Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Gender, Photograph, and Desire: Visual Practices in El Amor Es Una Droga Dura by Cristina Peri Rossi

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Gender, Photograph, and Desire: Visual Practices in El Amor Es Una Droga Dura by Cristina Peri Rossi

Article excerpt

El amor es una droga dura by Cristina Peri Rossi is a novel about images. Through a discussion of gender, desire, and photography, this essay shows how the visual narrative installs fiction into a text-museum, the photograph paradigm as a fetish within the text, and the camera as an illusory mediator between the photographer/artist and the model/reality.

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Cristina Peri Rossi's last novel, El amor es una droga dura [Love is an addiction], belongs to what I call a text-museum because it creates a pictorial effect, a visual trace, because the image challenges the reader, and also because art (photograph, painting, drawing, etc.) finds itself inscribed/described within the text. Text-museum: because the representation of certain artistic forms permeates the narrative and gives the text a visual dimension; in this context, I consider the terms museum, art, painting, frame, and fresco as equally referring to the process of representation per se. My reading of the novel examines how the visual narrative installs fiction into a text-museum through the complex relationship between word and image; through the displacement of desire (the lack of origin); through the narcissistic transfer of desire to the subject; and through the deconstruction of gender. Ultimately my analysis shows that if the photograph/fetish becomes a substitution for the lack or absence of the object, the camera serves as mediator between the subject and the object.

Peri Rossi's preoccupation with the image has long dominated her texts. The museum is inscribed within the writer's fictions in terms of multiple readings of art. Through extension and projection of the travel, exile, and periphery motifs, the representation of the museum occupies a privileged site in her narrative. Whether neo-classical space (in its forms and contents: from elegant columns to Roman matrons, from Greek vases to Etruscan amphora) or aberration (the museum of useless efforts, the pyramid of boxes, the accumulation of metallic garbage), the museum appears in Peri Rossi's texts as a historical, archaeological, folkloric, aesthetic, and political "monument." Two of her short story collections, Los museos abandonados and El museo de los esfuerzos inutiles, exemplify the author's interest in the museum in the contemporary postmodern artistic scene. In her successful novel La nave de los locos [Ship of Fools], she developed a particular imagery through the recreation of a medieval tapestry, El Tapiz de la Creacion, which deconstructs the image of a benevolent God and a harmonious universe, reversed later in the chaotic literary and pictorial motif of Ship of Fools. Furthermore, Cristina Peri Rossi wrote a collection of poems (Las musas inquietantes) based on selected paintings, among them The Origin of the World by Courbet (a work of art at the centre of El amor es una droga dura). As objects of the poet's observation, the masterpieces figure as reproductions at the end of the book, allowing the reader to circulate in the poemario as in a gallery.

In her writings, the museum discourse reaffirms itself through multiple connotations: temple of knowledge, memory, culture's cemetery. It is also conceived as a market, a refuge, a public place, a hair salon. Finally, on a more learned level, it could be a painting, a reference to a picture, an allusion, a gaze, a story, the fragmentation of ceramic bodies, urban ruins. Classical, popular, erudite, subversive, modern, the museum or the gallery suggests a cultural journey in time, and creates for the spectator a space both private and public. In his study of Bouvard et Pecuchet, Eugenio Donato defines the museum in terms of epistemological archaeology and origin: "Its representational and historical pretensions are based upon a number of metaphysical assumptions about origins--archeology intends, after all to be a science of the arches" (220). If the museum pretends to originality, in the sense of first and authentic, it still needs a fiction that could work as a commentary, allegory, and justification. …

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