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Abstract

This article examines certain historical instances of the gyneco-scopic regime that established the rules and codes of perception, knowledge, and over-codification of the female body as a visible genital body, knowable and reducible to the vagina and the uterus. We then go on to examine a group of contemporary works that challenge this order or, at the very least, de-structure the modern, colonial, and androcentric ways of seeing genitalia. The gyneco-scopic regime of modernity is founded in the synecdochal slicing up of the female body (cuts that are visual, anatomical, and aesthetic), its ultra visibility (exploration, territorialization, and optical penetration), and the paradoxical covering up of the many forms of symbolic, historical, and material violence that have made and continue to make this visual order possible in the first place. A series of works, including installations and performances, by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Ana Mendieta, Enrique Chagoya, Regina José Galindo, Vik Muniz, and Candice Lin, among others, make the violence of this gyneco-scopic regime explicit; moreover, in some cases the art blocks or fractures the gaze set upon the genital body, disrupting the relationship of subordination between the observer and the observed, thereby resisting what Michel Foucault calls the power of the eye.
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H-ART. N. 3. J-D 2018, 346 . ISSN: 2953-2263 -ISNN 2590-9126. . 79-114
The Vagina and the Eye of Power
(Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)
A
This article examines certain historical instances of the gyne-
co-scopic regime that established the rules and codes of per-
ception, knowledge, and over-codification of the female body as
a visible genital body, knowable and reducible to the vagina and
the uterus. We then go on to examine a group of contemporary
works that challenge this order or, at the very least, de-structure
the modern, colonial, and androcentric ways of seeing genitalia.
The gyneco-scopic regime of modernity is founded in the synecdo-
chal slicing up of the female body (cuts that are visual, anatomical,
and aesthetic), its ultra visibility (exploration, territorialization, and
optical penetration), and the paradoxical covering up of the many
forms of symbolic, historical, and material violence that have
made and continue to make this visual order possible in the first
place. A series of works, including installations and performances,
by artists such as Frida Kahlo, Ana Mendieta, Enrique Chagoya,
Regina José Galindo, Vik Muniz, and Candice Lin, among others,
make the violence of this gyneco-scopic regime explicit; moreover,
in some cases the art blocks or fractures the gaze set upon the
genital body, disrupting the relationship of subordination between
the observer and the observed, thereby resisting what Michel Fou-
cault calls the power of the eye.
K
Visual sovereignty, Gaze, Gynecology, Gyneco-scopic regime, Violence,
Genital bodies, Vagina.
P U
PhD candidate in Spanish, University of Notre Dame;
M.A. in Latin American and Iberian Studies (University of Notre
Dame, 2015); and B.A. in Literature (Universidad de Los Andes,
Colombia, 2010). At the intersection of colonial and gender studies
and biopolitics, her work focuses on diverse literary, artistic and
medical scopic regimes and representations of the female genitalia
in Early-Modern Latin America and Spain. Recent publications:
“‘El matadero’ en 1871. Naturalismo, salud pública y el monstruo
biopolítico.” Revista Iberoamericana. (Forthcoming, Fall 2018). “La
vagina-ojo y otros monstruos gineco-escópicos.” With Carlos A.
Jáuregui. Hispanic Issues (Forthcoming, Fall 2018). “El carnaval
de los afro-limeños y bio(terato)políticas.” A Contracorriente 15.1
(2017): 149-169.
ORCID: 0000-0001-9625-3034
puparela@nd.edu
C A. J
Associate professor of Latin American Literature and
Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Author of Canibalia.
