olympia : defiantly real people

Perversion as the implicit dynamic of all modern art? The underlying factor of fueling the entire art/entertainment complex as an effort of a manageable and incremental representation of the perverse. Almost all modernism can be equated with the perverse both in attitude and form, albeit certain exceptions confirm the rule. For the most part, the route to fame and fortune seems equated with a skill in dealing with the perverse in increasingly imaginative ways. We can even speak of the structurally perverse that permeates society from Wall Street financial houses to art factories, to film houses to college football teams.

Even a cursory glance at the new television shows oriented towards women, their ostensible empowerment- represents disturbing recurring patterns, particularly in the dramatic shows. Here, violence is liberally used within the first minutes, with almost all the violence directed towards women.Comedies like Whitney, New Girl, 2Broke Girls etc. all have varying elements of the perverse most obviously in sexualized women, racism and a voyeurism which is degrading. All part of the trickle-down from what is considered modernist high-brow. It seemed to all begin with Edouard Manet…

---Her skin is a bright, glaring white; there are no half-tones, so the visual transitions from light to shadow are harsh. But it is Olympia's look that is hardest to take. Her big, black pupils are uneven in size. This asymmetry is enhanced by the decoration in her hair and the turn of her head. It is impossible to resolve the focus of her eyes, or mood: melancholy or contempt? When it was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1865, critics and crowd were scandalised. We are still challenged by Olympia: she is so depthless that the eye cannot wander the picture as if in a painterly dream world. We glance from detail to detail, trying to make sense of the whole, yet always come back to a world fragmented, an eroticism of blunt fact. --- Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2002/apr/20/art

Donald Kuspit:The emotionally unsettling point of Manet’s Olympia is that she’s available to turn whatever perverse trick her male customer is willing to pay for — all the “sensational” perverse tricks, as the big bouquet of different flowers he sent her suggests. She’s an instrument of pleasure — any kind of pleasure — and her famous stare is less confrontational than matter of fact (one only has to compare her blank face with Mona Lisa’s subtle smile to get the point), like her body, passively available for any and every kind sexual activity. That’s one aspect of her perversity. The other has to do with her profound indifference, an indication of her emotional banality, not to say emptiness. One can’t imagine what her inner life might be, or even if she has any. She’s turned off completely. She’s not even trying to attune to her customer. She’s there only to satisfy his sexual needs, whatever they may be.

He’s all too familiar and boring, and what she’s going to do for him is all too familiar and boring. She’s given up counting how many times she’s done it before. She’s the embodiment of ennui — a very vulgar incarnation of a very vulgar kind of ennui, in an explicitly vulgar picture. It is a picture that, in both its subject matter and style, is a prime example of what Frankl calls “regressive desublimation” — of the female body and, more generally, sexuality. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazine/FEATURES/kuspit/kuspit6-10-02.aspa

---Nana is an example of one of Manet's later works which follows Olympia and Le Dejeuner sur l' Herb. This painting is somewhat less shocking then its predecessors because the courtesan is clothed. Still she remains similar to the other two paintings in her defiant stare and prominence in the painting. The fact that her male caller is such an unimportant part of the composition did cause a stir. For a man to play such a minor role to woman, a courtesan no less, in the same painting was not usually done. This painting gave a name and a face to yet another courtesan as Manet struggled to paint the real people. No one wanted to be reminded of courtesans as real people yet with this painting it is hard to remain ignorant.---Read More:http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist255-s01/courtesans/Manet-Nana.htm


First, perversion is the result of an essential interplay between hostility and sexual desire…. Second, people with perversions feel (are made to feel) an unending sense of being dirty, sinful, secretive, abnormal and a threat to those finer, unperverse citizens who are supposed to make up the majority of society. Third, the word itself reflects the need of individuals in society to keep from recognizing their own perverse tendencies by providing scapegoats who liberate the rest of us in that they serve as the objects of our own unacceptable and projected perverse tendencies.
Robert Stoller, Perversion: The Erotic Form of Hatred, 1975
Germaine Greer:Olympia is a wonderful picture, but its subject is not sensuality, still less passion. It is an enduring emblem of apathy, of disjointure. Most of the female figures on the post-impressionist canvas were part-time prostitutes; their bodies often show the insignia of privation, the pallid skin, the wasted limbs, as they crouch to wash or sweat over a hot iron, or line up for medical inspection, or simply lie in the dishevelled bed and wait. It is the truest irony that a 21st-century connoisseur sees Manet’s Olympia as simply erotic, when what so annoyed the flaneurs of Paris was that it assailed their manly certainty that the women they exploited truly desired them. In the same way we misunderstand the child ballerinas of Degas. In every alley of the theatre loom the silhouettes of the portly gentlemen in top hats who have come to take their pleasure with these skinny half-naked adolescents. They too will have learned to mime desire. Read More:http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/feb/06/manet-olympia-prostitution-courtesan

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