Unreal Nature

December 12, 2019

Those Greek Statues

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:12 am

… what the nude reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself …

This is from Being Nude: The Skin of Images by Jean-Luc Nancy and Federico Ferrari, translated by Anne O’Byrne and Carlie Angelemire (2014):

… Our interest in the nude is the most widely shared thing in the world — at least, in the world of Western art, since other regions and periods of art have made nudity serve other interests. In fact, one might say that everywhere else, nudity seems to be understood in erotic and/or sacred terms, whereas the Western nude seems to be exposed for its own sake and to offer an interest in itself that is not related to the ends of knowledge or pleasure.

… Of course, it always also awakens some movement of curiosity or desire, but is never reduced to it. This movement is so obvious and conventional that it is clear that the nude wants something else — or that it wants nothing but to be nude.

… It is not a sense to be discerned or deciphered behind all the signs and strokes, but above all something true right at the skin.

Something true right at the skin as truth: neither the beyond-the-skin sought by desire, nor the underside that science aims for, nor the spiritual secret of flesh revealed. For us, the nude is neither erotic nor anatomical nor authentic. It remains on the edge of or beyond these three postulations. The truth right at the skin is only true in being exposed, in being offered without reserve but also without revelation. After all, what the nude reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself, the revealing and what can be revealed, both at once.

… Today nudity has become a relentless motif of thought: perhaps it goes back to Nietzsche, the first contemporary thinker to scoff at Europeans in their “moral clothing,” unable to get undressed without shame. Perhaps it goes back much further, to those Greek statues whose nudity seems to us to have been divinity itself and whose artful nudity undoubtedly still retains a memory mixed with Christian anxiety about flesh, as well as the sense of an exposition that is both fragile and precious.

-Julie

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