THE BODY OF THE IMAGE

The belief in a magical bond that
connects the fate of a wound with that
of the weapon that caused it can be
observed, unchanged, throughout
millennia.

                               Sigmund Freud

There is a relationship between the
channeling of instincts through a passive
reception of organized sports and the
mobilization of these same instincts in the
waging of war. Both require an identification
with the team or country, an unwavering
adherence to rules (as well as its flip-side,
subterfuge), and the perception of the
opponent as enemy in an identification
structure centered around victory. What is
mysterious is the separation between the
vicarious experience and physical reality;
the moment the imperceptible divide
between the active and passive modes
is transgressed.

What does it mean to consume the
amount of media images that we do; are
we aware that we mistake them for reality?
Scenes of human tragedy exist side by side
with advertising in commercial broadcasting
and on the web, and we do not find this
unsettling; we are complicit in the information
illusion, we believe that we know something
if we've seen it on TV, on the Internet, in
the newspaper. But beyond the economics
and politics of the global information industry,
there is an even more basic level on which
media imagery seduces us. Freed of
material existence, media images suggest
a world that is more immediate or even
more real than our own.

The paintings of the series The Body of the
Image
combine disparate media images,
logos, and fragments of newspaper articles
and reformulate them in new semantic contexts.
The surfaces of these works are made up of
multiple layers of oil paint cast into high relief,
a topography testifying to a working process
founded in the language of the painted surface
and framing an analogy to the human body with
its vulnerability, its wounds, and its scars.
In keeping with their intrinsic immateriality,
the images are superimposed over the irregularity
of the paintings’ surfaces; suspended like bubbles
on a glossy black background, they remain
isolated from one another like so many
peepholes peering out onto divergent
spheres of voyeuristic experience. 

Due to their extreme enlargement, some of
these images reveal the print screen or digital
resolution they consist of, suggesting a proximity,
a getting closer to the essence of something.
In the final analysis, however, it is not, of course,
the atomic or subatomic particles constituting
matter that we arrive at, but a nothingness,
a kind of vanishing point beyond the limits
of the visible in which no secret is revealed
and no monads forming existence are discovered,
but a nonsense of individual pixels and offset dots
that remind us that it’s a mere approximation
we’re seeing – and that our eyes and minds
complete the rest.

How can we sit on our sofas and consume
images of suffering human beings without
suffering ourselves? Why, in the sexual
interaction with pornographic images, do
people prefer the absence of actual physical
contact? When the body is subtracted from
the image, we enter into a world of fantasy
in which we believe everything can be known
and everything is possible -— and in which the
camera's lens enters into a magical bond
with the incomprehensibility of another's
existence.

Andrea Scrima 2008