June 13, 2021

Carmen Winant’s Free Bodies

By Emmanuelle Lequeux

Posted today at 10:00 a.m.

Who owns these bodies? Are they offered or resistant? Objects or subjects? Sets or fragments? A claimed feminist, the American Carmen Winant composed this fascinating panorama of black and white collages from personal experience: ten years ago, she served as a model for students during drawing lessons. To be only a body, in silence; pause on his desires, his impatience, his discomfort, to offer himself to the gaze of the other … There is, more than discomfort, a certain violence in these moments.

A catharsis

His series Body Index was built like a catharsis: it is one of the projects that is most important to the one that was crowned in 2019 by the Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, in particular for the series of photographs of women giving birth that she exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York. “In my eyes, the experience of being a woman in the world is full of contradictions, and therein lies the promise of the work, she sums up. In the course of my work, I am interested in how art, and more specifically for me photography, in fact fails to describe inner states. ”

The artist’s book born from the project Body Index unveils a few dozen collages, but Carmen Winant has produced hundreds of them, which she sometimes exhibits in their multitude, on the walls of museums. A highlight of her work, which she defines as “A mapping of the invisible geography of pain”, in the words of essayist Elaine Scarry.

To constitute the vast corpus of Body Index, she endeavored to collect images of women posing, in all kinds of attitudes. Photos intended, most of the time, to serve as an anatomical reference for artists. The very stereotype of the body instrumentalised by the gaze of the lens.

“The Hidden Rebellion”

“I love looking for and absorbing material that has lived in the world before me. I still consider myself a photographer, I’m just no longer the author of my own images, explains the artist. All pictures from Body Index, those of the first level, come from a huge book on anatomical drawing. These women, young and thin, are completely voiceless; almost entirely empty. ”

“They remind me of my years as a model, when I too tried to achieve that degree of stoicism. I wanted to recover them, take them seriously, engender meaning and subjectivity with it. Not exactly to put my own experience in depth, but to reflect on the relationship between the “artist” and the feminized “muse” that underpins the entire history of art. “

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