Text by Indrajit Hazra
‘Break my body/ Hold my bones’
– The Pixies
What is the purpose of one’s body? Andrea Fernandes is not interested in its functions or in its nature. Instead, through these photographs that capture one’s relation with the only space one grows to completely inhabit and then to occupy as sole lord and mistress, her investigation is about what one does with the body.
The body lies at the core of all acts of imagination. And nowhere is this imaginative drive more palpable than when dealing with the sexual instinct. The body is hardly limited to the physical. Whether made flesh or not, the act of fantasising is the real object of Andrea’s study, especially when set in the act of breaking out of the confines of social taboos.
The image of a pair of legs standing atop a glowing electric stove simultaneously hints at and heightens a transgression in progress, in this case a young woman’s purpose of seeking out pleasure against standard reasoning: “My mum says I’ve grown up to be a good girl. Every now and then I burn myself so I can feel like a bad girl.” Andrea’s photo of an inverted blood-smeared body has a hyper-eroticised charge to it that brings us at a sniffing distance to the religious ecstasy-drenched imagery of the Passion. The Dada-ist gusto of the woman who’s climbed up to the kitchen top to pee into the sink is as much an update on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain ‘urinal’ as it is a brazen act of the ever-ritualistic and ever-ritualised female body doing as it pleases.
The body is devoutly political. What one does with it, what one isn’t able to do with it, coalesce to form one’s ideology. The picture of a woman sitting on top of a washing machine with a leg up and toes curling against the handle of a microwave, is strewn with domestic iconography that takes on a parallel life when we know that the subject hangs around at the launderette “because my friends told me it was a great place to meet responsible single men”. The word ‘responsible’ enhances our abject curiosity about whether an encounter did or did not, will or will not take place.
The door ajar showing a figure on the loo with her knickers down in a public toilet is less nuanced in her demand to be observed. And yet, it is she who is the real observer as she has “fantasies of someone coming in”.
In the Marquis de Sade’s manifesto of individualism, Juliette, or Vice Amply Rewarded, the Abbess Delbène tells her student to “scorn public opinions” and overcome “honour, law, religion… There will be no longer fetters or chains for you. Everything will swiftly disappear in the embers of your desire.” It is this desire that Andrea captures to use as a weapon to wage war against all the forces that make the body stay within the confines of both the law and the flesh.
All images from the series Killing Kittens 2010, London