Most people have a very special layer around their bodies (non-scientifically described as a second-skin) that protects them from the outside menaces. I’m sure if we dove into a biological take on this subject, there would be a lot to talk about. However, this second-skin I’m referring to is not that kind of verifiable layer. Instead, it acts as a shield, in a very profound emotional and neurological way. What am I babbling about? one could ask… I’ll try and explain: if we felt that everything could affect us (harm us, penetrate us, touch us, invade us, have some sort of impact on us), life would be overwhelming. Some people actually feel like this, but fortunately for them, not all the time (or it would be impossible to stay alive). I guess some conditions are also particularly associated with this sort of experiences – autism being one of them. I have little scientific knowledge about this, so this is pretty much a resume of some reading, my perception and personal experience. Regarding that shield, a therapist used to tell me mine was too frail and I should work on it. That really made me think about the way I photograph, in relation to the way I experience mine and others space. Because I feel unable to write about this experience with the appropriate vocabulary, I’ll jump into a recent event in order to illustrate the general idea:
It’s been a long time since I’ve experience any extreme consequences of this frail shield of mine, but I was recently reminded of what this “condition” really amounts to, meaning: I fail to recognize my bodily limits. I’m not sure where the problem lies – the non recognition or the projection of another body being the major candidates – but what happens next is that I exhaust all its energy and then the body really becomes something separate. This usually interferes very abruptly with my visual field, for major migraines make it really hard to open my eyes and then everything becomes a blur.
Coming out of one of this episodes reminds me that although we can keep on addressing photography as a medium that has a very particular relationship to time and space, and therefore to the kind of representation it allows us to do, as a means of expression photography is less free to create something new, precisely because it is somehow bound by a very rigid code – the semiotic one. I don’t think this means that it is a less creative tool, but maybe it needs a more mature author to achieve that sort of authentic way of doing.
Representing this sort of body-detachment is no easy thing to do. But the thing is: what is the need to make a visual representation of this? I know I’m asking all the wrong questions and that there need be no reason behind making art. However, when it comes to photography, the question is recurrent, because the observer expects it (the photograph) to communicate, to carry some sort of easily understood message, to be composed around universal elements.
Looking at Anne-Laure Autin’s project Locked-in, one can say that she succeeds at representing a recognizable experience, although what motivated her to create this body of work was a personal and very extreme experience. For her, it seems, this was photo-therapy, meaning that she worked out the issues visually, to help her understand the process. On the other hand, these illustrative portraits, with their poignant dynamics and manual prints accentuating the thematic of the disembodiment, may fail to represent the chaos and outburst that happens in such extreme situations.
So what else is there to say?
Two very different authors come to mind: Laura Marker and Adolph-Gottlieb. So below are alternative propositions for what can be understood as some sort of disconnection from the body…