16 Naked Bodies
Agustín Fernández (Vídeo artista)
“In Uruguayan cinema there are very few naked bodies”. The idea for this (almost) playful exercise came from this comment, quite common amongst the press and audiences. I searched for Uruguayan films that included at least one naked body, or part of it: buttocks, testicles, breasts, whatever. As a useless exercise, it was perhaps an excuse to watch films. At a certain moment, I even had the idea of carrying out this search with other purposes: finding scenes with a weapon, or all the scenes in which a specific word was uttered, or all scenes including someone smoking a joint. Perhaps, it was a bizarre way of getting closer to Uruguayan cinema and beginning to understand it. This audiovisual essay stems from this exercise. Several questions come to the fore: what’s the place of the body in Uruguayan cinema? How are naked bodies filmed?
This work gives a sparing answer, limiting itself to the images, avoiding any commentary beyond what may be perceived through Yo la tengo’s music. The number in the title refers to the total shots with naked bodies I found. All shots are strung together through editing, and through this process—with a playful smile—we start discovering a panorama that combines both puritanism and exploitation. The audiovisual essay is structured in different parts following an associative logic between the images. It starts with an ideal depiction of the human body in El Dirigible (Pablo Dotta, 1994), where Laura Schneider’s photocopied vagina seems, for her male counterpart, to supersede the unidimensionality of black and white.
In a way, this first shot, which represents the distance between body and image, crystallizes the central idea: the photocopying machine as a recording device—like a camera—of the object of desire, which, as Warhol anticipated, could be copied and reproduced ad infinitum. On one side, there is the camera. On the other, bodies.
The ways in which nakedness and sex are filmed in most films reinforce a predictable pattern of which Uruguayan cinema is no exception: there is more female nakedness, the point of view of men prevails over that of women, there are almost no sex scenes between two males or two females, it is more likely to see breasts than penises, it is also more likely to see slender individuals than fat ones, and there are more beautiful characters than ugly ones. These patterns bring to the fore a conservative world, and we are aware that this is, to a great extent, the audiovisual material that is largely consumed. These ideas, the basis for most content, are often the tools through we construct our own reality. This is why it is important to problematize them.
As I explained in the beginning, this audiovisual essay renders more questions than answers. However, we can state the following: some films are more concerned with the representation of the body than others; other works understand what it means to place a body in front of the camera and highlight the importance of male frontal nudity. Others are less concerned with this issue and resort to showing breasts, appealing to the heterosexual male’s sensibility, which seems to be old-fashioned—even if it is probable that these scenes may function as parts of the script’s development rather than as ideas per se. This is precisely why we are far more interested in points of view such as the one featured in La Perrera (Manolo Nieto, 2006, shot nº2), in which the protagonist is sitting on the toilet, looking at his own testicles, as the camera captures him from up close. There’s no erotism in this scene; there’s no sex either. Instead, the camera offers a very singular and shrewd approach to the naked body, so close we can almost smell it.
16 Naked Bodies offers a thesis through editing and warns us—not devoid of flair—that we must explore and, if not, we’ll continue being dead, from the waist down.