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Love among the mannequins

Author: • Jan 15th, 2008 •

Category: advertising, Ballardosphere, body horror, consumerism, death of affect, fashion, visual art

Ballardian: Steven Meisel

From unnamed Dsquared2 campaign, by Steven Meisel.

Love among the Mannequins. Unable to move, he lay on his back, feeling the sharp corner of the novel cut into his ribs. Her hand rested across his chest, nails holding the hair between his nipples like a lover’s scalp brought back for him as a trophy. He looked at her body. Humped against his right shoulder, her breasts formed a pair of deformed globes like the elements of a Bellmer sculpture. Perhaps an obscene version of her body would form a more significant geometry, an anatomy of triggers? In his eye, without thinking, he married her right knee and left breast, ankle and perineum, armpit and buttock. Carefully, to avoid waking her, he eased his arm from beneath her head. Through the apartment window the opalescent screen of the open-air cinema rose above the rooftops. Immense fragments of Bardot’s magnified body illuminated the night air.

J.G. Ballard. ‘The Summer Cannibals’, from The Atrocity Exhibition (1970).

John C. informs me of a campaign from fashion label Dsquared2, featuring sex with crash-test mannequins. As John says, it’s ‘the usual “god, we need a new thrill” stuff from the fashion industry but it’s difficult not to see this as Crash-inspired.’

Click on ‘Campaign’: this Dsquared2 campaign doesn’t appear to be selling anything. What exactly *is* it selling?

Ballardian: Steven Meisel

From ‘State of Emergency’, by Steven Meisel.

The photographer is none other than our old mucker, Steven Meisel, who has featured on Ballardian.com thrice before: here, here and here. One thing I like about Meisel is that he seems to be slyly sending up the fashion industry each time. In the ‘State of Emergency’ shoot, I rather fancy reading into it an account of the fashion industry declaring war on the anorexic models that have tainted it, all the better to introduce something even more robotic and inhuman. In this crash-test campaign, I am imagining similarities with Paul Verhoeven’s approach to Starship Troopers: casting beefcake and catwalk queens, oiling them up and fetishing them…then decapitating them with extreme prejudice.

Well, maybe not quite — no one beats Verhoeven for sheer creative cynicism — but there is a certain tension at play in Meisel…maybe. Or is there?

Or have am I just become another fashion victim, swallowing Meisel’s bling-orgy aesthetic hook, line and sinker and trying to justify it to the artless masses?

Ballardian: Steven Meisel

From ‘Make Love, not War’ by Steven Meisel.

What’s certain, though, is that nothing has quite pushed the envelope like the ‘dead girls’ shoot from America’s Top Model, and I still can’t make up my mind about that one…

I must away and consult The Atrocity Exhibition at great length, as it’s been a while since I read it.

I have a feeling it holds the key to everything.

Ballardian: Dead Models

Image from America’s Next Top Model.

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2 Responses »

  1. It’s uncertain whether the model at bottom right is giving birth to a mannequin or whether it’s making a spirited bid to crawl up inside her: giving head in order to find one, so to speak. Perhaps the mannequin can enter and leave at will, like Dali’s kangaroos. Either way, the experience has hoovered out any trace of affect from the human subject.

  2. A beautiful summation, Bosse!

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