¡­). So the washing-off of these markings both signifies and performs the process of purification from these unwarranted layers.  So ¡®woman¡¯ is not reducible to curves (nor indeed to ¡®beard¡¯), nor even emotion, music personified¡­ A ¡®flattering¡¯ comparison to be rejected because reducing a person to feeling, is to deny what most philosophers would regard as making up the human; reflective ability, reason¡­ (a familiar Romantic, or even philosophical, trope, to vaunt, elevate something as Natural in the world of rhetoric, but to leave untouched its actual or perceived subordinate role in reality).


Furthermore, ¡®Nature¡¯ too, as the ¡®nature ¡®of the ¡®object¡¯, may be called into question, its role in our language and culture also put into dispute by the questioning of the ¡®nature¡¯ (the cultural representations) of ¡®woman¡¯, or ¡®the body¡¯.


Woman as theme: but¡­ ¡®woman can not be defined¡­¡¯ (Kristeva). Woman (as such, in general) cannot be represented; the word has a (general) deixis, but the semantic and lexicological implications are under review¡­ beyond negotiation is particularity (and so perhaps notions of typicality). A given exteriority only is shown, a (body) surface. ¡®Woman¡¯ is plural; so beyond any available stereotype. ¡®Woman¡¯ (usually allied to Nature) here may be read as a figure for society (Culture); the problems of perception and understanding configure all attempts at understanding; we are left with an allegory for problems and politics of representation, of art and thought.


She (¡®the model¡¯) has no interiority, volition, can only cover her eyes; access to interior denied, privacy, refusal of gaze as proof of interiority; an image, a surface, remains. ¡®She¡¯ is also denied a voice¡­ Only the voice of male narrator is heard; so ¡®she¡¯ remains enigmatic, plural. Not (yet) specific, so liable to allegoric readings. This latter point reminds that the allegory taking place before our eyes is also one of subjectivity, of persons and their (here ¡®her¡¯) unrepresentability. Making all suggestions as to interiority and feeling into suppositions and metaphors as in the history of the Lyric (and music, so often allied to the visual sense, yet so profoundly separate from it¡­).


The body as image. The uses of nudity (no tabula rasa, the nude in art history as back ground to any viewing of the female nude in an ¡®art¡¯ context). No innocent viewing. Photography and film repeatedly demonstrate this conundrum - and the problems that inhere when we try (as we must) to overcome the inheritances from the past not deemed worthy of survival¡­ (received prejudice or preconception).


Art as body/art on body. Fashions/interpretations, image/history accretions as false, as mismatch¡­ no longer useful or appropriable? Except in this instance? As part of the putting into question of this tradition¡­ as part of the process of generating allegories on similarly problematic subject matter.


Body as surface. The transfer of images of (a ¡®customised¡¯) Mona Lisa and violin (echoing a similarly ¡®customised¡¯ nude after Ingres) to the body of the model functions as a parody and the subsequent cleansing indicates that this process (of decoration, of a particular manner of understanding) as limiting¡­ as a source of limitation. What there actually is¡­ is to be left open¡­ closed off from popular (or ¡®art¡¯) clich¨¦.


In fact the projected images on the body and their insistence (as an aspect of the photographic ¡®fixing¡¯ that has taken place on the surface of the skin) increasingly resemble a form of defilement, a kind of dirt or pollution¡­ to be cleansed. Having pulled the viewer in with the lure of the body (typical of art and advertising alike) accompanied by the history of the nude and its accreted significations, the critique of its appropriation may now begin. Together with its potential for allegorical usage¡­ as of the allegory of pollution and cleansing of all manner of object, including context and situation (and concepts, with which we comprehend such)¡­










Reflections on representation and meaning, on different languages (visual, aural, musical, oral language/communication). De-inscribing historical clich¨¦s; woman not reducible to pure beauty, or as the ideal nude of art history (as surface), not to be taken as pure feeling, as music (as mindless sense). Projections (as of painting, or spraying, or ¡®developing¡¯) onto the body as a superimposition (so evoking the temporal politics of superimpositions, the less-present on the present, so signaling a choice of past or future in relation to the present; here indicating the persistence of the unwanted past). Impositions¡­ as the accretions of the unwanted. Painting as taking place over another surface, potential palimpsest¡­ Yet what is there to be discovered beneath? A question of letting the surface material ¡®speak¡¯ (which it can not here do, if ¡®it¡¯ did, then ¡®she¡¯ would loose her allegorical force). To speak¡­ ¡®for itself¡¯. Body as matter and body as person, as a relation of tension¡­ (as well as the inescapable tension between what is spoken and what is understood).



