La beauté fatale
Caravaggio (The Head of Medusa); Géricault (studies of the Severed Head of a Man). “I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor” (Roland Barthes). Barthes famous sentence on photography seems here more than appropriate. One looks Death face to face, be it in old images or on hearing on the internet a piece played by Brahms or Mayakovsky’s voice – the actuality of those shadows, those ghosts hidden in the silent darkness of the past evoke a paralysing, uncanny (“unheimlich”) feeling. Art survives life, art survives death. According to Daniel Arrasse, during the harder days of the French Revolution, the terror evoked by the petrified expression of those executed in guillotine excited intellectuals to envision the most bizarre theories on the borderline between life and death: so, among them, many argued the “surviving” head, looking at his or her lifeless body, could potentially become aware of his or her own death.
Still life (and also the unavoidable pun – still alive): absorbed in themselves, the expired protagonists of Andrei Loginov’s photos remind us not only of an iconography of art history and the angst, the horror of everybody’s fate. They state: one is doomed to survive (“nachleben” after- life, to quote freely Warburg’s precise word) through images. Image – such disembodied, frail, suspicious fugacious double pretends to represent us as our last reminiscence. The infamous simulacra, is our only remedy against complete oblivion.
The contemporary world exists under the sign of images: sometimes one prefers photoshop treated portraits than their actual models. One edits ones profile in social networking websites; one continually invents a lifestyle, a purported representation, that does not last a single day; it seems that no one is somebody without this fictive Narcissus. And then, it prompted the fashion of plastic surgery, the perpetual dream of Pygmalion, the endeavour to recast the body. The soft, pale black and white photos taken by Loginov in the morgue, (sculptures made with light and paper) reveals in their memento mori atmosphere not a fatalist morality, but a fascination connected to the paradox of time submerged within them. The immediacy of the shot – the same that almost imposes us the task to register everything, all the time, as in a fight against this ‘perpetual present as a perpetual past’ – contrasted with the incidental monumentality of such involuntary expressivity of those dead faces. The expiring light, the deceased body. Photopgraphy as a death mask.