Stretching my leg. Everything’s form. My body is calling.
Leaning forward and reading the call. Feeling it in my hands, a Braille. There is another face inside mine, behind my eyes, and still I’ve forgotten it.
Every bend in my physiognomy a sign. I’m reading these signs. Reading: my evasive shape, the transformations.
Seeing myself as if through a prism: multiplied, repeated, not still.
If I’m watching you, does that mean I’m reading you? My gaze a writing gaze. Forcing, overthrowing.
An alphabet imprinted in the eye. Is that why I’m saying:
1) You are a clearly defined, distinguishable object.
I’m not saying:
2) You are other, a third merely felt. I haven’t learned that word. I seek that word. Read ALL of my body; don’t get engrossed by the details
In the opaque, ice-cold gloom pulsates a neat line of jelly-filled ampullae along the hammerhead shark’s jaw. The ampullae register electric impulses, emitted by bodies of the ocean, the signals of the deep-sea living.
The persistence of the electric stimulus, its continuity and length, forced – or compelled? – these ampullae to appear. So it was: there was no choice. The stimulus enticed the soft organs. Filled them with glycoprotein. The protein with the ability to register.
When the biologist and scientist Stefano Lorenzini in 1678 understood the function of this substance he felt the current also through his own body. His heart jumped, his blood simmered. Impulses shot out into his work space, impressing the shape of its movements on the body next to it, that of the laboratory assistant.
The assistant’s sensitivity –.
The assistant’s sensitivity, how will it manifest itself? Where is the receptor for the Lorenzini signal?
According to the philosopher Schopenhauer the world is on the one hand a subjectively apprehended representation, on the other will. But the designation will must be understood approximately, as if borrowed from a phenomenon whose qualities are familiar to us: I will, and my body moves, breathes, changes position, responding to the diffuse signals of the nervous system.
Well, anyhow: the will takes shape – is objectified – in what becomes object in the subject’s representation of it. Also as one’s own body. Appears as existence with this very objecthood, without therefore being created, dreamed or invented by the subject. It is only as object the body is dependant on the eye. Hence his radicality: the world neither real nor idea, but conditionally dependent on the subject as being!
S. goes on: With the exception of the Sceptics and Idealists, the others in the main speak fairly consistently of an object forming the basis of the representation. And which indeed is different in its whole being and nature from the representation.
But we cannot distinguish that object from the representation: they are one and the same.
Schopenhauer goes on: Teeth, gullet and intestinal canal are objectified hunger; the genitals are objectified sexual impulse.
‘I’ is the subject that perceives this hunger.
I must understand: must think the world as radically other than how I conceive it. Must think: if the world cannot have an existence as object without subject –
Think: without the animal, the larva, the fish, the human, whose body is nothing but her representation, the world ceases to exist.
I must avoid bringing this non-existent existence into representations. Seeing it before me only proves that I CANNOT free myself from my unyielding subjectivity. And without it–
S: The nature philosophy represents the subject as coming gradually out of the object by the application of a method called construction. With those doctrines of ‘deep wisdom’ it always seems to me, however, as if I were listening to nothing but ATROCIOUS and what is more EXTREMELY WEARISOME bilgewater.
I, Amanda Kristina Pedersen, will throw myself into this bilgewater. This torrent, this vortex of orality.
You’re turning your gaze towards the doctor: transcribing him, Jean-Martin Charcot, making him the object of your investigation into the clinical gaze’s proclivities, fantasies and utopias. Reading his sick writings autobiographically, that which he draws on your bodies. Writes with his wax-like nail, the half shining like nacre. You are also reading the nacre, the half moon, the superficial arch. His despair. The incarcerated as surfaces, sheets, his therapeutic mirror.
I am Charcot: speak of me as you. Second person. Say: “You are the other. We are your clinical observers. Jean-Martin, we’re describing your limbs. Also your genitals. We’re describing your whole body, and the description transitions into an erotic love letter.” (Then distaste? Self-disgust?) Say: “We see right through your lovely glass member, an involuntary glockenspiel when you walk, Amanda Kristina, from behind the curtain we hear your photographic apparatus as revealing clicks. Nothing evades us. We are emitting light from our bodies, impressing the shape of our movements, our alphabet, on your objective.”
I hold the silver sheets up to the light. You are there, yet you don’t exist. You exist as phantasms, creations of the clinical.
Body body body body body. I’m going mad! Who delimits every such BODY’s beginning and end?
Fluidum. A fluidum. Also embodiment [Sw. lekamen]. Which the dictionaries give the meaning “body covering” as it [lekamen (embodiment)] implies líka, that means body, and hama(n), that means covering. Sometimes also: harbor [Sw. hamn]: guise. So the body is hidden, in a cover? What kind of cover is that, and what is body? Is the cover what’s living, life itself in the body, its moving guise?
Líkama.Corpse [Sw. Lik]. What remains when the cover, hama, has gone away-
Body [Sw. kropp] is the Germanic krubná; an object resembling of mounds . Krubná, related with the Greek γ?υπ?ς (grypos), bent-down, and with to crawl” [Sw. krypa].
(English group, Italian grappo.)
