In Imaginary Magnitude Stanislaw Lem compiled prologues of nonexistent books, written by invented authors, following the way opened by Borges Borges but without his annoying scholarship.
One of these prologues was dedicated to Szybisz, an artist who caused a stir with his pornograms, a photographic series of erotic themes made with X-ray equipment. Some critics branded it as sinister romp, as “copulation of jumping skeletons”. But these caricatures, reflects on the prolog writer, keep a truth that goes beyond mere exhibition of bodies mechanics in sexual exercise, rediscovering , “as if by chance, that the Holbein’s Totentanz remains intact within us, unaffected by the tumult of our glittering civilization: the understanding of life and death.”
Holbein the Elder engravings where death dance with characters from all social classes announcing their early death intended to exorcise the fear of dying but they also warned of her leveling power. As Vanitas, Danse Macabre was an art genre that tried to alert to the transience of worldly pleasures.
Turning to Necrobias prologue (the imagined catalog title of the imaginary artist), the author define naïff to the commercial pornography in front of to the “tragic comicity” of those “skeletons which prevent the bodies to join”: “in Strzybisz’s the sex is rapacious, terrifying and ridiculous, like in the old Flemish and Italian paintings are the fall into the abyss of the damned.”
When pornography is no longer transgressive (because nowadays to show everything is not taboo but standard), the excitement loses his power and shows us as it is, an “obtuse infantilism”.
However, it seems to say Lem alter ego, the death will disturb us although we separate it from life, although we want scare her with our raucous laughter. “Strzybisz restores life to seriousness, alredy forgotten by art”, this is the sentence with which the author closes a text containing a shrewd criticism to sensationalist strategies of contemporary artists without nothing to say.
This artist with slavic name would soon leave the imaginary dimension to be embodied in similar caustic spirit creators that would continue ironizing about medicine’s naive obstinacy to “radiograph” the physiological “truth”, in some way related to the overexposure of the body in porn.
Wim Delvoye conjugated both disciplines in a radiographic images serie (Kiss) showing close-ups of fellatio (the typical meat shots of porn cinema), kissings and couples in a variety of sex positions captured by an X-ray machine. The hospital room transformed into erotic fil stage reminds us the sexologist William Masters laboratory experiments, who in the 50s of last century invented a camera-dildo to film sex from within.
This gynecologist who used electrocardiographs and all kinds of surgical cameras to try to unlock the secrets of sex might also inspire the beautiful film The operation (Jacob Pander & Marne Lucas), recorded with infrared cameras that reveal the chemical of libido circulating under the skin, melting surgeon and patient in thermal hugs.
Altering ering function of medical devices, Delvoy, Pander and Lucas emphasize the mystery of desire, improfanable however much more sophisticated techniques poll under skin, penetrate the bodies, undress us to the quick.
Science (like porn) equals the people by reducing them to observable bodies, something that in the case of x-ray takes on a gloomy tinge, not only because deprives us of individual features but these stark portraits are a preview of where we are going, death as the ultimate leveler filter. Delvoye, redirecting the medieval danse macabre to an orgiastic limbo using medical technology fossilize human specimen in his last tango.
Martin Sampedro‘s latents are devoid of that tragic vision because the radiographed bodies are not real but imaginary, sublimated by desire. Sampedro fix the umbilical cord between the beginnings of photography (the latent image as a principle of analog photo) and the last digital or holographic techniques, using the concept of latency as mental substrate. Sculptural anatomies scanned by our libido, copulating, practicing cunnilingus, reflected in concave and distorting mirrors, photographing themselves in a mise en abyme in which memory and desire, virtuality and carnality, coexist. As viewers we project our libido in those flashes of conscience unrevealed. We can choose between keeping the latency, phantasmic status, hallucinated and masturbatory, or break the spell developing the image with our smartphone.