Canibalismo, calibanismo, antropofagia cultural y consumo en
América Latina, Casa de las Américas Award 2005 (Casa de las
Américas 2005; Iberoamericana 2008), Theatre of Conquest:
Carvajal’s Complaint of the Indians in the “Court of Death” (Penn-
sylvania State UP 2008) and Querella de los indios en las Cortes
de la Muerte (1557) de Michael de Carvajal (Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México, 2002). Coeditor of Heterotropías: narrativas
de identidad y alteridad latinoamericana (Iberoamericana 2003,
with Juan Dabove), Colonialidad y crítica en América Latina (Uni-
versidad de Puebla 2007), Revisiting the Colonial Question in Latin
America (Iberoamericana 2008, with Mabel Moraña), Coloniality
at Large. Latin America and the Postcolonial Debate (Duke UP
2008, with Enrique Dussel and M. Moraña) and Of Rage and Re-
demption: The Art of Oswaldo Guayasamín (Vanderbilt University
2008, with Joseph Mella and Edward Fischer).
cjauregui@nd.edu
Cite this:
Uparella, Paola and Jáuregui, Carlos A. “The Vagina and the Eye of Power
(Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)”. H-ART. Revista de historia,
teoría y crítica de arte, nº 3 (2018): 79-114. http://dx.doi.org/10.25025/
hart03.2018.04
A vagina e o olho do poder (ensaio sobre a genitalidade e a soberania visual)
Received: January 24, 2018. Accepted: April 5, 2018. Modifications: June 25, 2018
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25025/hart03.2018.04
La vagina y el ojo del poder (ensayo sobre genitalidad y soberanía visual)
This article is financially supported by The Kellogg Institute, The Institute
for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts (ISLA) and the Department of Romance
Languages and Literatures, University of Notre Dame. Translation from
the original in spanish by Juliet Lynd.
80 H-ART. N. 3. J-D 2018, 346 . ISSN: 2953-2263 -ISNN 2590-9126. . 79-114
R
Este artigo examina, por um lado, algumas instâncias
históricas do regime gineco-escópico que estabeleceu
regras e os códigos de percepção, conhecimento e sobre-
codificação do corpo feminino como corpo genital visível,
cognoscível e reduzido à vagina e o útero; e por outro, um
grupo de obras contemporâneas que desafiam essa or-
dem ou, no mesmo sentido, desestruturam a estrutura de
olhar do moderno, colonial e androcentrista sobre os ge-
nitais. O dito regime gineco-escópico da modernidade fun-
da-se no trociscar sinedóquico do corpo feminino (cortes
visuais, anatômico e estéticos), e a paradoxal ocultação
das múltiplas formas de violência simbólica, histórica
e material que fizeram e fazem possível essa ordem do
ver. Uma série de obras, instalações e performances de
artistas plásticos como Frida Kahlo, Ana Mendieta, Enri-
que Chagoya, Regina José Galindo, Vik Muniz e Candice
Lin, entre outros, explicitam a violência do regime gineco-
-escópico, mas também, em alguns casos, obstruem ou
fraturam a visão do corpo genital, perturbam as relações
subordinativas entre observador e observado, e resistem,
enfim, à soberania do olho.
P 
Soberania visual, Olhar, Ginecología, Régime gineco-escópico, Violência,
Corpos genitais, Vagina.
R
Este artículo examina por una parte, ciertas instancias
históricas del régimen gineco-escópico que estableció
las reglas y los códigos de percepción, conocimiento y
sobre-codificación del cuerpo femenino como cuerpo ge-
nital visible, cognoscible y reducido a la vagina y el útero;
y por otra, un grupo de obras contemporáneas que de-
safían ese orden o, lo que es lo mismo, desestructuran la
estructura del mirar moderno, colonial y androcéntrico
sobre los genitales. Dicho régimen gineco-escópico de
la modernidad se funda en el troceado sinecdóquico del
cuerpo femenino (cortes visuales, anatómicos y estéti-
cos), su ultra-visibilidad (exploración, territorialización y
penetración óptica), y la paradójica ocultación de las múl-
tiples formas de violencia simbólica, histórica y material
que hicieron y hacen posible ese orden del ver. Una serie
obras, instalaciones y performances de artistas plásticos
como Frida Kahlo, Ana Mendieta, Enrique Chagoya, Re-
gina José Galindo, Vik Muniz y Candice Lin, entre otros,
hacen explícita la violencia de régimen gineco-escópico;
pero además en algunos casos, obstaculizan o fracturan
la mirada del cuerpo genital, perturban las relaciones su-
bordinantes entre observador y observado, y resisten en
fin, la soberanía del ojo.