What is a body? What is society’s body, or that of communion? A Word, which actually is flesh? Or the other way round? Why at all this mysterious cannibalism?
Every individuum grows into a knowing that is perpetually shifting. A fluidum.
The growing is not pleasant. Difficult, marked with discomfort. It takes time.
Was it the persistent stimulus of light that taught the eye to see? The light that beveled an opening in the face, a permeable sphere of soft, elastic glass. Burned right into the skull. Iris, it’s called; sclera, pupil. The propagation of light attacks the blind body, until it surrenders and opens up.
How would I go about discovering a sense that is not answered by phenomena?
Or rather: I’m looking for a trivial sense with no utility. A sense that has no stimulus; no particles to read, no wave motions to let through, no bodies’ resistance to measure. A sense totally devoid of direction, and of value. Or is the situation of the sense always one of being in practice, indeed, the sense itself coming to exist as a result of this practice?
Ref. to journal note 4. Schopenhauer. If teeth, gullet and intestinal canal are objectivized hunger, what then is sclera, iris, pupil?
The nerves’ need for light?
Ref. to Lorenzini, the ampullae.
What phantasm breaks into and crosses the boundaries of the individual body? A phantasm that from within the body itself transforms, disfigures, deforms or reforms it. Transforms me, rendering me unrecognizable.
Another order, a hint of a third?
journal notes interpreted by:
author, born 1974
Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s Physiognomic inquiries
Trollhättan Konsthall has the pleasure to present Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s Physiognomic inquiries, as interpreted by the artist Kristina Bength and the writer and essayist Vendela Fredricson.
Amanda Kristina Pedersen was a photographer and actress who in the early 1900s was convicted of fraud and forgery in Kristina Bength’s hometown of Falun. She went under numerous different names and identities, and portrayed herself alternately as a woman and as a man. On her release, the prison authorities enforced the taking of Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s portrait. The notes from her file flanking her portrait do indeed describe her as crafty and sly.
The time when Amanda Kristina is convicted of her crimes and serves her sentence is a time when law enforcement agencies and medical institutions frantically photograph their inmates and patients, believing that the body carries the outer signs that reveal a person’s inner character. Beyond physiognomic classification, this practice was about tracing the individual’s qualities, personality and character, and thereby creating her life narrative and predicting her fate to come. But can a person be understood by her appearance?
For a time, Amanda Kristina Pedersen worked as a hospital photographer, and in the archives she got to see a large number of medical photographs; photographs in which individuals are to represent something other than themselves; photographs the gaze of which defines bodies in terms of what is normal and what is deviant; that conflate ugliness to sickness, and beauty to health.
In the physiognomic inquiries of Amanda Kristina Pedersen there are however no such images on display. Instead, twelve medical photographs have been replaced by as many watercolour paintings that derive their subject and composition from the photographs taken by Amanda Kristina Pedersen during her time as a hospital photographer. The gaze of the camera is turned away from the patients’ faces and bodies, and turned instead towards the hospital’s and clinic’s architecture and properties.
Hence, the paintings relate to the subjects and normativity of the clinical photographs by inverting the perspective: where the patient, loaded with symptoms, was scrutinized by the gaze of the doctor and the hospital photographer, the beholder now faces painted excerpts of the institutional rooms that contained this gaze.
The paintings are accompanied by as many medical records. If one regards how clinical photography and medical records worked in their context, it was about seeing, and defining, who the other is; a yearning for making visible and controlling that manifested itself in sorting, categorizing and distinguishing actions. Essentially every patient file up to the mid-1900s begins with a description of facial and corporeal characteristics as a part of the doctor’s narrative description of the illness. Physiognomy appears as central a category as sex, class and age in capturing the character of an illness. In that case text and images support each other in accordance to the propensity of the gaze to see what it wants to see.
Conversely, in Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s texts, through the relation to the images, such an identity is disarmed. At her hand, the medical records almost immediately abandon the objective pretensions of the record and get subjectively coloured by her history and personal experience. Amanda Kristina Pedersen’s texts are physiognomic inquiries driven by phenomenological interests and questions of how the senses work and operate.
Subaltern, redaktör Martin Bergqvist, nr 4 2012.
Sara Skoglund, ”Konstnären som bedragerska, bedragerskan som konstnär”, Konstperspektiv, 2 (2011).
Frans Josef Petersson, ”Kritisk patient”, Aftonbladet, 26 januari 2011.
Joanna Persman, ”Suggestiva bilder förloras i installation”, Svenska Dagbladet, 21 januari 2011.
Leif Mattson, ”Flöden av klinisk humanism”, Omkonst, 19 januari 2011.
Anders Olofsson, ”Kristina Bength på Galleri Flach”, Konsten, 19 januari 2011.
Peter Cornell, ”Berättelser till bilden”, Expressen, 18 januari 2011.
Kåre Persson, ”Förr trodde man att man kunde se sjukdom och kriminalitet bara genom att betrakta ett ansikte, SVT 1, Sverige!, del 7 av 18, 3 oktober 2010.
Nyheter Väst, ”Akvareller undersöker fysionomin”, TV4, 28 september 2010.
watercolour on paper,
200 x 90 cm,
lying horizontally on steel constructions