On Helicopters and Genitalia

CATEGORY / Texts AUTHOR / adm1nf1l DATE / November 13, 2015

In the year of 1878, when Eadweard Muybridge made his celebrated photographs  of a galloping horse, it was not the beginning of a path towards  the discovery of the movie pictures , as those photographs thought of today. What fascinated his contemporaries most, was the overthrowing absurdity of those photographs related to the manner in which the “frozen” running horse was usually rendered in paintings. None of Muybridge’s photographs showed a horse in the moment when he has all four legs in the air, stretched forward and backward, but instead, it turned out that when the horse has all four legs detached from the ground it is when all fours are bend under the body of the animal. The photographic technique, which up to the moment was considered as capable of rendering/freezing the visible, revealed something unknown to the eye. What was uncovered is that the instances of the movement have paradoxical disclosure. When Thomas Eakins, a painter, and Muybridge’s friend, in his May Morning in the park painted frozen wheels instead of “unclear mass of woolen matter that spreads around from the center as preferred”   in the art those days, a huge disagreement started about the ”artistic” value of this kind of deception. Artist and photographer, P.H. Emerson, for example, declared that ”there is nothing more inartistic then certain positions of a horse in gallop, which the eye can never grasp, although they exist in reality” An artistic convention rendering the movement in the way the eye sees it and not the way it ”in reality is” , revealed something about itself, that it cannot face the act of presence in the place , where according to that convention there is no presence at all.
Nevertheless, this episode uncovered much more. It revealed that the core of the understanding of art there is the notion of absence; not only the absence as a characteristic of a visual representation which confirms that what is represented becomes actually really absent with the very act of representation,  but as the characteristic of contemplation itself, towards the things which we do not see, things we have lost. The paradox dwells in the fact that when we discover that, as in Muybridge’s photographs, what in reality we do not see, we face again the absence, with the lost experience of looking. Our visual curiosity is organized around something hidden, and as the psychoanalyst  Darian Leader says, culture demands visual field be made of exclusion from the image, while when the excluded  element is returned , we loose the coordinates that make our world a real one. “ Excluded element ”, whithout any doubt , at least for  Freudian psychoanalysists , is genitalia, although the question remains  whether this element is excluded so we might not see it , or  so it might not see us. In the series of paintings by Filip Matic, under the unifying title ” A matchless pair” , we might be interested in two paintings, on this occasion, (better said two motives which appear  on the paintings of this series  as well). One is pornographic , A matchless pair I (2002) and the other one  ”A matchless pair” (2002-03), shows a helicopter, in flight. It might be interesting to mention that Matic was trained as a pilot, and had the occasion to fly the airplane , but not a helicopter though. Following this, it might be that for him, a helicopter remained an aesthetic object on one side, non-utilitarian mechanism, and on the other side, an object of desire, and by that, even the visualization of desire.

First of all, the aesthetic status of the helicopter, (better said  the gap between its fascinating aesthetics  and its use in war operations), is conventionally confirmed:  let us mention only the example when the Museum of Modern art in New York exposed (suspended) the helicopter  Bell 47D in their design department. In addition, precisely in those years, when the Bell helicopters  were used  for American war operations in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. The connection between this usage and the object itself, seemed to pass unnoticed in American media, and the critics expressed their enthusiasm in this way:  ”A helicopter suspended  from the ceiling,  hovers over en escalator  in the Museum of Modern Art… the chopper is bright green, big eyed and beautiful !”  A helicopter, as any object indeed, can never be neutral esthetic object. Furthermore, and that is what most concerns us here, it cannot be overlooked, that this kind of concealing  “ the thruth about the aesthetic object” is not only a matter of some concrete one who conceals some political dimension, but  the very visual representation and its role of screen. On this very painting by Matic, it is necessary to face Muybridge ’s problem: how to paint the ellipses of a helicopter  in flight, or in accordance with graphic method of the author (who has the education that of a graphic designer and not that of a painter); how to paint ellipses in one and only instance of the movement?
Perhaps the very painting of the helicopter leaves us in hesitating search of the solution that would surpass both models. Certainly, the very structure of this painting, as a diptych in which the segment on the right constitutes the effective empty field which is penetrated only by the tip of one ellipse, may suggest that we return to the question of visualization of the absent/lost through the tension which creates the instance of the movement in an empty zone: an invisible particle of presence in the space with no coordinates. That is why, the other painting we mentioned earlier, could perhaps aid us. It shows sexual intercourse, but from the standpoint of eyesight, which cannot be of either of the participants in the sexual intercourse, but of someone as the third, a voyeur.  Moreover, we enter an unstable field suddenly. If genitalia are a prototype of the excluded object, here we have something opposite: a graphic presentation, frozen instant of the movement, ” inartistic” and pornographic  display. However the screen seems not to be removed. And we try, as antique painter Zeuxis  tried to remove the painted curtain  off the painting  of his colleague Parhasius, we also try, although  we already  see  it ”all” , to remove yet one more screen , to reach the  unshowable , because if nothing else, this is a painting from the exhibition, an exhibition of which it cannot be said that it is of pornographic  nature. In a attempt to reveal the ”secret” behind the painting, we discover but one thing.  As the one who painted this, we are in a position of the voyeur caught in the act, the voyeur faced with an impossible demand  “capturing” represented in one single instance. The fact that we remain unsatisfied with this position brings us back to the fact that the desire remined hidden the represented screens, but, it is a position which directs us into something which we do not see, that there is a connection between helicopter in flight and sexual intercourse. The only thing that we know with certainty is that both sights are seen from an impossible position, since we do not see these sights anyway, but they see us.

Branislav Dimitrijevic
translated by Vukan Matic