The Torture of the 100 Pieces by Martin Bladh & Karolina Urbaniak
with an introduction by Jack Sargeant
The Torture of The 100 Pieces, is an indirect reference to Georges Bataille’s obsession with a series of photographs depicting the Chinese execution technique Lingchi - “death by a thousand cuts.” Over a period of eight years Martin Bladh’s body was subjected to countless self inflicted wounds, which have been carefully documented and aestheticised by Karolina Urbaniak’s camera. In this work Bladh’s presence exists primarily through the juxtaposition of the images and accompanying written materials, these include extracts drawn from art criticism, true crime reportage, philosophy, explorations of literature, descriptions of public killings, online discussions of horrific videos, and mediations on the nature of acting. The extracts he selects share a common theme in tracing the complex and shifting relationships between the creative and the cruel, between art and violence, brutality and culture, and Bladh turns these words inwards, not simply through the process of reading but into his flesh. The close-up photography undertaken by Urbaniak makes the skin the primary focus of the viewer’s gaze; the textures and colours of the flesh resemble landscapes marked by disaster, inadvertently recalling aerial photographs of battlefields.
These photographs emerge from, and seek to return to, a moment of timelessness, in which the body is opened and recontextualised. To view these pictures, the variety of injuries on display, is to be compelled to look. Yet this gaze is not seeking a revelatory moment, the sheer overwhelming selection of images prohibits the ready consumption of a singular truth. Instead each demands a new engagement from the viewer. Each text pushes thought in new directions. The series becomes a cycle of flesh hieroglyphs. Each injury becomes the source of its own meaning.
- Jack Sargeant
The Torture of the 100 Pieces
Available for pre-orders. Shipping 1st July 2020