Friday, 7 May 2010

DG 003580 NS

IN SACRIFICE, beauty’s perfection points to death’s full brutality. Double-take. At first glance, it is as if the veiled woman is warding off the camera, the hennaed hands not so much a blessing as a curse. But it is the backs of her hands that are visible, of course, splayed out and thrust towards the camera lens in pride and supplication, the tattoos perhaps signifying a forthcoming marriage. But then again, these hands are so much in the foreground that they are positioned in the picture almost as if they were ‘our’ hands – or indeed the photographer’s hands that should be taking the photo. It is as if we have suddenly dropped our camera in order to hold back some sinister apparition looming up from behind the glass. The blurring of the picture gives this sense of double movement, pushing back and forward, thrusting and repelling. A woman beautified, ceremonially painted-up, adorned, veiled for someone’s delight, looks ominous. ‘We’, similarly adorned, hold back, with our hennaed hands and our slender pointed nails, our double, our darkened image. The composition of the picture sets up this equivalence, this Iranian stand-off, conveying our gaze directly into the eye-line of the woman framed in the blackness of the veil. One eye, obscured behind the reflected flash of light, the other – the evil one, no doubt – looks directly at ‘us’, at me, behind thick eyeliner. ‘As we are about to take the final step, we are beside ourselves with desire, paralyzed, in the clutch of a force that demands our disintegration’ (Bataille). Hands are held up against the translucent barrier and the dark figure behind it. What denotes the glass barrier, if it is glass, is the reflected light and, in the top left-hand corner, where the left index finger points, some painted writing. Whatever it is, writing signifies that there is Law somewhere, and here, as ever, it marks the point of separation, all points of separation, between light and dark, subject and viewer, beauty and its profanation, woman and woman. Because I must remember that the woman does not look at an ‘us’. These hands at the foreground of the picture address another woman – the photographer – as if in challenge and complicity, each woman looking the other in the eye. What do they see – each other’s life, love and beauty, or death? In her place, looking enacts sacrifice. S