Death Tones

February 2, 2005

Have you ever tried photocopying your body? It's fascinating to see how the technology, combined with the flattening of your form against a pane of glass, transforms your figure. You realize that your physicality is really just another type of meat, this pulpy mass that's eternally subject to gravity— it's only allowed autonomous form through the mystery of biological complexity and spiritual will.

A classmate in college made a book from images of his body. He methodically placed a piece of himself on his small color copier at home to gain a life-size self portrait. The images were startlingly repugnant in the way that the skin grew more and more pale as it came fully into contact with the pane of glass. Body hair was squished and angled unnaturally. The natural pinks and peaches of flesh had bled away into cold aquatic tones, and the form of the body seemed flattened by an oppressive black behind it. The whole project reeked of death.*

When I filmed myself brushing my teeth under florescent light I wasn't thinking about self portraiture, but I was thinking about the action of snarling; of jutting out the teeth and glaring forward, as you do when brushing (or, as I do when brushing). Strange how this act also forces a foaming at the mouth, and it made me wonder if a correlation could be drawn between hygiene and aggression. It may seem like a bit of a stretch, but much of the language we apply to cleaning ourselves and our environments employs the lexicon of warfare. Even the Almighty once chose to wash away the scourge of humanity. Perhaps it is implicit in new beginnings that they are born out of violent endings.

*For the definitive exploration of this sort of subject matter I refer you to the work of Jenny Saville who was picked up as one of Saatchi's Young British Artists in the early 1990's. She continues to produce a mesmerizing body of painted work that manages to both rob, and simultaneously endow, the human form with life.

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