From: Karen L Houle <khoule@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 1995 14:00:19 -0400 (EDT)
feminist period pieces make my eyes glaze over. i have a hard time
staying with the discussion if we come from that angle.
how about andres serrano's *morgue* show? this show was, well, beyond any
trite adjectives, but its impact won't go away. has anyone seen this
series? for those who haven't: serrano photographed corpses in various
city morgues. the photos are huge (6' x 8'), some b&w, some mild colored,
blood very blackish. they are exquisitely shot, strange foreshortenings
(one like Mantegna's Christ), some parts rather than wholes, some wholes
rather than parts, grainy dreamy
lighting on most, referents of morgue present in some (toe tags with
short death description i.e. "rat poison suicide", "assault with beer
bottle"), these marks often at right angles to the "visceral response"
about the image of death presented: some "look" like peaceful death, yet
are described as what we would take more readily "as" violent death
(fire, drowning, assault, poison...). some "look" like "violent death" -
where do we get these image categories from? - but are described as
deaths closer to what we might take as "peaceful" (cardiac arrest,
SIDS?). But then these divisions don't make much sense for very long.
there is also a disturbing reaction that creeps up in me around identity
and anonymity. i don't think any of these corpses are named, other than,
maybe "baby john doe", but we're instantly intimately circling around
the circumstances of the moment of their death. the unlashing from the
identification of the subject matter does something really important,
though i don't know what, or how to say what...
ASIDE: if one wanted to, one
could say serrano was fairly careful here with, in addition to paper
grain and lighting, class and gender. or maybe that his work is broad
enough to "read" these categories as present. the presence or potential
these "representations of categories" seems often to be "enough"; the
total absence of them seems not an equal and opposite oversight.
a last note on this show:
i took my kids to it. they are six. the gallery desk person thought i
didn't know what we were about to see; that i was about to make some
huge mistake and scar my kids forever or something. she had a big problem
with the fact that i knew damnwell what we were all about to see and was
presenting this to them... my kids really didn't "react" to the images,
other than to ask fairly straightforward questions about, say, what that
jagged line was for, or what that word was, or where these people were kept
they were dead... and they didn't have nightmares after, nor were they
the least bit upset or revolted or disturbed. why or why not? was it
because, contextually, they "know" that this is "art": well, I 'know'
that too, but i was revolted and seduced by the whole show.
are these images, these reactions, or lack of them, in any way relevant
to this string about assault and aesthetics?