corpse poetics

Working with death as an aesthetic. Is it purely the shocking or a continuation of the gothic and the more macabre elements of romanticism, in the tracks of Henry Fuseli passing through Goya’s horrors of war, Kafka hybrid-human creatures and Otto Dix war paintings. It does affect the cultural process of forgetting and recognizes the power of death to keep historical memory alive while at the same time poking into religious doctrine of disturbing the dead and punting the concept of soul and eternity into a new realm where streaks of the morbid and pornographic coexist in an uneasy relationship…

---Joel-Peter Witkin has judged the grotesques portrayed by Arbus to lack spiritual authenticity: “Because my subjects are kind of agreed-to victims, they have their own reasons for being in the photograph. Arbus’ images are of social and medical outcasts who parade the small, tin banners of the perverse. I seem to incorporate these tendencies, but my initial interest has always been to show the lostness within us. I am an aesthetic priest.” By means of a seemingly deliberate reformulation of Arbus’s famous statement “My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been,” Witkin has expressed his own otherworldly concerns: “My life wish is to be connected with a place we can’t know, hope to go, or hope to be.”--- Read More: image:

So, there are some disturbing connections between death and artists, and secondly, does representing the morbid animate the living? Can art ventriloquize the dead and inanimate, where the artist is viewed as a communicating corpse detached from the living in an in-between world?

…His scratched, distressed photographs look as though they are rediscovered crime scene evidence from a Victorian era horror. Nude men and women mix with animal parts, masks, random bits of machinery, severed limbs, or bowls of fruit. Some of his works are borderline pornographic; most are deeply disturbing.Witkin was a war photographer in Vietnam and claims to have touched the decapitated head of a little girl following a horrific car accident when he was a child. Raised Roman Catholic, Witkin combines an old world gothic sensibility with an intense interest in deformity, perversity, and death….

---Further modifications to the final print are made through the use of special toners. To explain his intention in employing such techniques, Witkin has said: “I wanted a surface that was tough and granular, very much like a very quickly processed photograph of a battlefield or a war, or a photograph of Nagasaki or Hiroshima.” Tellingly, the aura of actuality Witkin seeks has as factual counterpart only events of extreme devastation.--- Read More: image:

…In the 1980s, Witkin advertised for models, asking for the following: “Pinheads, dwarfs, giants, hunchbacks, pre-op transsexuals, bearded women, people with tails, horns, wings, reversed hands or feet, anyone born without arms, legs, eyes, breast, genitals, ears, nose, lips. All people with unusually large genitals. All manner of extreme visual perversion. Hermaphrodites and teratoids (alive and dead). Anyone bearing the wounds of Christ.” This attraction to depicting the ill-formed and strange is reminiscent of the photographs of Diane Arbus or Robert Mapplethorpe. The same debate of “is it art or is it exploitation?” that surrounded their work is often thrown at Witkin.Read More:

---Witkin obviously holds mystical views on the bodily fact of death, as exemplified in his statement “Knowledge goes beyond the physical. At the moment of death there’s bodyweight loss, and that supposedly can mean the ascension of the spirit.” Witkin believes himself to be an emissary on behalf of such transformation: “I have consecrated my life to changing matter into spirit with the hope of someday seeing it all. Seeing its total form, while wearing the mask, from the distance of death.” With many of his images of the dead it is impossible to comprehend how even Witkin could imagine that a transmutation of flesh into spirit takes place through photography.--- Read More: image:


Corpse poem is a curious paradox. A dead body and a poetic discourse are mutually incompatible, two formal states each precluding the other. A
poem implies subjective depth while a corpse negates interiority. A poem signals presence of voice while a corpse testifies to its absence. A poem
quickens language while a corpse stills it. The fantastical coupling of corpse and poem denotes an extravagant rhetorical conceit, an impossible literary utterance. What to make, then, of an entire tradition of poems that deploy the strange literary device of a speaking corpse?Writers as diverse as Emily Dickinson and Thomas Hardy, Randall Jarrell and Richard Wright, H. D. and Dan Pagis have all used human cadavers as subjects of prosopopoeaic speech….

Witkin:The people on the Medusa were victims of class struggle. The people on the Raft of George Bush-his party and regime-are the victims of their own rationale, their conservative elitism, their hunger for political and social power and their unilateral military ambitions. It took a very sick group of people to dream up a phony war from the tragedy of 9/11, against a country which had nothing to do with 9/11. In my photograph, I want to show the leaders of this regime as royalty without clothes. As the fools they really are. The president is seen wearing a McDonalds gold paper crown. His despair is the result of a mind distorted by extremism. By the lies, torture, pain and death he has caused. He is the Lear of all inept politicians. He holds the naked body of "Condi Rice". She is his ideal black woman. His brain-dead muse. Read More:

…Attributing consciousness and voice to an inanimate body, these writers irretrievably breach the boundary between the place where lan

intensifies (the poem) and the place where language vanishes (the corpse). Giving voice to the voiceless cadaver, corpse poems bring language more fully in line with death; they are literary fictions that seek to revivify and reauthorize the dead, at the risk of contaminating and killing poetry.To give voice to a corpse changes both. Read More:http: //

---Watson and the Shark, John Singleton Copley, 1778--- Read More:


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