Allo Paris: the seen, the scene and the ob-scene. Magazines, eroticism and a New Vision, 1931-1939
Royal College of Art, London
Supervisor: Francette Pacteau
Paris magazine, Paris Sex Appeal and Allo Paris were published in 1931 to 1939, combining studies of nudes, candid humanist photographs and pin ups with artistic overtones. Used by Picabia for his paintings and by Georges Hugnet for his collages, they associated pictures by notable artists (Brassai, Kertesz, Man Ray) and the works of lesser known photographers (Moral, Boucher, Schall). Forming a genre yet untapped by historians, these magazines featured a taste for erotic fantasies and a remarkable sophistication in composition and conception. At the crossroads of history of photography, ideas of the body and surrealist humour, this material allows me to study visual culture in pre-1939 France. The corpus of 300 magazines and 2500 photographs expresses an ambivalent status between popular culture and higher artistic forms and discloses a panorama of the divergent photographic approaches at work in the Parisian art scene during the 1930's. Each magazine should be explored as a plastic object and a cinematographic device creating shocks by juxtaposing photographs with no connections. Nudes, landscapes and urban sceneries are linked or dissociated as the reader leafs through the pages, the poetic flicker of the images suggesting film editing. The impurity of these optical games engages a dispersed attention, oscillating between the intellectualised act of looing and the consumption of the body. I hope to dissect the unconscious of the time by researching the subversive operation of pleasure revealed by the ob-scene power of the mechanic lens. I plan to examine the notion of Erotic and to analyse how the photographers undressed women, displaying a nudity inspired by the Academies, cinema and advertising. A feminist reading of these images should throw light on the conventional voyeuristic optic producing a split between the male, bearer of the look, and women, object of desire.