series of paintings
What is the status of the body in our globalised societies? What truth is still uttered by our flesh while we are finally entering in the post-human era? Barbara Philipp’s works are a painful but necessary call to awareness and sensitivity towards the ways in which the human body is commodified in our society. During the last century, as a result of the acceleration of the process of secularisation, the human body has become the focus of increasing attention and care. The ideology of the ‘here and now’, which dominates our hedonistic times, has made the body the real protagonist in our lives. The body must be immune from decay, it must be totally free from fat, it must be polished and elastic, strong and sexy. In a word, it must be perfect. If you fail to have a perfect body, all your dreams will remain unfulfilled, your desires unsatisfied, your wishes disappointed. Cinema, television, magazines, street advertisements send the same message every day to millions: remember your body must not die. Sport stars and top models show us what results can be achieved through the mysticism of the body.
Yet, at the same time, the media have never been so filled with gruesome images of massacres and human destruction: from the bodies floating in flooded New Orleans after Katrina to the scattered human limbs of the daily bombings in Iraqi cities. What perverse irony can lead from the tortured bodies of news reports to advertisement breaks filled with beauty products, and then again to tortured bodies, in seemingly uninterrupted cycles? Barbara Philipp with her paintings makes this maddening contradiction explode, showing us that in the end there is no contradiction at all. The emancipation of the body from centuries of neglect or oppression may have been a welcome development in Western culture, but it has also led to its trivialisation. It has turned it into a commodity among many others, nay: the commodity par excellence. Our bodies today can be manipulated at will through biologic engineering and technological devices. What makes them different, in the end, from pieces of meat packed in cellophane on supermarket stacks?