Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Iconic Images 5
Some days ago a friend send me the link to this image. I had not seen it before but it immediately struck a chord with me. I looked at it and was fascinated by it. I realised that it was an iconic image.
What do I really mean by an iconic image? You know, by now, how self centred I am so the meaning is about how I look upon images. I think, that it mean that it represent or illustrates a fantasy or some important part of a fantasy, an idea or a sensation. Most iconic images I have written about are old favourites but I realised it didn't have to be like that. So here is a very new iconic image. The painting is old, no doubt about that but it is new to me.
When you look at an image you are an observer, you don't necessary identify with the people in it. So I will start there. This is an image of a woman, a very white woman standing naked in front of two reclining men. There is a clad woman behind them, standing and a half naked to her side, sitting. This is a very simple description.
But it is so much more. Perhaps she is a slave that is new to the harem and she is assessed by the master of the house. Or maybe one of the men owns her and is trying to sell her to the other.
I don't know for certain but that doesn't matter. I think she is a slave or soon to be slave. She stands naked before the reclining men. She is property, a thing and she can be bought and sold like an animal. She is naked and they are clothed, they have the power she is helpless, they give nothing, she everything, even her body, her person. When she is sold, someone else gets the profit. She gets nothing. What could be more degrading? And why is it still exciting?
Depending on who you are you may identify with different people in the image. I identify with her. She is the main character so this is not strange, I think. What would it be like, standing there, naked and vulnerable like that? Being watched and scrutinised, being seen and not allowed to cover up. Everything is visible, the whole you is visible. Why is it so exciting?
There is something immensely sweet and delightful in it. Watching from the outside everyone can see she is beautiful. Who doesn't want to be beautiful? She is exposed and in this situation it seems appropriate that she is being looked at. There is no shame in ogling her, that is what she is there for. Could that be part of the appeal for those of you who identify with the men?
Isn't there also a sense that being this beautiful and deserving to be at the centre of attention is nice, being seen as something lovely and knowing that you are lovely, just the way you are? Being naked is about being uncovered, being seen as who you are, not what you do or perform but who you are. Being beautiful as you are.
Being naked is also being attractive, being sexual, the promise of arousal and pleasure. Being that slave is being beautiful, sexual and desirable. And, perhaps, being forced, being at someone's command makes you free of guilt and free of responsibility. Being forced to be something that is good and delightful and pleasant.
These are just thoughts about some of the mixed feelings involved, how something that undoubtedly must be degrading and shameful on one level is desirable and sweet on another. And the strangest thing of all, in this mix the shameful and degrading becomes something desirable and the analysis breaks down. An image is an image and everything is there at the same time.
Fantasies are powerful and images that feed those fantasies are blessings. I am glad I was shown this image.