Die Kunst der Körper der Künstlerin

Hendrik Rost

The Artists Body of Work

In a novel by Kenzaburô Ôe there is a wonderful scene in which the narrator goes for a swim with his mistress-to-be. Although his intention was to forge ahead of her and demonstrate his virility, he realizes that she can do the crawl faster. The woman doesn’t leave him far behind, but stays in front. Swimming just behind her, the narrator is careful to prevent the gap between them from widening or narrowing: he has her crotch in view and can, with appalled fascination, glimpse the pubic hairs sprouting from the edge of her swimming costume.
An astonishing taboo exists in Japan: it is wholly impossible to depict body hair, not to mention pubes. Whereas the bodily is now less frowned upon than it used to be, and is presented (sometimes extremely) in contemporary pop-culture products like mangas, the Japanese comics. Shock and gratification are close relatives. 
The forbidden glories in being a secret desire, and because such everyday prohibitions constantly fire conflicts between instinct and trigger, the taboo is its own most prolific fountainhead. Where does your obsession with pubic hair come from, actually? the woman asks the narrator after this contest, making her victory even sweeter by admitting that she pandered to his illicit lust.
It goes without saying that Beasty Girl would land on the Index in Japan. She would be an underground star there, and have her own special comic in which she and Hairy Hank would fight against Bald Betty. In the USA, by contrast, she would tend to attract interest as an image of the European woman who shaves neither legs nor armpits – not so much bestial as neglectful of certain aspects of personal grooming. Whereas the Beastie Boys have become American heroes: No sleep till Bruckland, said the taxi driver played by Armin Mueller-Stahl in Night on Earth, naively failing to recognize all the real dangers lurking behind his words. What was wild about the Beastie Boys was their pose of being untamed and wicked, a pose that has long become high art. The ubiquitous baggy trousers worn by young people today are imitations of something dangerous: the low-hanging trousers of American criminals denied the use of a belt. Now, youngsters wear their trousers at half-mast as conventional symbols of the subversive, completing a process that began with hip-hop musicians and ended in the nursery.
Anything can be copied. With the exception, that is, of the always alive beast inside. To give it human form is merely to disguise it – as is perfectly illustrated by Beasty Girl. A classical statue derives its beauty from a smoothness, a grace of carriage, a loveliness. It touches us because it presents itself as expressive of a yearning to freeze in a particularly effective and irretrievably lost pose. The sterile coldness of window dummies, no matter how provocatively they are grouped, can have no emotional effect: they are, by definition of function, mere clotheshorses. If the result makes them look less loveable, why do people – women – follow laws of beauty obliging them to suffer up to the point of self-destruction? Their preoccupation with the body is a process of continuous disembodiment, inevitably dragging them down to the level of those showroom dummies.
The stockings in Kleine Fontäne (Small Fountain), are finely patterned with the damaged vein tissue so delicately and inseparably connected with its wearer – with the undeniable fact of the body that teems with flaws yet at the same time possesses a never wholly deniable graciousness, dignity, et cetera. That, then, is what women suffer from: the deficiency that is felt in the flesh. Men suffer from the fact that these bodies are not their own (that they themselves are bodiless). Just how different is the behaviour of art, it too being crazy about beauty, about beauties teetering on the edge?
For all her fur, the savage girl is exposed. There is nothing flirtatious about her pose, nothing challenging or menacing in her stance. Nor, however, does she cower like a 19th-century wolf child unwillingly dragged back into civilization or like those savages sent on tour by Hagenbeck as exotic public spectacles, the forerunners of zoo animals. She herself seems not to know exactly what she is and, for lack of authentic role models, for the time being accepts that she exists.

Beasty Girl has a monstrous, technoid counterpart in the installation Heartware. Some species of dinosaur are known to have possessed several brains: one in the head, another in the back, and perhaps one more in the tail. Each small brain was scarcely more than a bundle of nerves that controlled its immediate environment but was capable of little else. The whole was able to function only through the interaction of its various parts. 
Birgit Diekers steely hearts pump each other on, one heart the next, and so a reciprocal relay keeps the circuit in operation ad infinitum. However, the accumulated strength of the multiple hearts does not intensify the capacity for feeling, for the emotions that will always be associated with the heart. The plethora of emotional bypasses – such as understanding conducted purely over technical media and communication with all its chatter and blips – has reduced the heart to a wildly pumping technical object, although the actual achievement of living and of liking life hardly demands such aerobic feats. These six interconnected hearts seemingly correspond to the maximum number of relationships to which an individual can pay full attention. They amount to the emotional web of a life. The lack of external connections indicates that even this clearly ordered fabric is subject, like any closed system, to entropy, that the incessant search for one heart leads to gradually mounting disorder.

In Japan and everywhere else, the residual human hair exercises the same function: to keep the head from getting cold and to enliven the opposite sex by directing the gaze to those important parts of the body it gingerly covers up. The inverted warning triangle of the woman, a motif repeated in the underarm hair exposed when an arm is raised, stands against the hair on the male chest that in favourable cases emphasizes the pectoral muscles by darkening the shadow between them. Overkill renders void that kind of attraction: the opulently hirsute Beasty Girl is too much of a good thing. Yet that beauty within of which one is constantly being reminded is extremely difficult to discover beneath a covering that is ugly or unusual.
All the same, Beasty Girl is certainly no freak. Viewed against the many steps necessary to evolve from a heap of cells into a human being, from amoeba to city-dweller, she looks like an only slightly older sister – like the fish or the hen one briefly was during the evolutionary process. And she participates in the present by touching, disturbing and attracting. The art of exaggeration is to successfully make clear existing relationships. When we view Birgit Diekers bodies, her objects, the heart leaps, is unstoppable. It wants to be challenged, and at last its wish has been fulfilled.