By Faten Hakimi, Mar 21 2017 09:13PM
“When woman is made so ‘plurabelle’, so various in her beauty, she is generalised out of existence” -Wendy Steiner
He casually unveiled her, as if he has done it a hundred times before and she felt the cold metal of his watch run up her body. He walked her to the mirror and she looked at the space within the frame; a space that changed colours like a chameleon. She looked at her reflection, unable to recognise it. She did not recognise the fishnets caging her thighs nor the blood staining her lips nor the curls hanging by her chest like an unbroken chastity belt. “Do you see this beauty?” he asked. “Look, is there anything more beautiful?” He gazed into her eyes and saw the two emerald earrings his mother used to wear, her lashes were the black waves of the Black Sea and her bedouin gaze carried him to every city he has been to. She was pieces of him put together, like scents in a perfume becoming visible. “No there isn’t” she replied, “You are right, but you are also guilty”.
He was guilty of an association of ideas. And so are we. We link one image with another on the basis of their juxtaposition in our minds. Following David Hume’s philosophy, we do that not only with images, but with thoughts, sensory feelings and memories. Our minds, or more precisely, our imagination combines ideas together. In the process of superimposing these mental glitches onto our visual field we lose the identity of what we are looking at. We do not take it for what it is, but rather for what it is to us. Our self consciousness and unconsciousness put us in a state of pretence, both a blessing and a curse. For without this confused and chaotic imagination, life would be unbearable, yet the cost is authenticity and absolutism. And this has possibly been most evident in our discourse about beauty.
The pre-Modern art periods idealised the human figure, more precisely, the female figure, as a symbol of absolute beauty. The female, or the feminine, was the ultimate Supermodel, romanticised and idolised as the Goddess of Beauty. As Modernist ideology began, so did the female’s fall from grace. Leo Tolstoy, cast her as disastrous, unfit to endure time, to forever remain as beautiful. Therefore she could not transcend age and death, nor could she be a universal symbol of beauty. And this form, this creation on canvas, that artists have laboured for centuries to perfect was broken down. They were left with a void, an emptiness that obliterated with it man’s identity and initiated his quest to find it. The romanticism of art and the notion of it as the heightened sense of being remained unfettered. But the creation of absolute beauty, the supermodel, once being the form of a woman, was now replaced by line, colour and abstract thought.
“Why, what, after all, is a pretty woman? It’s a mere subjective impression - what you think of her. That’s what I paint, another kind of beauty of my own…[I]n my ideal, I…bring that beauty forth in terms of line or volume” -Andre Derain
The cruel modern world removed almost everything from the female form; beauty and transcendence. And so it began to impose or superimpose man-made elements, fetishes, and fantastical layers in the hope that they might withhold absolute beauty. This insatiable wandering is what French artist Johann Bouché-Pillon precisely and playfully unravels in his photographic work.