"Human life entails, in fact the rage of seeing oneself as a back and forth movement from refuse to the ideal” -
Georges Bataille, 'The Big Toe' Visions of Excess
The female body has been claimed, staked out for centuries; from the first chapter of the bible it is defined as that which is corrupted and corrupting. The word “glamour” was once used to describe the “bewitching” of a man by a woman’s eyes. The repression of the female body (and by the same token, female sexuality) is concurrent with the repression of ideas, the separation of sexuality into a binary system, a system of power and control.
The modern context is an ‘Image World’, where the emphasis has shifted to a mass-production of images through the means of mechanical reproduction. This has altered notions such as the “aura” of the panting; authorship, authenticity. Photography has washed the collective psyche with a flood of images of woman - bodies, faces. The female, through advertising, television, cinema has been, conscripted to the marketing of commodities in which a new process of ownership takes place wherby the female is said to be divided into two “irreconcilable “bodies”; her “natural” body and her socially valued, exchangeable body, which is a particularly mimetic expression of masculine values”
Photography suffers from a problematic ‘taking’: subjecting the subject to a process of immobilization and miniaturization which offers mastery” and “possession” to the spectator.
For this reason the photograph has been described as comparible to the constitution of the fetish in the unconcious - a play of desire and fear fixed by a glance; a compromise between conservation and death. The anxiety between spectator and object is played out in the act of looking. The “look”, described by Norman Bryson as an act always repeated, an impulse to contain, to fix, to penetrate under changing appearance, to hold the ‘other’ at the “table of consummation”.
For women, the issue of creating a self-portrait is called into question by these issues of looking, and the question of how and where we situate ourselves in relation to the images of other women that surround us. Says Mary Ann Caws, “(they) are not...entirely other, nor can we pretend to see (them) as such. We are folded up in and into - implicated - and even tied up by our seeing”
The portrait is traditionally thought of as a “duplicate of a physically stable referent” - a faithful reproduction.
For me the questions are, -where to go, from Feminist “anti-fetishism”? -is it possible to unmask masculine ways of looking while keeping visual seduction alive? -is it possibleto recuperate the seductive image, to arouse the viewer whilst maintaining an awareness of the brutalities of a commodifying fetishism? - -is it possible to reciculate feminine ‘glamour’ and desirability for the female/male viewer without compromising feminine subjectivity?
The mirror implies a reversal of what is ‘given’. Using the framework of the mirror, I discovered a veil, a lamination of liquid holding the image beyond the reach of the viewer, refering the veiwer endlessly to what is not seen - playing with that desire to hold the image. Similarly the paintings insist on the importance of the lived experience - disappearing back into the photograph should any attempt be made at reproduction. It is an attempt to defy translation. To be unique.
“Reality is the apparent absence of contradictions. The marvellous is the erruption of contradictions in the real. Love is a state of confusion between the real and the marvellous”Louis Aragon, The Paris Peasant.