An artist who devours women

Being, having a body sometimes seems to be all we know about ourselves and about life; perhaps even the only thing that we can present as irrefutable proof of our existence. We carry this incontrovertible fact from birth to death in rotating roles as protagonist, minor character, or insignificant extra; but although it seems to be the only definite thing in our world, it sometimes seems to us that we do not understand it, or only imagine it. Living in it does not relieve the desire to decipher it, to question it, to translate the ideas and words that give meaning to the very fact of the existence of the flesh. In the same form, others oppose us with the tangible security of their presence, which, even in obviousness, eludes us as the very meaning of our body. Acquaintance with the body, one’s own and another’s, becomes an act of constant surgical exploration with varying success.

A man walks through the halls of a Parisian museum at night. This is the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud, who observes the work of Pablo Picasso, in particular the portraits of his French mistress Marie Teresa Walter, 17 years old and 45 years old at the time of their first meeting. Maria Teresa has a sensual, full, directly carnal body; the painter dedicates to her images of either full forms (Il Sogno), or scattered under the weight of details; he stops her at a moment of rest, completely opening up to the artist’s gaze. In his paintings you can feel the hunger of the female body, the need to repeatedly return to this body to be permeated, manipulated, possessed. Daud draws a stratification about the relationship with the body in the West in relation to the Arab world, which smacks of rational delusion: the mass of conflicting thoughts between two different cultural systems leads him to imagine Abdellah, the main character of his book. , An artist who devours women (translated by Chettina Calio, published by La Nave di Teseo 2022), a kamikaze jihadist who also walks the corridors of the Picasso Museum in Paris at night, devoting his eyes and ideas to the scandalous works he intends to destroy.

Kamel Daud’s book is inevitably crossed by this constant dichotomy of meanings, which can be generalized into the binomial visible body/immateriality of God. The writer says that in Islam God is not visible, and depicting his essence is blasphemy; what is material in life does not have the same value as after death. In particular, the conflicting attitude of the Arab world to the concept of a museum, a place that collects signs of the time, as opposed to the concept of intangible eternity, emerges here. There are two different conceptions of the body in relation to death: in the West it is an object of enjoyment, suffering, conquest in life, while in Islam a person can finally enjoy it only after death. If the jihadist aesthetic portrayed by Daoud is the aesthetic of the destruction of time through the destruction of temples, then art as a human phenomenon here and everywhere is a dissident act. How can one tolerate the opposite religion when the crucified body itself is in the center of communication with God?

But the existence of the body does not guarantee possession of it: the artist’s insatiable attraction to his model becomes a broader reflection on erotica as hunting, conquering and eating prey. Picasso captures Maria Theresa in the two-dimensionality of the canvas, in the form of her body devouring her flesh and, consequently, her youth in life. It compresses and lengthens the curves of the body, enlarges the limbs and breasts so that they can be better touched. The erotic turns into an act of cannibalism when one bites the other in order to feed on it and therefore rises again, becoming a body again (the other as one’s own). The heresy of the event shocks Abdellah, who wants to destroy himself and all the bodies of the museum: the ultimate sacrifice of time, the consecration of God’s eternity, to Good Wild Friday, released when he was about to fall prey to the cannibals. To stop this insatiable desire for the body, which is itself part of the Western cultural imaginary, is to wage war against the image. The unparalleled jihadist Robinson Crusoe, imagined by the writer, wanders among the canvases ready for a civilization reimagined in terms of pure denial of the body, as if its very existence was unsustainably subversive.

But is it possible, asks Dowd, to imagine another ending? Therefore, a choice that sees acceptance rather than destruction of the body, recognized as a place where one can find the peace of existence, the pleasure of rediscovering oneself in the discovery of the other, feeding on each other’s skin and breath.

This opportunity is perceived as so necessary that The Artist Who Devours Women is an obedient visual book that pursues images and requires the proper act of viewing the aforementioned paintings and photographs at the same time as reading, searching for all the works dedicated to Picasso. model. Maria-Teresa, so desired, desired, serenely exploding with the cries of colors of the form, nevertheless remains mute, dormant, calm, unaware of the excited passion.

Never married, abandoned for Dora Maar, who committed suicide four years after Picasso’s death, Marie seems destined to be nothing but the object of the shocked gazes of the artist, Daoud, Abdellah and all of us: booty, body, sex to be possessed. However, posing means reproducing a moment paralyzed in time, it is a conscious act that involves the model and makes her responsible both for the image and for the ideas that he will offer the artist. Thus, the internal coherence of Picasso’s painting, which also contains the most desperate forms and lines, ultimately defines them in a coherent story: the story of a woman who was able to offer as a model an unprecedented meaning to the pictorial gesture of the Spanish artist. An active subject, and not a pure instrument of enjoyment, Marie-Therese appears in Daud’s book as a saving image, a sinuous synthesis of the hypothesis of the joy of being in a world where the body moves, seeks, finds, celebrates time and thus life itself.

If we continue to keep this space alive, it’s thanks to you. Even one euro means a lot to us. Read soon and SUPPORT DOPPIOZERO

Leave a Comment