Maschere e Spettri (Masks and Ghosts) al Bosi Contemporary di New York (48 Orchard Street), dal 25 maggio al 24 giugno 2012.
Laura Ann Jacobs and Benedetta Bonichi EROS AND THANATOS
guest curator Renato Miracco Opening Reception - April 19th 2012
LAURA and BENEDETTA/ Eros and Thanatos
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity
People say that most ideas can be expressed in just a few words and that, in turn, these few words can be summed up in a title.
Our daily life can therefore be enclosed between two “theoretically” antithetical drives: seduction / sex / life instinct on the one hand and, on the other hand, loss / transformation / Death, the phantom of Death which for many represents the end of everything whereas for some (luckily) but a passage to another dimension.
Although the two sex / death drives at first appear to be antithetical, they are, in reality, complementary to each other: one could not exist without the other.
So, our two heroines today, Laura and Benedetta, could certainly exist in their own right and be seen independently of one another, but by putting them in contrast, they are given life and are intimately connected.
Today’s topic is certainly that of “seduction” in its many facets. It is certainly a term which sets a situation: men, women and children alike wake up with the idea of seducing, and we all end up, inevitably, by being seduced.
Today’s exhibition is an excellent pretext to examine Seduction both as a protagonist and a victim.
Seduction is Power, and Power is based upon Seduction. To be seductive however entails constraints, restrictions, limitations and sacrifices. But our intrinsic joy in seducing is undeniable.
Let us not forget that a key of interpretation for both these artists is that achieving a dimension goes hand-in-hand with losing that feeling of incompleteness, that feeling that something must yet happen which we still have not attained, which hides from us and eludes us.
Through her art, Laura celebrates woman’s beauty, which is at the heart of her Universe, much like an enchantress who dominates every notion of a male mind.
Many people today are worried about their looks, and busily crowd gyms, buy cosmetics, follow rigorous diets and even resort to plastic surgery: indeed, recent data register an incredible increase in these, almost as if there were not but one model to follow but several points of reference in the – almost mechanic – reproduction of oneself.
Suffice it to think, in the female world, of Victoria’s Secret’s incredible success: nothing shows us better how feminine seduction is expected to be connected to what one wears, at any age.
But narcissism is not at all love of oneself: the transposition of one’s image comes at the cost of the annulment of individual life and its reality in the pursuit of a mythical image which is devoid of emotional content and which has become, just as an Coca-Cola can, but a mere container to recycle.
Although this can be a first and superficial perception, we soon realize that her “sculptures” are full of snares: corsets full of nails, rocks, esoteric symbols, armored and spiky shoes, heavy and stratified brassieres.
This apparently alluring seduction soon turns out to be treacherous.
So whilst we see the means of seduction, we also see the other side of the medal.
Seduction, or rather the means of seduction, is at once heaviness, ardor, stench, sweat, hard work, constriction, and it is the concrete manifestation of what Bataille purports when he says: “Eroticism always entails a breaking down of established patterns”.
Is it us who must seduce or are we the ones to be seduced?
Is her seduction a piece of flypaper??
Moving on to a more cultured debate (are you ready for it?), according to Sartre, reality and the aesthetic experience are separated by an unbridgeable gap: the work of art is in a perpetual “elsewhere”, in a permanent absence, which consists in transposing the object from its usual perception to a new, unexpected and surprising one.
The seducing woman is thus enclosed in a beautiful prison, much as a splendid animal in its cage, not quite a hybrid.
But beware: in classical mythology hybrids embody the man-animal duplicity and bear concepts connected to danger, challenge, death or, at a deeper level, to change.
Often they are beautifully seducing female figures (you will recall the Mermaids, the Harpies, etc.), because their ultimate goal is the death of a part of ourselves so as to lead us to the other hemisphere and give us a new, changed, life.
Is this, then, the message Laura hides in her sculptures?
Is the message meant to give us access to them in order to change our knowledge or perception?? The captivating but precise names she gives to her works lead us in this direction; an ambiguous one, but open to a hidden meaning.
Let us now turn our gaze to Benedetta. Benedetta loves detaching flesh from bodies as if, in her quest for the elementary truth of a human being, the bone structure was more reliable and convincing than any other part of the body.
But what do we see in Benedetta’s works? Skeletons that couple, sinuous Vestals that look at their reflections in the mirror and who seducingly look at viewers.
What is left in her portraits is merely form: skeletons, decorated with but a few jewels and gems, which however radiate a deep emotion (be it joyous, seducing, voluptuous, sensual), which itself, in turn, becomes the main actor.
“I am a human being, I love death and I love life” Schiele wrote when he was 20 – nearly the same cry that emerges from the characters in his canvases. And to whom Benedetta, ideally, replies: “Illusion and matter are my work”.
In Benedetta we see a very careful and formal, yet at the same time perverse, use of jewels and decorative elements which adorn her characters. It is obvious that the Artist, in her X-ray images, puts the tension and torsion of muscles before the flesh, and, with an even greater satisfaction, that she privileges by far the bones, the spinal column and the whole structure of the skeleton to flesh and muscles.
“I wanted to use X-rays to deceive light. What happened was the contrary.. (…) X-rays don’t lie, or perhaps they are another illusion, the disappointment of the illusion that generated them in the first place”. Removing the flesh brings Benedetta to the skeleton, and the skeleton sets her free to express emotions which otherwise would be “polluted”, and dominated by, the full image.
It is a perpetual game between what we are and what we will become, with, undoubtedly, a privileged emphasis on the “future”: what we are is laden with meanings, including negative ones; the future is filled only with pleasure.
In the truth of the skeleton the Artist shows she is akin with the German painters of the High Middle Ages, fascinated as she is by the mechanic figurines of the death dances that revolve in a circle when the hours strike, in the clocks of the old bell-towers of Central and Northern Europe.
Just like in the mechanic figurines, there is also an ironic and seductive component, a playful emotion which encircles them and is at the same time reminiscent of Mexican mythology. There is never sadness in them…: disenchantment but not melancholy. Perhaps, at times, some spleen.
We should note that what is missing in both our artists Laura and Benedettais Flesh itself, the flaccid, solid, rough-handled, tortured, cared for, smoothed down, corrupted Flesh; a heritage, for some more and for others less, which belongs to everyone. Flesh is something extra, something that because it is central to our obsessions, is the most overexposed part of ourselves.
Today’s two Artists point out a scene while at the same they set its boundaries and a trap, because they tend not to hide the expositive and exhibitionist quality of art, both of a pictorial and sculptural nature. Ideally they represent day and night. A classical dichotomy, unchangeable but, luckily, full of nuances. In truth we are trying out a different dimension, and the price for accessing it is the loss of a material perspective.