and my heart went BOUM!

When asked to make the images of Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human, I didn’t do anything.
I didn’t make a single sketch or image. I waited. It turns out waiting is also a way of working, who knew?

While waiting, I thought a lot about the human body in general, then I thought about my body.
I read the texts of the book over and over again.
Then I began to I read other books.
My reading included books such as: Dictionnaire fou du corps by Katy Couprie, L’Origine du monde by Liv Strömquist, Así me veo by Josune Urrutia Asua, On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, and many others.

Extracts from Katy Couprie’s Dictionnaire fou du corps. The entries include a range of playful and serious definitions.
In Liv’s Strömquist’s comic, she provides anecdotes, historical references and myths about the female sex. I will write about it in more detail in the next post (entirely dedicated to the sexual organs).

 

Josune Urrutia’s book Así me veo (This is how I see myself) is a manual for learning how to look and draw at oneself. It accompanied me throughout my creative process.

 

Unfortunately, I did not read On the Nature of Things in such an antique edition. This image is from a bookseller’s blog you can visit here.

 

I looked all kinds of images of the body: anatomical drawings, old medical plates from encyclopedias. I found plates from medieval and oriental manuscripts that include all kinds of curiosities, myths and ailments.

I looked at miniature paintings and medical illustrations from Iran, China, Japan, Pakistan and India.

 

Here are two of six anatomical drawings that are included at the end of a volume containing Tibb al-Akbar (Akbar’s Medicine) by Muhammad Akbar, (d. 1722/ 1134) in an undated copy probably made in the 18th century India. The drawings are of individual organs in inks and watercolour.
In the left hand image [upper left] the liver with gall bladder, [center] the stomach with intestines, [lower left] the testicles, [lower right] a detail of the stomach, and something unidentified in [upper right].
In the right hand image: [on top] a composite rendering of the tongue, larynx, heart, trachea, stomach, and liver; [left] a composite drawing of the ureters, urethra, kidneys, testicles, and penis; [right] the external female genitalia; and [at bottom] a composite rendering of the internal female genitalia with a gravid uterus.
Source of images and information: Islamic Medical Manuscripts.

 

 

These anatomical illustrations (artist/date unknown) are based on those found in Pinax Microcosmographicus, a book by German anatomist Johann Remmelin (1583-1632) who entered Japan via the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki. Source: Pink Tentacle.

 

I found these Chinese public health posters from the early 1900s.
On the left: Human body is like a factory, 1933.
On the right: Skin, urinary system, and kidney, 1933.
Source: US National Library of Medicine

 

 

 

 

I researched contemporary artists I admire who have worked with the human body such as Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, Marcel Dzama, José Antonio Suárez Londoño and Bill Viola. I rediscovered the collages of Hannah Hoch (some images are currently on display at the Musée de l’Orangerie).

Prints and stamps by José Anonio Suárez Londoño. On the left: Untitled. No. 276. Source: Bernal Espacio. In the middle, Litografía número 3 Source: Milpedras. On the right: Untitled No. 129. Source: Colección de arte del banco de la republica.

 

 

Man Searching for Immortality/Woman Searching for Eternity by Bill Viola, is a diptych of high-definition colour videos projected onto large vertical black granite slabs. Shown at his exhibition Electronic Renaissance, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.

 

 

Hannah Höch, Dada puppen (Dada Dolls), 1916/1918. Textiles, cardboard and beads. Source: The Red List

 

Untitled by Hannah Höch, from her series From an Ethnographic Museum (1930)

 

I discovered artists I had never heard of.

Celine Guichard´s ludic and disturbing bodies intrigued me. These are from her book “Feutres”, Editions Marguerite Waknine, 2017.

 

Sun in your eyes, by Izziyana Suhaimi

 

On the left: Red Rivers, embroidered book page. On the right, Mixed media image both by Lynn Skordal.

 

In the works of Izziyana Suhaimi & Lynn Skordal, I found embroidery skills that made me green with envy, in a pleasurable way.

I continued to research and think. Once in a while, a little voice in the back of my mind began to remind me that I had to start making the images soon. I tried my best to ignore it, and continued my research.
After six weeks, I finally felt like making an image. I opened a new Japanese sketchbook, made of rice paper in an accordion format that I had been saving for a special project. I cut the silhouette of a heart from the pages of an old anthology of Latin Literature.

I thought about the heart and all the things it does.
The heart beats. It pumps blood, it pulses, it trembles, sometimes it tremors.
When the heart tremors, we take it to the doctor. It palpates. It tick tocks, tick tocks, tick tocks, like a clock.
It breaks. But does it really break? It stops. And sometimes, with or without help, it starts again.

In the graphic novel Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, Nasser Ali Khan wakes up one day and decides to die of his broken heart.

 

While cutting, painting and stitching frantically, I realised I wanted the image to pulsate, to palpate, to say BOUM. The entire process of make the images for this book was moving, different, potent.
Through it I learned a lot about the body and worked with the idea of pleasure for survival.

“Love is not born in our hearts. It is an empty muscle that fills with blood and empties it, fills with blood and empties it, fills with blood and empties it, and which lacks the raw materials to fabricate love. Nor can hatred be fabricated in our hearts. To see where love and hate are born, just as one searches for the source of a river amidst a thick, green forest, we have to look higher up.” (text from chapter The Heart by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image in progress.

 

“If our lymphatic system were not our own, we would think it loves us like crazy, because it is always ready to defend us against unwanted elements, bacteria, and cancerous cells. But our lymphatic system, with its incredibly sensitive ganglia, is us. So, we can say, if we were to say anything, that we love ourselves a lot.” (text from chapter The Circulatory System and the Lymphatic System by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image on the left in progress, image on the right, finished work, photo by Maria Pascual & Miki Hernández.

 

“We know everything that we know because we have a nervous system, and we have a nervous system to seek pleasure, and we need pleasure to be alive, which is the only thing we need to do while we are alive.”( text from chapter The Nervous System by Grassa Toro, translated to English by Claudio Cambon). Image of finished work, photo by Maria Pascual & Miki Hernández.

 

The next few posts will be dedicated to various body parts. In each I will share a little bit about my process and a lot about my sources of inspiration. The book, Este cuerpo es humano · This Body is Human is currently available on the crowd-funding campaign Bibilioteca La Cala.

Song of the day:

Charles Trenet – BOUM