Without sorrows. Our sins redeemed. Finally tamed On the other side of life From which there is no return. None of that, however, authorises us to award them any special status. To those who approach the work without prejudice or intentions to perform coded readings, all the landscapes are part of the same unreal and detached world in the global village we inhabit. There is no underscoring of any kind of iconic status in them, nor is the intention to capture anything other than their simple and obscene radical nudity.
He takes note of the image, not of what it depicts, but of the gesture of looking at him, and it is such absent gesture that the mirror returns — namely, nothing. And assuming this is to be aware that one must, as per the reference by Celan above, carry over the shoulders the weight of the absence of the world that has departed, even knowing that the loss is irreplaceable, and that one must look from that already other world, which continues to revolve around us.
A wonderful song, written by the Argentinian musician, Daniel Melingo, serves as non-explanatory counterpoint to what we see. The text, more recited than sung by Melingo, in a style akin to the dramatic tone of the tango or the melancholy complaint of a true protest song, neither adds nor highlights anything that is not already suggested in the brutality, on the one hand, of the images themselves, and, on the other, that emerges from the contiguity that joins them through the sequential montage.
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The obscene pose of a man whose erect member emerges from his open fly contrasts with the huge rosary that hangs from his neck. The feet of a body on a dissecting table identified by a note with the personal details, which hangs from one of its phalanxes, is opposed, in its aseptic nudity, to what one must assume is the portrait, in absentia, of a stranger, reduced to a mere name that no longer refers to anyone or anything real. Opposite ends meet. The image is explicit: a young man, dressed in a bathrobe, whose countenance suggest an unimaginable physical decline, is before the lens.
He holds a baby with his right arm, level with his waist. All of that, however, does not end up building a tale, but an enormous question without an answer. In this context, the photographs would be but the place where to inquire, to try and find it. The big question, however, is not, what happened?
Nor is it, who was I? Or better still, who am I? Asking this question would take us into the field of psychology or psychoanalysis, namely, it would take us backwards, to the root, the infancy or, at the very least, the past, seeking to locate the origin of our true desire. At stake here is not the identity of a stable character, but the notion of stability of the character itself.
Not who, but a Beckett-like how? Deleuze and Guattari speak in their book about plants that grow horizontally, just like grass, which they call rhizomes. This image, which contrasts the vertical growth of a tree to the horizontal growth of these plants, serves in their discourse as a metaphor for the distinction between the culture of being which is always arborescent and the culture of existing by definition, rhizomatic. The former, based on the presence of roots, prevents movement and views its territory as fixed and fenced.
The latter, where roots are replaced for rhizomes, multiplies collateral relations, allowing growth and extending as far as its strength will take it. The notion of territory, faced by de-territorialisation. The notion of movement as the displacement of units, faced with that of movement as the interconnection of multiplicities.
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As a matter of fact, the rhizome does not forsake one place to relocate in another; instead, it interconnects different places with each other, such that, when it invades these new territories it mutates and blends with the invaded territory. In this sense, a rhizomatic traveller is a static traveller of sorts, someone capable of experiencing the world without having to shift places to do so. While the arborescent being is in possession of a language equipped with universal concepts with which we can identify it tells us, for instance, what is right and what is wrong , such language turns us into organised beings who know what they are, what they want, and whose life is limited by what such language says they are, which is nothing other than the interiorised product of that which the society articulated around such language allows them to live and acknowledge as their desires.
Deleuze and Guattari think that liberating life from this yoke entails disorganising such body in order to obtain a body without organs, which is akin to the body of a newly born baby — pure vitality built by affections, intensities, and where, rather than anything given, there are possibilities, limits that must be reached in order for life and desires to flow without the hurdles imposed by the repressive arborescent language of being.
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For this body, it is neither indispensible nor necessary to ask, who is? Therefore, Deleuze and Guattari propose to replace the verb is est, in French for the conjunction and et, in French. By doing so, the logic of the arboreous being is broken and replaced by the rhizomatic logic of dissemination. In this sense, rhizomatic existence becomes a hub of resistance against the libidinal logic of capital in which we are not only forced to live, but we are forced to do so according to parameters that preclude the open circulation of desire.
