“In order to picture to itself an unknown situation the imagination borrows elements that are already familiar and, for that reason, cannot picture it.”

pornography/forest_pics is an ongoing series in which hardcore pornographic images that are set within or around forests are downloaded from the Internet. The human bodies are then digitally removed from the pornographic images. By erasing the bodies, another space previously obscured by the action is recovered. This space is constructed by repeating other sections of the photograph. When the action is removed, the photographs appear to depict a space where something has already taken place, as though the spaces were the sites of dreadful, if unnamed, events. The forest setting is at once a place of beauty and danger, of obscuring and clearing – a public as well as a private space.

In Marcel Proust’s The Captive, Marcel’s initial, and ultimately unsustainable, love and desire for the free and fun-loving Albertine have changed. Albertine is now living as his captive. Marcel’s desire has been replaced by jealousy; he is tormented by his mental pictures of imagined erotic encounters between Albertine and others. Later on, when she is no longer a captive but a ‘fugitive’, the trace of the absent Albertine is everywhere – there is nothing in the world which is not disrupted by her disappearance.

The complex relationship between Marcel and Albertine is characterised by a strong interrelation between desire and ‘covering up’. Early on in their relationship, Albertine explains that when she is attracted to someone, she pretends not to take any notice of them, thus keeping her desire secret from the rest of the world. Marcel is put in constant anxiety and torment when, later on in their relationship, Albertine seeks to comfort Marcel’s jealousies regarding her contact with some girl or other by saying “Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t even look at her, she’s too insignificant”. It is a game of hide and seek in which Albertine’s desires remain elusive.

Marcel stays inside while Albertine goes out in the world (under surveillance). It is not clear who is actually in captivity. Marcel prefers to stay inside, looking through the window and daydreaming about girls below. He has an imaginary, voyeuristic relationship to the outside that is complemented by his surveillance of Albertine’s movements. However, even when Albertine is under constant surveillance, there is still the possibility of erotic encounters occurring. The erotic possibilities are as endless as Marcel’s imagination.

Marcel speaks of trying to consciously destroy his mental pictures of Albertine enjoying sensual pleasures with others. It is a fruitless task: as mental images are destroyed, new ones immediately form. The absence of one image brings about the presence of another.

In a passage early on in The Captive, Marcel describes how he feels the happiness of love when Albertine is asleep, when he is not observed by her, when he “no longer needs to live on the surface” of himself. He describes how she shuts her eyes and loses consciousness: “She was animated now only by the unconscious life of plants, of trees, a life more different from my own, more alien, and yet one that belonged more to me. [….] And indeed, as soon as her sleep became at all deep, she ceased to be merely the plant that she had been; her sleep, [….], was to me a whole landscape.”

Text by Eva Stenram
All quotes from Marcel Proust, “In Search of Lost Time”

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