Fotograf Magazine

Darina Alster

Emancipated Body

Do you remember the dinner scene in Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie? Before the meal gets started, the guests are distracted by sobs coming from the back of the restaurant. Three females go to check what caused this sound only to find a dead man, whose body was lying just a few steps away from their table. That is more than any bourgeoise can handle! A dead body in the dining room! Distractive lifeless flesh right next to your plate?! Hungry? No, no dessert please, no dessert at all.

I do remember how much I liked Charlotta’s idea about Sunday family lunch being the inevitable cause of every single war that will happen in the history of mankind. You meet with your beloved to quarrel, eat, fight and go over and over again the same old issues, which are never to be solved. By the end of the gathering, you are so mad at each other dessert is out of question! No, no dessert please, no dessert at all.

These two stories struck me while analysing the works of Darina Alster.

Her art is the body in the dining room! Just as problematic and unsolvable as topics at the family gathering. The bone of contention she likes to play with is a body. Not necessarily her body, neither your body. It’s just a body. The piece of meat animated by its soul. Full of juices and body fluids. Trapped in conveniences (Bianca Braselli). Treated as an object (Treasure), subject (Pieta), abject (She Thinker). A posthuman body (Multihand Woman). A sexless body. A non-erotic, erotic tool. A body that restlessly seeks to be emancipated and free.

It is fascinating how the project to emancipate the human body remains the most vivid utopia of all times. From suffragette to nude beaches, from hippie movement to Femen. We try to feel natural about our body and we fail. We protect it, we use it, we hide it, we take good care of it – or rather the opposite: we put it at the risk of damage and objectify it.

It, it, it. The body, a body, nothing but a piece of flesh animated by divine monads.

Even though Darina’s works circulate repeatedly around the same topic, the terminology we can apply to it has changed over the course of many years. That’s the power of context and the fact that the body remains for us the leading ailment. So, we are used to treating it with queer theory, and now that we have cyber-feminist methods, we have invented a post- human category and juxtapose it with object-oriented philosophy; we try to get rid of the masculine gaze and accelerate possibilities that the body offers (in order to destroy capitalism, of course).

None of the above helped us to emancipate our flesh; all of them were useful in the process of understanding ourselves. Each one of the newborn terms was similarly fruitful as an actual experience of birth giving – which also in Darina’s case became an important stimulus in her practice (Red Woman). After all, a body that gives life to a new body gives us a necessary hope to believe that one day we will be able to truly emancipate our body. Preferably during a Sunday family lunch gathering.

Piotr Sikora