Opening shot (Short film and performance documentary). A collection of received clich¨¦s. Artist, (young) female body, moon (with the ¡®movements¡¯ of the moon as periods, cycles, as ¡®female¡¯ or ¡®feminine¡¯; male forms female; male gaze at female, suggest our gaze too is gendered ¡®male¡¯¡­


Including the reflection that all actual appropriations are themselves also individual, so never quite irreducible to a public average; even if partially reducible to context of appropriation and its complex web of power relations¡­ and desires.


Image succession: moments from the short film: (First climax): of music as of image flow, as a parody of image flow (the Mona Lisa and the ¡®beard¡¯).

To body wrapped, sprayed, or coated¡­ (¡®clothed¡¯ in an invisible cloth¡­ the cloth of received culture). Layers of paint on the body.

(Second climax): White-lit studio space; model at centre, object of attentions (of mainly, but not exclusively, male photographers, the media, the image industry).

Open window¡­ exit route¡­a way out¡­? The window, open, suggesting another place another space/time, an alternative. The entry of air; wind, as ¡®breath of fresh air¡¯ after the claustrophobic space of interiors (a simple image, cleanly composed¡­ highly evocative ¨C in the context of the prior flow of images, and, in retrospect, after what follows¡­).

Final: the ritual cleansing. The model being cleaned¡­ the massive symbolism of washing (present in all religions and part of, if not required preparation for, most rituals). The removal of the everyday in its negative aspect. With the artist too being cleansed. Self-purification; an auto-critique; a critique of art¡­ putting its own house in order, questioning the morals of representation of art and artists¡­


Washing away the image obsessions of ¡®art¡¯.










Sound. Commentary/verbal element: language and music as processes in time. Language and music as purification: in time, so subject to change, requiring renewal in the face of entropy so opportunity for renewal. Ritual may not only be a backward form of repetition (of received clich¨¦), but a ¡®repetition forward¡¯, as reinterpretation, re-appropriation, or change. A (Chinese) vase, a container, (a traditional ¡®female¡¯-tagged image, as space) so a (Chinese) woman as loosing the patina of space, the accreted images of history and ¡®art¡¯. (And acceding to ¡®woman-as-time¡¯? The transformation, ritual cleansing as a temporal phenomena¡­).


New beginnings (the text and accompanying images of ritual washing).


Where to find things that are already lost? Where to lose the things that must be lost?


Quote: ¡®The end is my beginning¡¯, T. S. Eliot, from ¡®Four Quartets¡¯.


Music (Ravel); impressionistic, waves of emotion, a little in excess of the image, augmenting and hyperbolic, so parodic - not least of itself. Offering exaggeration as critique; a reminder the received position of music as ¡®feminine¡¯, as pure emotion¡­ And by contrast, Sofia Gubaidulina, ¡®Hommage `a T. S. Eliot¡¯ for Octet and Soprano¡¯ (1987), a restrained, minimal setting of Eliot¡¯s poetry with its promise of rebirth.


General movement: from received material, through parody, to ritual cleansing. What next (what is left? What will the body, figural of otherwise, do?): A question posed, but not answered¡­


The auction, or publicity event, launch that frames the performance event marks it as part of the art world, of the entry of the art work into the art world¡­ Reframes the art work as defined by its entry into the public realm. Affirms its definition as art. Affirms its auto-critique of this institution.


The body in question¡­body as allegory; as woman, as person (inadequacy of relation of image to person) so as allegory of representation¡­ of ¡®art¡¯ itself¡­ also for the social body, the body of society. Or as allegory of itself; allegoric because beyond representation ¨C originating such: both its beyond and home¡­ the question embodied.



¡®The end is my beginning¡¯














Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2012