P 
Soberanía visual, Mirada, Ginecología, Régimen gineco-escópico,
Violencia, Cuerpos genitales, Vagina.
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“Have there been revolts against the gaze?”
Michel Foucault “e Eye of Power”
What and how a society sees or does not see is historically, technologically, and
culturally overdetermined. ere is a visual engendering of the world. Every era
of every culture witnesses the deployment of a series of visual technologies (light-
ing, optical instruments, tools of reproduction, etc.) and codes to regulate the
gaze, not only making the world visible, but generating its cultural conceptual-
ization, representation, codication and decodication. Martin Jay names these
general systems “scopic regimes.”1
is is not an essay about female genitalia, as the title may suggest; it is
about power. Or rather, about the eye of power: a matter of visual sovereignty over
certain fragmented bodies engendered through visual regimes. We rst present
several historical instances of what we call the gyneco-scopic regime that establishes
the rules and codes of perception, knowledge, and over-codication of the female
body as a visible genital body (reproductive and generative), knowable and reduc-
ible to the vagina and the uterus. We then turn to a group of contemporary works
that challenge this androcentric visual regime that engenders genitalia and gender.
e gyneco-scopic regime, as we dene it, is founded in: 1) A synecdoch-
ical slice, the product of a gaze that cuts the body into pieces, making visual,
anatomical, and aesthetic cuts to produce territories or genital organs. ese
chunks of the body are recodied as synecdoches (that is, the part represents the
whole: woman is represented by a piece of herself, genitals represent gender, etc.).
2) Ultra-visibility. As in the case of those who are deemed freaks, genital bodies
are over exposed to the gaze and they enter into modern culture “not as agents or
subjects but as ultravisible icons [...] whose cultural work is to [...] verify the pre-
vailing sociopolitical arrangements arising from representational systems such as
gender.”2 is ultra-visibility is manifested in the exploration, exhibition, opti-
cal penetration, and ubiquitous representation of female genitalia in modernity.
And 3) e paradoxical covering up of multiple forms of historical, material, and
symbolic violence that have made and continue to make this visual order possi-
ble. e gyneco-scopic regime is a tautological one that is authorized through
violence and justies multiple kinds of violence; a regime that cuts and allows
cutting; that is made out of blood yet appears clean before the eyes.
In this essay, we trace the historical construction of female genitalia in
modern culture, examining several paradigmatic instances of the visual rep-
resentation of the vagina and the genital body by anatomists and artists alike.
Following this examination, as it were, we present a series of works of art, instal-
lations, and performances that resist the sovereignty of the eye; that is, works that
expose the violence of the gyneco-scopic regime, obstruct or fracture such visual
1 . “Scopic regimes” are, according to Jay, “general
systems of visuality constructed by a cultural/tech-
nological/political apparatus mediating the appar-
ently given world of objects in a neutral perceptual
eld.” e term “indicates a non-natural visual or-
der operating on a pre-reective level to deter-
mine the dominant protocols of seeing and being
on view in a specic culture at a specic time”
(Martin Jay, “Scopic Regime.” e International
Encyclopedia of Communication. Vol. X. Edited by
Wolfgang Donsbach. (Malden: Blackwell Pub.,
2008), 4515).
2 . Rosemarie Garland-omson, “e Beauty
and the Freak.Disability, Art, and Culture (Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan, 2000), 192.
The Vagina and the Eye of Power (Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)
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sovereignty over the genital body, and/or perturb the relationship of subordina-
tion between the observer and the observed. We are talking about certain visual
insurrections that challenge “the eye of power,” as theorized by Michel Foucault.3
To better understand the tripartite structure of the gyneco-scopic regime
and what we deem an insurrection against the eye of power, let us compare Gustave
Courbet’s painting L’Origine du monde (1866), a famous realist nude held in
the Musée d’Orsay (Img. 1), vis-à-vis the performance piece Miroir de l’Orig-
ine (2014) by Luxembourgian artist Deborah De Robertis (b. 1984) (Img. 2).
