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December 15, 2007

This image is a part of Steven Klein’s work with Madonna as a performance artist, creating a situation where she could respond directly to the camera without constraint. The project was not about photography of celebrity, but about the person and the passions beneath the surface.

Steven Klein, Madonna, 2003

It is a quirky point where fashion meets art. Fashion is no longer a dirty word in the art institution. Once fashion photographers were seen as guns for hire, fashion images had second-class status, and friction existed between practitioners of fine art and fashion photography. No longer. Fashion photography now is not about fashion alone. The material is of interest because there is this strong creative and personal language that expresses, and belongs much to our times.

Pornography haunts late capitalism. It is often scripted by the fashion houses and celebrity photographers they employ; work that reaches back to the images of Helmut Newton, that photographer explorer of the sexual unconscious who opposed the reduction of everything being reducible to sex, and sex being just a matter of meat mechanics.

Steven Meisel, State of Emergency, 2006

As K Punk states that in the high fashion magazines we come across images that:

are more sumptuously arty than fine art, more suffused with deviant eroticism than hardcore porn. Would be impossible for there to be a pornography, sponsored by Dior or Chanel, scripted by a latter-day Masoch or Ballard, whose fantasies were as artfully staged as the most glamorous fashion photo shoot?

Well yes, if we accept with Newton that eroticism is inseparable from violence and humiliation.

MeiselState of Emergency.jpg
Steven Meisel, State of Emergency, 2006

But that linkage is still unacceptable, in spite of---or because of---de Sade and Bataille. Sontag noticed that the pictures existed at the “confluence of torture and pornography.” In “Regarding the Torture of Others” she wrote:

It is surely revealing, as more Abu Ghraib photographs enter public view, that torture photographs are interleaved with pornographic images of American soldiers having sex with one another. In fact, most of the torture photographs have a sexual theme, as in those showing the coercing of prisoners to perform, or simulate, sexual acts among themselves. [...] most of the pictures seem part of a larger confluence of torture and pornography: a young woman leading a naked man around on a leash is classic dominatrix imagery.

Is this a new aesthetics of terrorism a post-9/11 erotic fantasy? But terror-porn? The supermodels became terrorists.

In 1970 British writer J.G. Ballard, who has long discussed the nexus between the police state, technology and sexual transgression, penned experimental odes to eroticised violence, "obscene mannequins" and disfigured beauty queens in The Atrocity Exhibition.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 03:36 PM | | Comments (0)
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