The Logic of Sensuality

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Sense, Sensation, Sensuality...1

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With a flick of the wrist and a roll of the fingers: lines. The generating motion is practiced. The hand yields an iridescent surface, an optical illusion which oscillates, blurs, then fades…a mirage. Yet unlike other capricious visions which unintentionally obscure or betray sight, this play-of-the-light involves certain concentration. Intent is required of the audience. Without proper rigor, awareness does not materialize and the rendering of subsequent visualization halts.

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Lines, perhaps once black, straight, slightly angled, and radiating from a central hub, now vacillate constructing a translucent, flickering surface. The image plane ebbs and flows in and out of focus, opacity, and consciousness. To look is to struggle, yet this struggle is without strain. The eye receives the sensation readily and calmly while further cognitive responsibilities weigh on other faculties. Thus the struggle is of awareness. Though easy to overlook, this mercurial perception locates articulated and amusing confusion: sensuality.3

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As the rotation slows the image oscillates less and less until fully determinate. It is a bicycle wheel. More specifically, it is an upside-down bicycle wheel fastened to a stool in Marcel Duchamp’s studio in 1913. A sturdy companion, Bicycle Wheel functions anthropomorphically, the rounded wheel perhaps mirroring the artist’s own spinning head while serving as a quirky studio assistant. But what aid does such an assistant offer? Why would Duchamp host such a tenant?4

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Perhaps Bicycle Wheel’s assistantship extends further than simply mixing paints and stretching canvases or, more specifically in Duchamp’s case, micromanaging dust and notating chess deals. With such a multivariate oscillating face, maybe Bicycle Wheel performs best as a model or even as a muse. To gaze into such a face must surely inspire. A surface of such articulated confusion extends an open challenge to the viewer, for his or her amusement. The oracular light begs a response, a commission. The answer: an idea, a meditation, a musing.5

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One possible expression of Duchamp’s musing is Anémic Cinéma, Rrose Sélavy’s 1926 foray into film.6 In an act of portraiture, many spinning drawings called rotoreliefs recompose the face of the Bicycle Wheel. Marketed as optical toys for conjunct use with the phonograph, each rotorelief springs to life through a familiar rotating motion. However, the optical effect of these plates is much more sophisticated than that produced by Bicycle Wheel. Rather than the blurring, flickering surface, Anémic Cinéma’s indeterminacy warbles between two dimensional and three dimensional space.

8 Each flat drawing, once in motion, begins to tunnel and carve out a crevasse in space, appearing to wind deeper and deeper until inversed. The visual effect appears to push and pull in and out, back and forth, while appearing both flat and multiplanar. The oscillation produces a rhythm reminiscent of the previously described plays-of-the-light.7
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Also once marketed as a toy for amusement, the thaumatrope retroactively continues the trajectory set forth by Duchamp and Sélavy. Originally used within the 19th century scientific community to demonstrate the persistence of vision, the thaumatrope not only helps to explicate the ocular sensation experienced in the Bicycle Wheel and Anémic Cinéma but also provides an example of equal value.

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A disk exhibiting an image on each face is perpendicularly rotated such that, to the human eye, the images combine. The canary and the cage appear quite separate, distanced when still via placement on opposing sides of the theumatropic coin. However, once set in motion, the two images blur, bending together. Even before the animation begins the images are incriminated and likened through a comparative logic. Thus it is difficult to see a cage without an inhabitant. Equally fraught is the canary perched without a cage.

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Now imagine a bird whose feathers resembled the structure of a cage. Or maybe a cage painted with the pattern of a bird’s feathers. The thaumatrope produces this logic through motion, through animation. The signs begin to become confused, partially signifying each other while producing a new composite sign.8

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These various meridians form an imaginary map which points toward the paintings produced by Anna Kell.9

 

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This text expands upon Gilles Deleuze’s aesthetic philosophy through the addition, poetically, of a third term. In the Kantian sense, this term hopes to bridge two or more discourses through subjective dialogue. In the Barthesian sense, this term encases meaning not able to be fully articulated before, the obtuse or hidden meaning.

Using stream of consciousness, a writer’s trope for recording a subjective event, two distinct texts were produced while looking at Anna Kell’s red and blue mattress paintings respectively. When occilated, this text becomes imagistic and thus emblematic of sensuality: an articulated confusion.

Here the term sensuality extends from not only a Deleuzian or Derridian tradition of neologistic puns but also from usage within Feminist dialogue. Both contexts are useful within this text as temporal trajectories which continue movement here. There is a hope that the term sensuality will become useful in describing a certain kind of ocular confusion rather than reinscribing an outmoded cliché.

Notice at this point that there is no attempt to cite any information sources as this text functions as a subjective and necessarily heuretic reading of Anna Kell’s paintings and work reminiscent thereof. This is not a research paper or an academic essay. This text escapes hermeneutic methodologies partly through play. Imagine a game of chess.

Here amusement follows from the sort of musing which a muse produces. It is important to characterize the type of amusement as to not oversimplify or reduce the experience derived from such artworks.

Rrose Sélavy being Marcel Duchamp himself, it is imperative that she be treated equally. For who is Marcel Duchamp but Rrose Sélavy in drag? Thus Duchamp’s alter ego will function only when taken seriously, though also with an amount of framed or contained amusement: a staid tongue placed firmly in a solemn cheek.

Anémic Cinéma’s visual sight gag is intercut with textual puns. To read the image as an anthropomorphic pun, like the face of Bicycle Wheel, leads to confusion as the gender of such a metamorphic abstraction cannot be readily determined. The whirly circles can at once be viewed as breasts and targets. The constantly inverting tunnel and tower connote both sets of reproductive organs.

Much like a Zizekian composite silhouette produced from the additive contours of comparative subjects. A woman’s fantasy of the beast as ideal sexual partner and a man’s fantasy of the doll as ideal sexual partner combine to form the ideal sexual partnership of a gorilla copulating with a robot.

The footnotes also function in occilation: top, bottom, top, bottom, top, bottom…

 
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