Courbet’s painting (which centers on the torso from the thighs to the breasts;
the head, legs, and arms not visible to the viewer) is representative of the gyne-
co-scopic regime of modernity: the vagina is an identiable territory on a body
that is sliced up and identied as female). In her performance that claims to mir-
ror (i.e, to replicate and invert) Courbet’s painting, De Robertis poses nude with
her own live body in front of the painting, enacting an insurrection against the
gyneco-scopic regime privileged by the original. As evidenced in photographs
of the performance, the artist placed herself in front of the wall of the museum
where the painting hangs, legs spread, between the sublime vagina of L’Origine
and the spectators, distracting them and making them uncomfortable, and dis-
rupting the act of contemplation that denes the spectator. at De Robertis was
arrested for this conrms that she was exposing not only her own body, but also
the disparity between the museum-goers’ desire to contemplate female nudes in
art and their horror at being confronted with the esh-and-blood genitalia of
3 . Foucault, as he candidly states in an interview,
rst developed the idea of the panopticon as a par-
adigm of power while he was “studying the origins
of clinical medicine” (“e eye of power” 146 ).
e eye of power subjects individuals to discipline,
surveillance, and knowledge; in other words, pow-
er is to a certain extent an optic eect that produces
students, prisoners, citizens, family members, pa-
tients, and also —as we maintain here— medical
specimens and genital bodies (see Michel Foucault,
e Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical
Perception. Translation by A.M. Sheridan (New
York: Pantheon, 1973), and Michel Foucault,
Discipline and Punish e Birth of the Prison (New
York: Pantheon, 1977); Edgardo Castro, El ocab-
ulario de Michel Foucault: un recorrido alfabético
por sus temas, conceptos y autores (Buenos Aires:
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, 2006), 55-60,
254-56).
Image 1. Gustave Courbet, L’Origine du monde (1866). Musée d'Orsay, Paris. Public
Domain Mark 1.0.
83
Paola Uparella and Carlos A. Jáuregui
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a live woman; genitalia that function as resistance to the I and the eye that look
at the object: the “actual” vagina of the performer looks back at the spectators,
unsettling their otherwise unproblematized contemplation of the female nude.
e performative vagina functions then as a Lacanian “radical object”; that is,
the object “which objects” and disturbs, enacting a “point from which the object
itself returns the gaze.”4 De Robertis performs the moment when the genital
object gazes back at the subject.
An additional example of this contrast between gyneco-scopic sover-
eignty and visual insurrection against it can be found in, on the one hand, an
illustration from a treaty written by the Scottish anatomist William Smellie
(1697-1763), showing one of the stages of birth with a still frame of a genital
trunk (Img. 3), and, on the other, the same pose as represented in Frida Kahlo’s
Mi nacimiento (1932), in which the bloody traces and physical pain suppressed
in Smellie’s work are fully visible (Img. 4). e former, like Courbet’s painting,
displays the gyneco-scopic sovereignty of the anatomist while the latter con-
fronts the gaze of the viewer with the life and pain of childbirth. Kahlo’s paint-
ing is not explicitly in dialogue with Smellie’s work per se, in the way that De
Robertis engages Courbet, but her work objects to and challenges the cleaned
up and asymmetrical representation of the genital body/piece, enacting a “point
from which the object itself returns the gaze.”
e gyneco-scopic regime in Courbet and Smellie segments and muti-
lates, presenting bodies with no face, no extremities. It renders the genitals
4 . Slavoj Žižek, e Parallax View (Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press, 2006), 17. While the “the eye
viewing the object is on the side of the subject, [...]
the gaze is on the side of the object. When I look
at an object, the object is always already gazing
at me, and from a point at which I cannot see it”
(Žižek in Sean Homer, Jacques Lacan (London:
Routledge, 2010), 109).
