Robert Schwarz
erotism is the approval of life until death
 
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In this series « Nude visiting an exhibition » - allusion to a famous artwork by Marcel Duchamp – canvas respond to bodies, they are confronted and complementary. To the majestic Klimt’s painting, in which woman’s body takes part of the ornamentation while faces reveal a proud nature, dominating, erotized, answers the pure nudity, unpretentious, exhibited in its “essential poverty”, as the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas would say it. Schiele man’s body with tortured sensuality set against a woman’s one, real, carnal, in an iconoclast face to face. Sometimes, the rough concrete architecture reveals more than ever the weakness, the vulnerability of her slender female body. But when light and volumes are softer, tensions calm down in an enlighted shadow, as if suddenly something inexpressible and deep happened, beyond bodies and beside words… It is another intimacy than body’s that we penetrate then. And space takes on directions around her presence. Robert Schwarz’s photographs can not than be perceived like simple reports of a performance… They have the ability to be themselves images strong, suggestive, and questioning. On the pictorial background of the nude representation in Art history, they propose, by their character a priori transgressive, a contemporary glance on the nude question and open with a sociological dimension. The fact that these photographs have been carried out in the heart of institutions is significant. The presence of this naked visitor changes undoubtedly its codes. Because if the western culture admitted, today Art nude as a traditional museal (we remember the scandal of Olympia by Manet, the Schiele sentence for “distribution of immoral drawings”), nudity as such was and remains, and perhaps more than ever, the object of a powerful prohibition. From Antisthene causing passers-by anger, naked under its coat which he used as his home, until moral suspicions related to the modern followers of naturism, the “manners civilization”, to take again Elias words, involves in an almost invariable way a nudity taboo. This setting in abyss of a nude visiting in the Leopold Museum of Vienna a named exhibition “Die Näckte Warheit” (“The naked truth”) is thus a manner of pointing on contradictions and the perilous dialectic of nude, shown, exhibited, at the same time as masked, hidden, and veiled. Images of nudity however left museums. Advertising nude replaced artistic nude, street, television, became the daily supports, offsetting against Foucauld analysis, body as political object, while in the mean time, the presence of this naked young woman walking in a museum persists in creating the event: this “performance” was in Vienna, on newspaper’s front page! Historians often like to say that, from Suzanne to Bethsabe, including bath scene by Ingres or Bonnard, nude was generally only pretext to satisfy the voyeuristic tendencies of the painter… and of the spectators! But way of looking at nudity, and in particular female nudity, nourishes complex issues… Are Schwarz’s photographs erotic? Although being able to be seen as such, it seems that they do not place us however de facto as voyeur. Let us guarantee only that they carry in them a vitalistic dimension if, as wrote it Bataille “erotism is the approval of life until death”.

Marie Deparis
February 2007
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