Contemporary visual culture treats the body as a plastic material that can be formed, shaped, distorted and deformed as needed or desired. The images gathered for our exhibition are a special collection of such bodies—mainly female—subjected to various treatments. Their medium is the photographic image, partially also manipulated. For the most part these are the newest series of works by a trio of artists with well-established international reputations: Love-Dream, Love-Nothing by Nobuyoshi Araki (2018), Beauty Masks by Aneta Grzeszykowska (2017), Unlearning the Body by Eva Koťátková (2016), as well as a selection from one of Araki’s older series, Cosmosco (1993/1998).
Each of these artists emerges from a different artistic tradition and differently depicts in their works the cultural forms of subduing and controlling the body: under the domination of the male gaze (Araki), the social and educational system (Koťátková), or advanced cosmetics practices (Grzeszykowska). They are in their way model images, alluding to various types of fantasies about the body, both erotic and anatomical, but also various artistic genres: performance, surrealism, and avant-garde. In this evolved process of objectification of women’s and children’s bodies, hybrid forms arise, “living collages,” the “foreign bodies” from the exhibition title. Nor is the process free of violence.
The cosmetic masks photographed by Grzeszykowska, which may be associated with extreme sports gear as well as a criminal disguise, effectively reshape the artist’s face. The school lessons in anatomy in Koťátková’s collages turn to a far-gone gymnastics exercise resulting in deconstruction of the human figure understood as a holistic unity of body and psyche. Araki’s nudes frankly address sexual practices grounded in domination.
The exhibition is composed around the principle of a crooked mirror. Male fantasies are reflected in a critical female gaze, and the paradoxical figure holding together these culturally diverse perspectives is a well-known Polish model, the protagonist of the latest photographs by the Japanese artist.
Eva Koťátková, Unlearning the body, 2016, collage, 29,7 × 21 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Meyer Riegger.