Image 2. Deborah De Robertis, Miroir de l'origine
(2014). Photographic series Mémoire de l'origine.
Galleria Massimo Minini FIAC 2014. Courtesy of
Deborah De Robertis
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ultravisible through a territorialized focalization, and it hides the violence that
makes these representations possible in the rst place (a topic to which we will
return). De Robertis and Kahlo, however, disrupt this order. In De Robertis’s
performance, artistic exhibitionism perturbs the museum exhibit, and an excess
of reality, to borrow the words of Beatriz Jaguaribe, challenges Courbet’s pictoric
realism.5 e vagina with eyes (a gazing organ) interrupts the voyeurism of the
spectator, disorganizing the gineco-scopic regime; the vagina itself is turned into
an onlooker. Kahlo, on the other hand, lays out a gure in the same pose as that
of the Smellie illustration, but with three dierences: the entire body is repre-
sented, the sheet is bloody, and the mother and fetus are conspicuously dead.
Furthermore, the covering up of the face —typical in the gyneco-scopic regime
5 . According to Beatriz Jaguaribe, the “shock of
the real” (“choque do real”) is a moment of aes-
thetic intensication that produces the eect of ca-
thartic fright in the reader or viewer, and that seeks
to “provoke discomfort and wants to sensitize the
viewer-reader without necessarily falling back on
registers of the grotesque, the spectacular or the
sensationalistic. e impact of the “shock” is de-
rived from the representation of something that is
not necessarily extraordinary, but that is exacerbat-
ed and intensied. ese are everyday occurences
in life [...] such as [...] erotic contacts that provoke
a strong emotional response” Beatriz Jaguaribe,
O choque do real: estética, mídia e cultura (Rio de
Janeiro: Rocco, 2007), 100). All translations are
our unless otherwise attributed.
Image 3. William Smellie, Plate 15, A Sett of Ana-
tomical Tables, with Explanations, and an Abrid-
gment, of the Practice of Midwifery (1754). U.S.
National Library of Medicine.
Image 4. Frida Kahlo, Mi nacimiento (1932).
© 2018 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida
Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists
Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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à la Smellie— is explicit in Kahlo’s piece: the sheet covers the face of the dead
body, a sort of spectral appearance of the gyneco-scopic cover up.
We would like to oer two additional examples of insurrection against
the eye of power to which we are referring: a 19th-century engraving by
Hungarian artist Mihály von Zichy (1827-1906) (Img. 5) and the recreation
of L’Origine du monde (2015) by US artist Candice Lin (b. 1979) (Img. 6). In
Zichy’s engraving, an artist buries his head between the legs of his model, who
leans back against the canvas, her feet propped up on the artist’s chair. is is
almost a caricature of the scopic focalization that informs Courbet’s nude as well
as the eighteenth-century anatomical prints of genitals (the easel stands in as the
doctor’s table used for gynecological explorations). More than a representation
of the vagina itself, Zichy’s engraving represents the gaze that penetrates and
examines, but that is also nearly lost as the observer and the observed, the subject
and the object, are mixed up, meshed together in cunilingus and visually undier-
entiated. e gynecologist-painter can no longer see the “thing” (and neither can
we): the oral overtakes the visual. e viewer witnesses the shipwreck of the gaze
in the vagina. As we will discuss, this collapse is carried to an extreme by Lin, who
snatches the vaginal trunk and gives it eyes, “all the better to see you with,” as the
wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood before devouring her; the vagina looks back
at the onlookers. ese works challenge the identity of the organ and the gender
identity with which it has oen been associated (a genital identity), as well as
the asymmetry of power in a world divided between those who look and those
who are seen. Additionally, they invoke forgotten violences, the horrors and even
crimes that are hidden below the achievements of science and great works of art.
Image 5. Painter and his model. Mihaly Von Zichy. PD-1923. Image 6. Courbet’s L’Origine du monde with eyes. Candice Lin, Inside Out,
still (2010). Courtesy of Candice Lin and Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles.
