엑소시즘으로서의 원시주의

- 피카소의 〈아비뇽의 여인들〉과 그 수용

Primitivism as Exorcism: Picasso’s 〈Les Demoiselles d’Avignon〉and its reception
서양미술사학회 논문집 제11집, 1999.6, 125-160 (36 pages)
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This study explores the process of appropriation of tribal objects and cultures in the name of ‘primitivism’ by the Modernist discourse through the case of 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉.
In this thesis, I am proposing that the production and reception process of this work has been dominated by white male subjects, and it reflects their desire and fear against the others. Form of a mask, especially images with masks symbolizes women and colored races as the other of such power. As Picasso once mentioned, by giving a form to such phobic objects, he tried to be free from it, and moreover to dominate it. It was a tool to exorcise such phobia. This reflects the western convention throughout its history, that is how the powered rules others without such power.
Since the late 19th century western culture has aestheticized tribal objects. It has separated ‘the primitive’ in a form of aesthetic compound and planted it in the soil of modern art, which created a hybrid form called ‘primitivism’. However, the strategy was to conceal the filthy blood of ‘the tribal’ and let it be absorbed in the pure heritage of modernism. In fact primitivism is no different from other colonialist ideologies, in the sense that it is a western construction based on power relationship.
The first thing read in this painting is a castration anxiety and sexual exorcism. The two figures in the center are typical forms of a Venus, which induces a sexual desire. On the contrary, monstrous faces and distorted bodies of the dark skinned women on the right are the images of femme fatale that symbolize death, which is the flip side of sexuality. These two opposites mean Madonna-prostitute complex. Moreover, the formal aspect of whole canvas reflects fear and desire for women. The painting as a whole reveals conceptually a three dimensional structure which could be interpreted as a metaphor of conquest over feminine space, and at the same time it is perceived optically as two dimensional plane which reflects claustrophobia about that space. Through images and spatial characteristics of this painting, we can discover the desire and fear of male subject, and their will to overcome it.
In the painting, the erotic meets the exotic. This is not coincidental however, since the 19th century colonies have been gendered as female. Women and colonies have been identified with the nature as the object to be conquered 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉 is a
place where this concept of the colony and woman as colonial objects meet. If white women were the symbols of phallic desire, the masked images are symbols of frustration behind that desire. This painting with contrast between white and dark colors of skins represents fear of hybridity. It is a kind of racial exorcism to defeat xenophobia.
The third kind of exorcism which is found in the painting is aesthetic one. Here the form is a tool that exorcises the fearful language. This sorcery of formalism mainly has been held at the MoMA which collected and showed it. It was already anticipated in the famous diagram by Alfred H. Barr, which was the cover of the catalogue of the exhibition named ‘Cubism and Abstract Art’ held at the MoMA. He illustrated that primitiveness is the object that should be utilized and transformed into ‘the other’ within modernism. In this diagram, silent dialectics of abstraction mutes negro sculptures of their own voices. In MoMA, 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉 has also been defined as the matrix of Cubism and its relationship with the primitive was narrowed down only to an aesthetic aspect.
Another tool which has been adopted for this formal exorcism was the principle of affinity. Modernists not only have muted the fearful narrative by formalism but also internalized in the name of affinity. This process of appropriation, first shown in Robert Goldwater’s 「Primitivism in Modern Painting」(1938), still remained in history even until the MoMA’s primitivist exhibition in 1984. All over the catalogue of the exhibition called ‘primitivism in the 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern’, the priciple of affinity creates the mirage of the modernist family of art. 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉 is placed as a crucial painting in this book, and numerous masks are introduced as its source only on the basis of affinity. They are made anonymous and broken into pieces in order to be made formal elements of western painting.
Affinity is not an objective fact but rather an excuse to the western male subject’s desire of appropriation. Affinity is more accurately the elective affinity, and this election is made according to the interest of white male. MoMAism still remains, and it decodes tribal objects and recodes it as the part of western culture to castrate the voice of its own. Formal interpretation of 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉 is also a kind of exorcism, that buries the fearful narratives concerning female and colonial other.
To conclude, the theme and the form of 〈Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon〉 constitute the same story which is the process of exorcism performed by the white male. The real reason for it being the representative work of the 20th century is that it reflects the white male subjectivity in its time of crisis. In the name of ‘primitivism’, modernists have tried to include ‘the primitive’ in modernism as a dialectic other which constitutes their western identities. Thus
the tribal objects, losing its original identity, have been colonized by western culture. Here lies the brutal logic of power, which is vertical, and which is created and operated by a small number of ruling groups. Therefore, primitivism is at the same time the source and the result of imperialism.

Ⅰ. 여는말
Ⅱ. 원시주의, 서구적 구축물
Ⅲ. 거세공포와 성적인 엑소시즘
Ⅳ. 제노포비아와 인종적 엑소시즘
Ⅴ. 언어공포와 미학적 엑소시즘
Ⅵ. 닫는말
주요 참고문헌
「엑소시즘으로서의 원시주의: 피카소의〈아비뇽의 여인들〉과 그 수용」에 대한 질의(김정희)
김정희 선생님의 질의에 대한 답변(윤난지)
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