Contract With The Skin: Masochism, Performance Art, and the by Kathy O'Dell

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By Kathy O'Dell

Having oneself shot. placing out fires with the naked palms and toes. Biting the physique and photographing the marks. stitching one's personal mouth shut--all in entrance of an viewers.

What do these types of performances let us know concerning the social and ancient context within which they happened? interesting and accessibly written, Contract with the Skin addresses the query on the subject of psychoanalytic and felony suggestions of masochism. 34 images.

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Additional resources for Contract With The Skin: Masochism, Performance Art, and the 1970s

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Performance brings this proof into view and makes it undeniably graspable, particularly through its reliance on photography. For photography has the capacity to keep the observer in the here and now while simultaneously prompting a return to the past—to the formative stages of the psyche, to the home, to the place where every "contract with the skin" is first forged. H M I O U S T H H E R S K I N 3 17 S I T T I N G naked on the floor of a photographerfriend's loft one day in 1970, Vito Acconci enacted a series of contorted poses in front of a camera.

76 Such an authoritatively dismissive tone is generally uncharacteristic of Barthes's theorizing. It is a tone that arouses a suspicion that, if pursued, points in the direction of fear, fear of the power of the photograph to operate in a "presence-producing" domain that might not be magical (or theatrical, to recall Fried's interpretation of the same concept). Far from magical, this presenceproducing domain is, I would argue, utterly mundane: it is the domain of touch. Barthes actually betrays a deeper fear of photography in this essay.

The shape of the bottom of every tooth is visible, the edges of some indentations appearing much darker than the surrounding skin. Clearly, blood had risen to the surface and almost broken through. The excessively detailed, textured 18 KATHY O'DELL close-up of the bite mark engages the viewer's sense of touch. It solicits the viewer to physically trace the contour of the individual tooth indentations, as if touching them will draw the viewer closer to the artist's body, will help heal the wound, will perhaps even make it disappear, or at least will make the dripping saliva—a visual analogue for tears—disappear under the eraserlike movement of the fingertip.

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