In De humani corporis fabrica, Andrea Vesalius dedicated seven volumes to defend the practice of dissection to a society even rooted in the medieval conception of the body as a divine creation. To penetrate the secrets of the flesh, including for medical purposes, was in some way sacrilegious. The engravings of this treatise on anatomy reveal the difficulty of this change of mind: the flayed are not pure helpless residue; They suffer and think of the fate that condemns science.
Is curious that five centuries later artists have recovered somehow the melancholic vein of those prints, investigating the traumatic residue of divisions that body and soul have been suffering in subsequent technological revolutions, from the Cartesian dualism to the dematerialization of the body on digital environment.
To Descartes the body was a mechanical accessory, thought that advances in cybernetics have retaken to consider it an outdated and replaceable housing. But, in return, many artists have been claiming that disqualified carnal envelope, first by religion, then by science.
Flayed but beautiful, with viscera interlaced in delicate filigree work. Such are the adolescents that Aleksandra Waliszewska paints. Some of them take off the epidermis as if it were a coat. They don’t seem to suffer, like skin sheddings, transit moments in fugitives identities condemned to live in an eternal limbo. She says being inspired by the depiction of the condemned of the late-Gothic altarpieces, and certainly we recognize the influence of flemish primitives, its Naiff rawness.
Opposite to this neo-Gothic gloominess, Fernando Vicente‘s muses exhibit their entrails with the elegance of a vintage Vogue girl. The irony hovers in these modern Vanitas, as in that beautiful smoker who wears her lungs as lace texture on evening dress. They pose in dreamy, languid or provocative attitudes, silhouetted against turquoise tondi. Frivolous glamor doesn’t substract thoughtful intention. On the contrary, it intensifies the message of the genre art with wich Baroque painters reflected on vanity, the transience of worldly goods, the ephemeral nature of beauty, the leveling power of death.
Carnal transgressions that Marina Vargas intensified into a serie of marmoreal sculptures whose classical canon is betrayed: what usually is not visible is overflowing, viscera coming out the apollonian bodies seems rococo rocaille; the abject is ennobled. But far from being ornamental, flesh and blood are the essence of elemental body, writes Paracelsus. Vargas evokes the alchemical vision of men as holistic beings: instinctive, light and astral at once (earth, air and cosmos; feelings, thought and spirit).
As Vicente, Phoebe Gloeckner had always been fascinated with medical illustrations. When she was commissioned to illustrate The Atrocity Exhibition, by J. G.Ballard, could express her own fixations on the human body as a field of psychological and physiological collisions.
Ballard’s obsession combining sex and forensic medicine, body geography and suburban topography, and his fragmentary writing, had as graphic correlate beautiful images porno-medical: anatomical sections of fellatio, bodies nested as tubular gears, puzzles formed by subcutaneous fragments…
She moved to her own feminine feelings the reduction of human to pure tissue that skin shows through, to aggressions (intrauterine devices, internal piercings …) aiming at cyborg transits. Body reduced to “scenography of nerves and blood vessels”, Ballard writes, schizoid visions and yet universals as metaphors for the uncertainty of the boundaries of the self. Sex is the only guarantee to keep living, even always tempting the catastrophe.