The Belly Panorama, the Ball Joint, and the Anatomy of the Image. On Hans Bellmer’s Doll Project (1933–75)
Hans Bellmer’s doll project was continuously concerned with the dissection and recombination of the human form. To this end, he constructed a jointed doll that could be combined in various ways—initially through hinged joints and later through ball joints. In his doll project, Bellmer developed an anatomy of the bodily unconscious and of the image. His attempts to determine foundational body formations were based on certain structural models, including cardan suspension, anagrams, prime numbers, and basic metaphors, which he used to explore basic patterns of both body imagination and symbol formation. In doing so, he operated on the assumption that »the various expression categories [of humans]: posture, movement, gesture, action, sound, word, [...] are born out of one and the same mechanism« and are intertwined with the bilateral symmetry of the human body and its orientation in space. This explains how Bellmer’s doll project relates to specific interests in orientation within and through images, while also raising far-reaching questions pertaining to image theory.
Elisabeth Sedlak is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Vienna. She studied art history, cultural and social anthropology, and German philology at the University of Vienna and the École du Louvre in Paris. From 2018 to 2022 she was a DOC Fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and Research Associate at the University of Vienna. In 2021–22 she was a guest researcher at eikones, the Center for the Theory and History of the Image, at the University of Basel and at the German Center for Art History (DFK Paris) as a Marietta Blau Fellow. Her research interests include the history and theory of the (neo)avant-garde (Surrealism, Vienna Group and its circle), literature and art of the late Romantic and postwar periods, and theories of images, anagrams, and metaphors.
Die Gliederpuppe aus Hans Bellmers bekannten Fotoserien hat nur eine linke Hand. In Anbetracht ihrer oftmaligen kopflosen Vierbeinigkeit nur ein nebensächliches Detail? Dieser linken Hand fehlt aber nicht nur ihr Gegenpart, auch jeder ihrer Finger ist merkwürdig angespannt. Drückt sich in dieser Geste ein Körperbefinden aus – oder gar das Phantom einer rechten Hand?