The Vagina and the Eye of Power (Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)
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Systematic exploration of the human body was initiated during the
Renaissance, but until the eighteenth century, the vagina was, generally speaking,
conceived of abstractly, represented only in a speculative way, and most of the
time rendered invisible. Of course there are numerous exceptions to this conceal-
ing. For instance, there are ceramic pieces from pre-Hispanic cultures that show
clear anatomical understanding of the clitoris (Img. 7); medieval carnavalesque
representations, such as the little pilgrim vaginas (Img. 8); or the disturbing,
ornamental Sheela na gig, watching us from her perch on the cornice of a medi-
eval Romanesque church (Img. 9).6 But what we wish to point out here are not
the exceptions, but rather the general grammar of invisibility that prevailed until
the Enlightenment shed its light on female genitalia. For until then, what pre-
dominated were speculative representations founded in readings of Aristotle or
Galen of Pergamon. e vagina was considered variously as a deformity of male
genitals; as an inverted penis, as in De humani corporis fabrica (1543) by Andreas
Vesalius (Img. 10); or as a receptacle for the penis, as explained by Matteo Realdo
Colombo, supposed discoverer of the clitoris, in his De Re Anatomica (1559).
When it is represented, it is shown as a slit or a hole, as in the work of Jacopo
Berengario (1535) (Img. 11) and also Johann Vesling.7 Before it is represented,
the vagina is closed o by a veil that is both optical and epistemological.8 is
is evident in images (be they artistic or anatomical) such as Sandro Botticelli’s
6 . On medieval representations of the vagina and
their relation to contemporary art, see Madeline
Caviness, “Retomando la iconografía vaginal”.
Quintana 6 (2007): 13-37.
7 . Johann Vesling, Syntagma anatomicum (Patavii:
Typis Pauli Frambotti, 1647), f. 80 v., 96 v.
8 . e term vagina (from vaina: scabbard or
sheath) was used for the rst time by Matteo Realdo
Colombo (c. 1515-1559) in De Re Anatomica
(1559), but until the eighteenth century, the vagina
was relatively unknown and frequently dened as a
deformation or inversion of the penis, a small mem-
ber, or the scabbard or sheath for covering the penis;
the ovaries were referred to as internal testicles. e
list of “anatomists” making speculative conceptions of
the vagina is notable: Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564),
Prospero Borgarucci (. 1564-1579), Gabriello
Fallopio (1523-1562), and omas Bartholin
(1616-1680), among others. Treatise writers pre-
ferred to read Aristotoles or Galen of Pergamon rath-
er than engaging in careful observation of the female
genitals (Mónica Cano “Coños. Invisibilización de
los sexos otros. Anatomía política de los genitales
femeninos y ‘abyectos.’” Turba. Revista de losofía
política Sep (2014): 44-5; Catherine Blackledge, e
Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality,
(New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press,
2004), 60-1, 70-1, 77-9; Angus McLaren, “e
Image 7. Female Figure in Birthing Position, Moche, Perú (50-
800 A.D.). Walters Art Museum. CC BY-SA 3.0.
Image 8. Pilgrim Vagina (Reimerswaal, 1375-1425). Courtesy
of Páncélkovács, Hungary.
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Image 9. Sheela na gig. Kilpeck Church, Herefordshire, UK (si-
glo XII). Photography: Nessy-Pic. CC BY-SA 4.0.
Image 10. Andreas Vesalius, “Illustration of a uterus”, De humani corporis fa-
brica (1543). Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0.
Image 11. Jacopo Berengario, “Dissected woman
pointing to an extracted uterus, Anatomia Carpi
Isagoge breves perlucide ac uberime, in anatomiam
humani corporis (1535). Wellcome Library,
London. CC BY 4.0.
