Op 4 oktober 2018 vond in het Amsterdamse Perdu het programma ‘Lascaux: mystiek en erotiek in de hedendaagse kunst en poëzie’ plaats. Yes The Void publiceert in deze serie teksten, beelden en geluidsfragmenten van deze avond. In dit tweede deel het interview met kunstenaar Laurette Massant.
You are a catholic artist, often using traditional forms, but you are everything but a traditional artist. Your image of the woman is for instance not very traditional. How do you see the woman in relation to religion?
First, I must first clarify what I mean by the word religion. The ethymology of religion is religare. It means: to link, to bind, to build a bridge.
Religion is relation.
Feminists like Gloria Steinem have denounced the vision of women conveyed by our media and were radicalized in two models of our desire, two archetypal figures: the mother and the whore. It has always been conditioned by the grip of the male gaze on male-female relationships. Television, advertising, music videos, etc. have the role of providing figures of desire. Models that we take for granted, to which we give credit.
(In early childhood, it is certainly the family that will play most of this role, but soon all our interactions will influence this balance. Adolescent friendships are rooted most often in these pure games of mediation, self-recognition through the discovery of the other.)
Understand the word “credit” in both etymological terms of the word: that of belief and that of finance.
I pay for this girl because I believe her ‘performance’ is going to be good. I credit it because I adhere to it. It corresponds to what I identify as being: object of my desire. Adhere induced to share a common belief. And to believe is to transform the real in its raw state into a truth, a knowledge, valid for us.
We must therefore consider this term in a broader sense to properly understand the notion ‘desire’.
The vision of the female figure was summed up in a binary pattern, a duality between two still current figures: the mother and the whore, the female model: necessarily one or the other. We are torn between two models to be desired.
We are torn because our desire is in motion. It is the oscillation of our desire.
Desire is always in motion, looking for a model. This mediation varies greatly depending on the person or representation ‘in front of which I am’.
Mother and whore
When we analyze these models of desire from a theological point of view, from the grid of beliefs and what follows from them (imitation, representations, etc.), in the history of art and pagan-Christianity, the mother is the Virgin Mary and the designated whore is the goddess Venus.
– Virgin (Christianity) and Venus (Paganism)
– a mother and a goddess.
By pontificating these models of desire to our Judeo-Christian religious sedimentation, I see a third model.
A sinful woman, delivered from demons, the apostle of the apostles, the first witness of the resurrection of Christ. This figure is also the counterpart of John the Baptist. Both are moving figures in search – of salvation (to be saved from).
Even in her own iconography, the figure of Mary Magdalene is not fixed since the controversy about Mary Magdalene apostle and Mary Magdalene the Egyptian is always present.
I think we have to look in a triangular pattern. The one with the figure of the movement itself.
Between the virginal figure and the Venusian figure, I propose a third figure: the ‘repented Venus’.
So we have: a perfect figure in Mary, an idealized figure in Venus and a realistic figure, the one that seems closest to us, in Mary Magdalene.
In our contemporary world these Mary Magdalenes are similar to the former US stars of pornography who become mothers and who try to find anonymity by moving to cities in Utah where pornography is prohibited.
Or Kim Kardashian, that we could see evolve in his reality show. What arouses so much passion in the media sphere around this public figure is neither his vulgarity nor his motherhood. But the movement between these three figures that reflect the images. It is ‘difficult to cataloged’.
The conditioning of our gaze is such that it should absolutely be mother, that is to say already perfect, or whore, that is to say always deviant.
To take the anthropo-theological analysis as a basis allows us to get out of the binary vision of female models. This helps to understand that the important thing is not the figure but the relationship we have with it. And this relationship is engendered by our desire and its movement.
You have a lot of ‘female victims’ in your work. Can you explain that?
A victim is sacrified or sacrifices herself for her passions, for others, for her faith.
This sacrifice is regulated by her desire, the movement of it, of what he follows.
We must distinguish the martyr from the sacrifice. The martyr follows her faith and is sacrificed because of it. It is therefore an affirmation of the reality of her desire. On the contrary, the young woman who is caught in a network of prostitution is sacrificed for the desire of the other.
One is converted, the other is perverted.
Conversion being a uniqueness and perversion a division.
We are all victims of our own desire and its oscillation.
Trinh-Ti, a former porn actress (a contemporary Mary Magdalene) says : “It’s not porn that kills, it’s when you leave it. We end up in the real world with people who do not understand why we did that. They want us either guilty or victim. Today, porn is everywhere, the codes have changed, but they remain codes.”
When Trinh-Ti talks about codes, she raises something.
Once again, the binary mother-whore comes to prevent our Western society from accepting this movement of salvation. Salvation being the passage from one frame to another, a search for well-being.
.We say well: follow someone, the follower. Let’s look at the etymology again: to follow a model is to be his disciple. Thus the apostles are disciples of Christ, follow him, it generates a community and therefore a culture and morals specific to it.
The codes change according to the community: we passed the books of Sade under the jacket, we watch porn in 4K streaming. The codes of transmission and what surrounds them, the exponential development of new technologies make that subsequently the pornographic culture has entered our customs.
In my work, I try to update the bridge between the first Christian martyrs and what I call the neo-martyrs. The internet boom, its easier and faster accessibility, have become a major factor in the proliferation of images. And who says proliferation of images, says models to see.
The metoo-movements, women such as Cosby’s survivors, Weinstein, the Polanski case (in the history of pornography, we must take into account the battle for condom use, after many victims) bring out these new martyrs to everyone’s eyes. Such paintings depicting the martyrdom of the saint in museums. Now it’s live on Twitter and Instagram. A screen for a painting.
The Martyr Porn series plays on the sanctification of the whore. These are screenshots of pornographic movies painted in acrylic in gold and blue.
Gold meaning royalty and blue meaning the celestial vault. Colors attributed to the Virgin Mary.
The image depicts a woman tormented by the grip of the porn industry on her own desire. Because there is a grip on the representation of sexuality by the male gaze, we see more and more independent women filmmakers (such as Erika Lust or the collective Four Chambers).
To leave one frame for another. The search for salvation is also within the pornographic culture. To understand this, we must bear witness to it. A martyr being a witness of his faith, faith being to make of his desire the desire of God.
One of the most remarkable drawings in the Lascaux-series is ‘Koningin’. It’s very much a Girardian work: can you explain the mysticism of this drawing?
This drawing is the link between two models. It is inspired by an icon called “Marie who unties the knots” and a screenshot of a BDSM session from Pornhub.
If I use a Girardian vocabulary, this drawing is the link between the external and internal mediation of the model that follows our desire.
Understand the mediation of desire towards a distant model, which reduces the risk of mimetic rivalry, the virgin, and a close model that increases it, the submissive.
If I use a religious vocabulary, i would see Mary undoing the knots that Eve knotted by biting into the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, responding to temptation.
Eve is the mother of humanity.
Warburg speaks of a ghost story, his mnemosyne teaches us to consider the intervals between different iconographies, because intervals are analytical bridges.
The medium chooses for this drawing, tracing and transparence is part of these ghostly females egregores, created by our communities and their specific customs.
Every woman is haunted by her surrounding roots, her image. Thong or veil.
“Nudity, in our culture, is inseparable from a theological signature.
The perception of nudity is related to this spiritual act that Sacred Scripture defines as ‘the opening of the eyes’.
A kind of range of different mysticisms as a range of different colors.