Fetish-Images and ‘Incarnated’ Spaces: The Case of Hans Bellmer

Auteur / Author: 
Kris PINT (Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg, Belgique)
Tom LAMBEENS (Department of Arts and Architecture, Hasselt University, Belgique)
Mardi 23 Août 2011 - 15:15


 In classic psychoanalytic theory, the fetish is interpreted as a substitute for the missing phallus of the mother. But while the fetish as an “idol” clearly belongs to the imaginary, it needs the symbolic structure of a perverse contract to function. That is why fetishist images are often strictly coded and part of a limited set of objects and postures, to which the fetishist can only relate as a passive voyeur, slavishly attached to this fetish-image that he needs to save his subjectivity. However, if we analyze the work of Hans Bellmer (1902-1975), the interpretative limits of this theory become clear. Bellmer’s work urges us to reconsider the notion of fetishist art, or more broadly, of art as a fetish. In Bellmer’s work, the fetish-image is not the sterile end point of a voyeuristic desire, but the starting point of an exploration of visual sensations and haptic affects that are not restricted, but rather evoked by the grammar of his strictly coded virtual universe. In Bellmer’s style of drawing, the exact, straight line both emerges from and returns to fluctuating, whimsical arabesques; realistically drawn bodies in grotesque erotic postures evolve into abstract figures or a stern geometry of architectural space. In this way, Bellmer’s fetish-images and “incarnated” architectural spaces offer an interesting supplement to the theory of the “felicitous” imaginary of dwelling Bachelard discusses in his Poétique de l’espace (1957).

 Beside a discursive response to Bellmer’s work and the notion of the fetish-image in general, we will also present a visual narrative, INCIPIT (2010), created by Kristien Czubin and Tom Lambeens, which further explores the fetishist relation between “incarnated” architectural form and the “architecturalized” female body.