Story of the Eye Series

I photographed Rachel Hoffman, a performance artist, who makes her own costumes which become an extension of her body and her identity. This particular costume is loosely based on Histoire de l’oeil (Story of the Eye), a novel by Georges Bataille, which recounts the bizarre sexual perversions between a young seductress named Simone and the male narrator who is recounting their exploits. There have been many critiques of this literary work, including essays by Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. Barthes posits against its categorization as pornographic, and discusses the literature in terms of metaphor through the interchangeability of the eye to eggs, bulls’ testicles, and other ovular objects. He also traces liquid metaphors through tears, cat’s milk, egg yolks, urination, blood, and semen. Sontag discusses Bataille’s connections between eroticism and death. The use of phallocentric sexual fantasies of transgression function to complicate gender relations. These portraits present the complexities of the sexualized body and the subject of eroticism as it is linked with transgression, pain, strangulation, and death. The tentacle like costume represents the phallus. The female in the portraits is surrounded by erect penis shaped objects. However, each phallus has an eyeball on it, which also resembles and transforms into an egg. The eye on the phallus represents the gaze. It’s duplication as an egg represents the female reproductive system. At the same time the ovular shape references testicles, thus combining the male and the female biologies into a merged gender. The figure is transformed into a hermaphrodite.