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The Empress' New Clothes


“Light, or brilliance, manifests the intimacy of life, that which life deeply is, which is perceived by the subject as being true to itself and as the transparency of the universe”.
                                                                                                                      G. Bataille, The Accursed Share


The three UV prints in the Empress’ New Clothes series are photographs of the sun taken from my rooftop during the Greek financial crisis in 2011. Printed on canvas, they result in white ‘holes’ : parts of the textile that remained intact by the inscribing machine during the printing process. The invisible part of the image reached the apex of hypervisibility as the camera lens suffered damage by being exposed to the sun too long, in a sabotage of mediation through excess. In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen published “The Emperors’ New Clothes” - the story of an emperor, swindled by two scammers into believing the nonexistent suit they made for him is real and the most resplendant of them all – hence, he when parades naked into the city the public cheers - until a child cries ‘the emperor has no clothes!’, revealing a case of communal madness. This is a story at first glance motivated by profit and pride, but underneath it lays also a story of value, art, community and legitimacy : for Hollis Robbins, American academic, the weavers simply insist that the value of their labor be recognized apart from its material embodiment. The immateriality of the cloak does not signify its uselessness : its’ value is to be judged upon its’ effects, meaning the implicit agreement of the community to acknowledge its magnificence, and by doing so, maintain its fabric and wellbeing. While the weavers are seen as swindlers exploiting the Emperors’ vanity, on a closer reading they are laboring, economically and socially benefitting the town, and want their immaterial labor to be recognized and valued as such, not unlike the work of scholars, critics, and artists. At a second level, the sabotage of the productive functions of the mediating machines is an attempt towards immediacy through excess : the notion of excess has been deeply explored by Georges Bataille in his “Accursed Share” (1949) in which he posits the Sun as the ultimate generative principle of growth and human economical activities. The sun always gives : this excess has to be spent in order for homeostasis to be achieved. It is decisive then to channel it into controlled destruction – be it in nonproductive activities (art, luxury, eroticism), or destructive ones (sacrifice, war, death). In this sacrifice of productivity and through the intimate relationship they gain with the subjects sacrificing them, things turn from mere servile objects to subjects : “Destruction (of gains) is the best means of negating a utilitarian relation” between man and the universe – “its essence is to consume” by removing objects from the real world and “restoring them to the world of intimacy”. Therefore, destruction seen here as the refusal of productive usage of objects – or, the productivity of ‘profitable’ signal / text – reduced to textile, such as in the weavers’ act - is a plea towards intimacy and communion through faith.

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