Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

INSPIRATION: ROLAND BARTHES

May 30, 2021 - Irina Shkoda

When nothing springs to my mind, and I need a new key to work on a project, I look for it in the book by Roland Barthes “A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments”. Over the past year, this text has never left me without consolation, without an image that can be followed. He replaced the Song of Songs of King Solomon («May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.») and became an interlocutor I work with in a dialogue:
 
 
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The Other’s Body
corps / body
Any thought, any feeling, any interest aroused in the amorous subject by the loved body.
 
l. The other’s body was divided: on one side, the body proper-skin, eyes-tender, warm; and on the other side, the voice-abrupt, reserved, subject to fits of remoteness, a voice which did not give what the body gave. Or further: on one side, the soft, warm, downy, adorable body, and on the other, the ringing, well-formed, worldly voice-always the voice.
 
2. Sometimes an idea occurs to me: I catch myself carefully scrutinizing the loved body (like the narrator watching Albertine asleep). To scrutinize means to search: I am searching the other’s body, as if I wanted to see what was inside it, as if the mechanical cause of my desire were in the adverse body (I am like those children who take a clock apart in order to find out what time is). This operation is conducted in a cold and astonished fashion; I am calm, attentive, as if I were confronted by a strange insect of which I am suddenly no longer afraid. Certain parts of the body are particularly appropriate to this observation: eyelashes, nails, roots of the hair, the incomplete objects. It is obvious that I am then in the process of fetishizing a corpse. As is proved by the fact that if the body I am scrutinizing happens to emerge from its inertia, if it begins doing something, my desire changes; if for instance I see the other thinking, my desire ceases to be perverse, it again becomes imaginary, I return to an Image, to a Whole: once again, I love.
 
(I was looking at everything in the other’s face, the other’s body, coldly : lashes, toenail, thin eyebrows, thin lips, the luster of the eyes, a mole, a way of holding a cigarette; I was fascinated-fascination being, after all, only the extreme of detachment – by a kind of colored ceramicized, vitrified figurine in which I could read, without understanding anything about it, the cause of my desire.)
 
 
 
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Images
image / image
In the amorous realm, the most painful wounds are inflicted more often by what one sees than by what one knows.
 
1. (“Suddenly, coming back from the coatroom, he sees them in intimate conversation, leaning close to one another.”) The image is presented, pure and distinct as a letter: it is the letter of what pains me. Precise, complete, definitive, it leaves no room for me, down to the last finicky detail: I am excluded from it as from the primal scene, which may exist only insofar as it is framed within the contour of the keyhole. Here then, at last, is the definition of the image, of any image: that from which I am excluded. Contrary to those puzzle drawings in which the hunter is secretly figured in the confusion of the foliage, I am not in the scene: the image is without a riddle.
 
2. The image is peremptory, it always has the last word; no knowledge can contradict it, “arrange” it, refine it. Werther knows perfectly well that Charlotte is betrothed to Albert, and in fact only suffers vaguely from the fact; but “his whole body shudders when Albert embraces her slender waist.” I know perfectly well that Charlotte does not belong to me, says Werther’s reason, but all the same, Albert is stealing her from me, says the image which is before his eyes.
 
3. The images from which I am excluded are cruel, yet sometimes I am caught up in the image (reversal) . Leaving the outdoor cafe where I must leave behind the other with friends, I see myself walking away alone, shoulders bowed, down the empty street. I convert my exclusion into an image. This image, in which my absence is reflected as in a mirror, is a sad image. A romantic painting shows a heap of icy debris in a polar light; no man , no object inhabits this desolate space; but for this very reason, provided I am suffering an amorous sadness, this void requires that I fling myself into it; I project myself there as a tiny figure, seated on a block of ice, abandoned forever. ”I’m cold,” the lover says, “let’s go back”; but there is no road, no way, the boat is wrecked. There is a coldness particular to the lover, the chilliness of the child (or of any young animal) that needs maternal warmth.
 
4. What wounds me are the forms of the relation, its images; or rather, what others call form I experience as force. The image – as the example for the obsessive – is the thing itself. The lover is thus an artist; and his world is in fact a world reversed, since in it each image is its own end (nothing beyond the image) .