Je pense que le couple nègre/blanche est pire qu’une bombe, writes Dany Laferrière (Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer, 1985). Sexuality is, more than anything, a matter of ghosts, and the ghost that join a black man and a white woman is one of the most explosive that there is.
Sexual imaginaries in relation to ethnic otherness continue to bear the burden of colonial legacy. The topics are renewed, adapting to the changing demands of popular culture, but African men or Caribbean women continue to feed hyper-sexual archetypes and fetishes in which to release the darkest of libido.
The Australian artist Tracey Moffatt ventures, with her thrilling video montages, into the fissures between the cultural heredity and the uncontrollable forces that threaten to break social barriers. Practicing a kind of archeology, she deconstructs Hollywood film and explores signs encrypted in old photographs. She manages to make visible psychic tensions, hallucinatory effects or dream states that tarnish power relations since the plantation era.
Sex, power, race and audiovisual semiotics underpin the narrative of Other (2010), a title that these days can be seen in CAC Málaga. The film begins with land sightings from conquerors’ ships and the hostile reception by the natives, encircling intruders with their spears.
Frames of classic films scenes succeeding frantically each other show us Marlon Brando falling in love with a Polynesian girl, Mia Farrow melting before a smooth ebony skin, a white lady scandalized by the intense eroticism of Hindu carvings, blue eyes of Peter O ‘ Toole shocked before something that is out of frame …
As the story unfolds, the desire is gaining ground to hostility. Aboriginals replace the weapons with ritual instruments. They start sensual dances, preceding a string of kisses, caresses, bed scenes… Close-ups of dazed gazes, they express that mixture of fear and desire that is used with such irony by Moffatt when she concludes the film with an in a crescendo of seismic movements, earthquakes, telluric cracks … until a planetary explosion.
“Other” explores with caustic humor the breach of tacit limits, of the prudential distance with the other imposed by ancestral fears that tried to be mitigated with orientalist discourses, with prejudices that continue to weigh.
Thus, analyzing the cinematographic language, the film highlights Western prejudices and the colonial bias that over time has been modeling types and psyches, but also exalts the power of the libido to break these mental outlooks that constrict identities.
Lillian Smith, born into a Victorian family, boldly pointed out the stigma that weighed on both the black women stripped of her humanity (objects of lust for the white settlers) and on the southern ladies (desexualized, reduced to chaste and frigid wives).
This is illustrative, not only of the interrelation of racial and sexual oppression systems (from the times of slavery to immigrant prostitution networks nowadays) but also of the sociological processes of expulsion to the margins of drives, of the dark and creative eroticism.
The resistance mechanisms against these stigmas appear when ourselves explore honestly our internal contradictions, as Juan Goytisolo did when reflecting on his need to take control of his unbridled impulse, to intellectually tame his “darkly ancestral desires”: “My late vocation of linguist and ethnologist, where I have devoted so much time and absurd effort in the last years, first studying Maghrebian Arabic and then Turkish, was the result of a stubborn will to approach a physical and cultural body model whose glare and incandescence guided me like a beacon “(Taifa’s Kingdoms).
Tracey Moffat Other (2009)
can be seen until 4th March
in CAC Málaga, espacio 5