Indian Philosopher Divya Dwivedi at the Present of the Day conference in Senate Room, IIT, New Delhi, 22 January 2018. Franson Manjali chaired this last session of the day and French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy read his paper Le Bonheur du Jour. French philologist and philosopher Barbara Cassin also attended the conference. It was organized by Divya
The human body is an understated mystery, which is even downtoned further by our monotonous familiarity with it. Paradoxically enough, at the same time, humans with their morals, have an enigmatic relationship with the bodies of their own and others. The body in its pure form is considered decent only at some restricted space. The mind and these complex sets of morals meet in the body and nowhere else. The body is the site of everything happening in the world and these happenings can be bracketed within reward and punishment. A calm naked body is not just a calm naked body. It is a mystery with the whole of the universe compressed into its easily measurable bounds, limited in space right before the looking eyes and in time right on the ground beneath and the hills around and the skies above.
The weight of the body is not measured only in pounds or kilograms but also in units of mystery. The human body in its pure form bears the marks and scars of lived life, and it is the most quietly eloquent thing in the world.
When I say the body, it also refers to the dead body, which I am particularly more interested in maybe because a dead body feels like the body of a mystery preserved in is wholeness, a life, sculpted in frozen, petrified time, the nondescript and the intangible having hardened into tangibility yet still too unfathomable for description. That is how a pure, naked dead body feels–cold, hard and stiff, unfeeling, indifferent. Something being no more there, a dead body feels incomplete, making it more mysterious and awful than a living body, which is soft and pliable but hard to handle. Hard to handle. That is why history has witnessed humans trying to gain control over the bodies of their opponents, their enemies–imprisoning them, beating them, weakening them, or even killing them, turning them into dead bodies so that they no more have to undergo the inconveniences of handling recalcitrant bodies.
4 January 2017. After I had avoided humans, particularly those who are by default called friends in every sphere of my life for a very long time, Preety Jankeepersand and I met, had tea and paratha at Brahmaputra and walked for long in many secluded areas in the JNU campus. Preety, a kind and self-conscious girl from Mauritius, has been a friend of mine who has been helping me when and where no other person would actually give a damn. Most friendships demand mutual investment and that reciprocity needs to be simultaneous lest the friendship expires. Preety has proved a different person–in her characteristic combination of quiet and frankness, and affection and aloofness, she would repeatedly and patiently get through my silent irresponsive solitude and do a few things to help me (calling me sometimes, writing to me often with some important information I need to act on) before she leaves quietly. She knew without somebody helping me I would not do certain things despite the consequences. Not many people would be so generous as her at least to a person like me–so aloof, so unpenetrably silent and incommunicable. I would ever remain indebted to her. So happily.
That afternoon we talked about a lot of things. Life in general. Plans for future–what we wanted to do in life, after the linguistic course. I had my camera with me too–I told her I wanted to take a few photographs of her. To remember her by. The easier way.
I had photographed her before too. This evening was calmer and quieter and we were more relaxed. But unfortunately, when we arrived at this particular place–a beautiful one, one we would unlikely visit on any other day–the sun had already set and I had to turn the ISO up and lower the shutter speed. Far beyond I would normally go for. (We did not plan to come here–some beautiful peacocks attracted our attention and we followed a couple of them which we saw and we ended up here.)
Though I wished we got to this place earlier, she was so cool and beautiful in her blue shirt and jeans in that twilight. We agreed we would come to this place again. Earlier. We have not yet gone there again.
I took six or seven photographs there. She was calmly beautiful in all of them. In her quiet and cute beaming beauty. Now the course has ended and she will go back to her country and I will muddle through following my dream. In difficulty. The time has come for me to publish the few photographs I have taken of her. Here are two of them. Up above. I will add the other photographs too here. And various versions of the same photographs too.
I will remember this friend of mine. Ever in my life. Clearly. Without a cloud.
“Women have been paid, down the ages, for taking their clothes off in public” (Thorp, 2016) and this tradition has settled so deeply down in the collective unconscious of most part of the world that sex and nudity (extraneous or essential) have become an unquestioned tradition at least in the cinema.
Sex and nudity make for hot sales, making entertainment smooth, oiling the cogs of the commercial machine. The result, far-fetched as it may seem at first, is that sex/nudity is the symbol of power. Why do you think so many girls and women take off their clothes on stage on their own or are dressed so scantily that dress on their body are reduced to irrelevance or a fly perched irritatingly on a wrong spot and demonstrate their gifts of nature? They are not just freeing their nipples; they are doing business and politics—they show the rest of the dressed girls and women in the world are either COWARDS or INFERIORS (OR BOTH) because they have nothing interesting or worthy of show. The dressed girls thus cleared off the world stage, these undressed girls and women prove they are the most desirable women in the world—sexiest women. They make money, they are strong, and more than that, they are feared and envied by all women in the world and fetishized by men. Business and politics.
This is where Bansky’s view becomes fucking relevant. Please refer to the picture.
That said, I love sex, I love nudity, when they themselves, not with ulterior motives. I would not care if it were something interesting or something strange fallen from Mars if some women (beautiful or ugly, sexy or not) walked with nothing on around where my passing eyes could see. I also want to walk around naked–I love being naked. Most of the time I am naked in my room. It is just comfortable. And not just that, I don’t want bodies–male or female–to be problems inherently. But when there are just so few of us thinking like this, when the rest of the whole world is made of sex addicts and those who find body offensive, I would save myself. Jesus Sexy Christ, I don’t want to get crucified without resurrection.
Honestly, I love sex, and done well, I think, it is an art in itself and spiritual, too. I love nudity—nature is nude: dogs, cats, horses, trees, grass, rocks … I take nude photographs—male and female nudes, and of myself. (Recently one nude photograph leaked and surfaced somewhere, and a girl called me “BASTARD.” I did not respond. Now the issue has been contained.) These photographs (except those of myself–they were for fun) were taken for essential use, not as part of wanton salacious indulgence or to serve voyeuristic purposes. Nudity for me is purity. Stripped of everything extraneous, the body is once again with its purse self in nudity. Fashions change, values change, but the body remains true to itself, unchanged. The change in an evolutionary time scale is as good as unchancing purity to the photographic body. Sex and nudity will form the sine qua non of my films.
However, sex and nudity is offensive, irritating, disgusting (to say the least) when they are employed extraneously, immaturely, and self-consciously. Most of the sex and nudity in the films now are unnecessary and obnoxious, and nude pictures on the Internet masquerading as art churned out every single second by photographer all over the world are shamelessly self-touching and betrayingly pretentious. (Yes, I agree that there may be no universal measure to determine “it’s necessary, and that’s not” and maybe I think what others think necessary is unnecessary. I may mistaken but I think too many instances of sex and nudity nowadays just come out like that, not from the concerns of necessity.) I have stopped subscribing to many photography sites. I don’t know how the makers of such movies and such photographs distinguish these parts of their work from pornography. I have no problem with pornography, but differently I love pornography and honor these people for their honesty—they do not pretend to be something else than they really are. Pornography is not an art form, and if anybody does pornography, they should have the guts to say they do pornography, not art.
On another side, interestingly, sex and nudity have, irrespective of their relevance, become so normal even when the actresses are unwilling to do it (but they have to do it lest they would lose their career) that “now it seems some of them are being asked to pay, and handsomely too, for the privilege of not taking them [clothes] off” (Thorp, 2016).
Thorp, V. (2016, November 27). Cinema trains lens on role of nude scene: artistic, erotic or gratuitous. The Guardian.