RE enact/DIS enchant

Opus #1, Wangatta Exhibitions Gallery, Victoria
Opus #2, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
Opus #3, Storey Hall, RMIT, Melbourne, Victoria

Sanguis Et Cruor
by Robert Nelson

When you look at the body, you only see skin:
you unwillingly witness the liquids within.
Your attention is sanitized, purified, fresh:
you can only see form when you look at the flesh.
The exterior offers a form that's abstracted,
allowing the eyes to possess undistracted.
You gladly see muscle and even the bone
as a shape or symmetrical form on its own;
but you want this aesthetic abstraction to hide
the unsavoury corset of plasma inside.
The organic—without outer structure—repulses.
It yields an involuntary theatre of pulses,
amorphous and twitching— irregular time
and rehearsing all linings with membranes of slime.
In this element, all definitions elide
with the watery slipping of organs inside.

But the meaning of blood is more sinister still:
it belongs with contentions of power and will.
We consider the bloodstream if organs go wrong
but the blood in itself carries signs all along.
As the sign of the wound, it betokens affliction
for one; for another, success at infliction.
The injured and blooded shows vulnerability;
weakness for one is another's virility.
Nor are these warlike scenarios all;
because even when accidents swiftly befall
there is still a motif of a cruel penetration
—perhaps without malice—but still violation.
Exterior forces command the inside;
the interior yields to the pressures outside.
The erotic and blood have a painful relation
as both get bound up in sadistic elation.
The friendliest spanking brings blood to the skin
so the rubicund layer seems slightly more thin.
The repeating of strokes doesn't cause a depression
but draws on the blood for this sanguine expression.
But let us not dwell on this habit of violence
but banish the sordid to suffer in silence.
Observe, though, how sex involves blood-lusting will
because blood is the humour of sacrifice still.

For our populace, slaughter and bloodiness speak.
You can note it in films every night of the week.
We continue—as 'primitives' used to before—
to commit to an altar the spending of gore.
While our altars have changed to a screen or TV,
it's the same extrication of blood that you see
where the cook or the crook or the sanctified stud
is dismantled as victim in copious blood.
We use blood for the killing not only for show
or spectacular horror expressed blow by blow
nor to emphasize cruelty or madness in fashions
or any mechanical fault of the passions
but rather to offer the human interior
up to a godhead whose thirst is superior.
Nowadays godhead is representation.
A picture is all that receives veneration
and pictures demand a subordinate role
for the life of each part in their figurative whole.
for representation, spilt blood is propitious.
The act of its shedding is drawn from the vicious
to flatter the power of representation
and keep it from tolling our own immolation.

Dr Robert Nelson © 1994
Art Critic and writer
He lectures in art theory and history at
Monash University, Caulfeild Melbourne.
He is also a practising artist