It is such hub of resistance which awards ultimate meaning to the gestures, mistakenly identified as peripheral, of the characters who open up to the vision of the photographer and the spectator: mini-skirts, suspenders, quiffs covered in hair gel, syringes, penises and vaginas crudely and immodestly exhibited, sadomasochistic costumes, various cross-dressings, rings, tattoos, a collection that is distanced as it can be from the conventional order. The capillarity with which all those elements connected, rhizomatically, urban tribes that had little or no prior connection, had nothing to do, in end effect, with superficial fashions.
Therefore, the de-territorialisation that, ever more intensely, characterises his work does not come without its price.
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On the one hand, it affects everything that entails the destabilisation of the systemic institutional territory; on the other, it leads him to assume a non-place, coherently associated with the globalised horizon of the world in which he is forced to live. As previously stated, subjectivity, understood as a continuous, relational and unending process of construction, is opposed to any notion of a unique and compact subject, enclosed within itself.
We are many, contradictory and, at the same time, different and repetitive. Instead of the unnecessary question, who am I? The logic of capital acts not only in the socioeconomic arena but, crucially, in the private space of daily life, in our affections, our impulses, our desires, thus reproducing the same structures and objective battles of the world in the libidinal arena.
Hedonism and the transgression of every limit constitute, for those who do not accept such logic, a horizon as necessary as air to breathe. But the liberty entailed in this also carries its risks, because a body that is not subjected to the order of what is predictable is potentially subversive. Nobody questions the system with impunity.
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The photographer seems to ask himself, with obsessive determination, why them and not me? Or, at least, this seems to be the question that hides beneath the images, somewhat like the log that feeds the fire of that fear that leads him to shoot. The only reason I can think of to explain the continuous presence in his work of his body, of his countenance, in or out of focus, in the foreground or as an integral part of a wider landscape, of his hands, his tattoos or his looks, as inquisitive as they are impenetrable in their opacity, is the need to find out whether the lens can discover that which the photographer himself cannot see.
There is no trace of narcissism in this implacable self-dissection. I opened a door. In the depths, I felt a presence. I approached anxiously. It was a man of bronze.
He lifted his arm. He called to me He said: At last you've arrived, I've been waiting for you I didn't know what to say, and to answer something, I said I was a tourist. A tourist? Of what? Of Life? Shyly, I nod my head. He brought his face close to mine. Life is what you're going to lose.
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You're standing before the firing wall. The revolution They'll bury you beneath the great wall. You are also condemned.
Condemned to what? By whom? I haven't done anything You've not done anything? His laughter floats in that space. You can't trick me. I know your crimes better than you do.
Tell me Who fed your egotism by not believing in anything? You don't love anyone Therefore, for profaning love, I have condemned you. I want to defend myself. To deny I wound up begging. I've done nothing I felt guilty and without any escape. What's the matter? Don't you have the guts to face Death?
Again and again, each time more excited, he repeated: Come! The firing squad is waiting! The light of a spotlight searched for me. He moved hysterically. He laughed.
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I felt with certainty that there would soon be a discharge. My dread grew to a level of panic and then I woke. In fact, the one clear thing in the images aside from the fact that such discovery stitches the wounds, real or imaginary, that originated them is that they contain that which has never been seen before, nor anyone dared to show before: the other side, to put it that way, of the happiness of change and the alleged advantages of the opulent society in which we pretend to live.
I mentioned before that, in this same order of ideas, despite it not being part of its internal logic, one of the most formidable effects of meaning of this project consists in awarding visibility to what is invisible in a period, in the knowledge that any trauma personal or collective, real or imaginary can only be overcome through its recognition and subsequent understanding, never through forgetting it. Freud said that what is repressed always comes back. A ghost only ceases to haunt us when we attach a body to it, when we kill it and we bury it. In fact, each disappearance of a dear one of a dear and intimate world entails, in itself, the end of the world, or, what is the same thing, the end of the possibility of any return, be this conceived as resurrection in the broad sense of the word which would explain the human need to believe in the afterlife , according to which our bodies would, like Lazarus, get up and go, or understood metaphorically, as anastasis.