Corps étranger

Animism rested as a primitive impulse within early anthropological assumption, removing and debasing any sense of spirituality from the carcass. The hunted, abused, utilitized existence of a living being was lessened through a theoretical trope that could render it useful. Of course, these beasts of burden could be nothing to us, they lack the very essence of being: a soul.

Perhaps out of the will to be greater than the sum of our parts, a distancing humanization is applied to caricatures, illustrated nuances, three dimensional graphic engines enjoyed through the safety of the Greek amphitheatre’s derivational muse, so that we may wear our masquerades in the evenings, over dinner. Clothes can deliver us from ourselves in these moments, casting away the shrill of our very nakedness, our constant reminder that the lot of us may very well have been expulsed from our own perfection.

Drawing from the history of art, the animal and the natural always remain at a critical distance from their representation. While there are rules as to whether the swine may have a spirit unto itself, it is without question that the lamb of god retains its anointment and anthropomorphic character, especially while covered in mint jelly and glazed within the tableaux of posterity. The work of Sarah Garzoni appears to satirize the way in which the living are humanized, but these works contain a menacing undercurrent of anti-representation that localizes the abject to that of an appendage; an open sore of longing for something that can never be.

The taxidermist is very similar to the mortician, both absolve life and append longing, imagination. They enclose the subject and facilitate its transition to the realm of the thing. The artist too, exchanges the interval for the mass and resists the temptation of the monument. To unmake the made, that was the freedom Walter Benjamin found in the work of the Surrealists circa 1929, a freedom he argued had been lacking since the fall of Bakunin.  In consequence, a surrealist object will always demand that we encounter it anew, where in dialectic the binary is reconsidered, perhaps hybridized. Garzoni re-creates the surrealist tension, placing ideas in dialectical valence, leaving them to sway among physical representation and mimetic Nachleben.

Thus, the mould ceases to be the impression and returns to us as a differential copy, generationally distorted from its authentic origin but no less malformed of its structure. In our minds eye, the object posed frozen as if it were still living may give pause in its stasis. The aesthetic moment thereby enters the unreal universe of altered time, altered space, where we at once confront assumption, newness and the terror of doubt. What Jacques Rancière terms “the speculative hyperbole of the unrepresentable”  argues for a logic of unrepresentability that may only be maintained through a hyperbole that guarantees its own destruction. It is the relation between sense and non-sense, presentation and revocation that defines the harmonic regime of art.  It is this space where, beyond the image, an encounter realizes the liminal positions and continued presence of the surreal object that at best, can escape definition.

1. Walter Benjamin. “Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia.” Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-2934 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999)
2. Jacques Rancière. The Future of the Image. trans. Gregory Elliott. (New York: Verso, 2007) 131-132.
3. Ibid.