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e Birth of Venus (1484), the anatomical Venus (1560) drawn by the Spaniard
Juan Valverde de Amusco (Img. 12), or the illustration of the ower of pregnancy
(1627; published by Adriaan van Spiegel in 1631) by Giulio Casseri (Img. 13).9
Even Leonardo da Vinci, who made one of the rst anatomical illustra-
tions of female genitalia based on dissections (c. 1508) (Img. 14), seems a lit-
tle lost when he speaks of the female body he draws as a “grand mystery.10 e
important point here is that Da Vinci represents the female body as a pelvis,
with no head and no extremities, focalized on the vagina, just as Smellie and
Courbet would later do. e Davincian visual display has a direct connection to
the gyneco-scopic regime of anatomical illustrations inaugurated by the Scottish
anatomists and “fathers of gynecology,” the aforementioned William Smellie
and William Hunter (1718-1783).
Smellie and Hunter make female genitals the object of the prestigious
gaze of the anatomist and their luxurious treatises on anatomy. e modern
anatomization of female genitalia and the uterus are the result of a collabora-
tion between “great men of science”—authorized by their gender, social class,
and academic positions— dedicated to dissecting cadavers of pregnant women
and commissioning detailed engravings of the dissections. Smellie published
Pleasures of Procreation.” William Hunter and the
Eighteenth-century Medical World. Eds. W.F. Bynum
and Roy Porter (Cambridge; New York: University
Press, 1985), 327).
9 . It goes without saying that all of this covering up,
hiding, and obfuscation of the vagina does not mean
that people did not know about or were not familiar
with the vagina; rather, the order of representation
was speculative, not properly gyneco-scopic.
10 . Leonardo Da Vinci, Jane Roberts Kenneth
Keele, Windsor Castle. Royal Library, Metropo-
litan Museum of Art. Leonardo da Vinci: Ana-
tomical Drawings om the Royal Library, Windsor
Castle. Edited by Kenneth Keele and Carlo
Pedretti (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art,
1983), 13.
Image 12. Juan Valverde de Amusco, Anatomia del corpo
humano (1560). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Public
Domain Mark 1.0.
Image 13. Adriaan van Spiegel and Giulio Casseri,
De formato foetu liber singularis [1626]. U.S. National
Library of Medicine. Public Domain Mark 1.0.
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Image 15. William Smellie, Plates 7 and 31, A Sett of Anatomical Tables, with Explanations, and an Abridgment, of the Practice of
Midwifery (1754). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Image 14. Leonardo Da Vinci, “e vulva and
anus.” Drawing annotated with explanatory dia-
gram. (ca. 1508). Royal Collection Trust / © Her
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.
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A Sett of Anatomical Tables (1754) (Img. 15) and Hunter authored the famous
e Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus (1774), illustrated by the Dutch Jan
van Rymsdyk (1750-1788).11 With these treatises, the focalization is such that
the entire body is reduced to a pelvic body, with no arms, legs, or head (and thus
obviously with no eyes, which is to say, a body that can be looked upon with
apparent impunity, with no risk that it will return the gaze). e relationship
between this illustrated anatomization and the pelvic body represented by Da
Vinci is historic. Hunter discovered and studied Da Vinci’s drawings of the
vagina in the Windsor Library.12
Between 1750 and 1754, Smellie and Hunter dissected twenty cadav-
ers of pregnant women. Later, between 1766 and 1774, Hunter, assisted by
his brother John (1728-1793), dissected approximately twelve more pregnant
women.13 Hunter ’s e Anatomy includes thirty-four high quality illustrations.
Furthermore, Hunter commissioned several three-dimensional, life-sized plaster
sculptures (Img. 16). Eleven of these are housed today in the Hunterian Museum
at the University of Glasgow,14 along with several preserved uteruses, fetuses, and
vaginas from his dissections (Img. 17).15
Hunter epistemologically privileges what is seen and explored vis-à-vis
that which is abstracted, idealized, or “conceived in the imagination”16 and he
alleges a scientic correspondence between that which is observed and those
territories that are graphically represented. e image that “represents what is
actually seen” is true and “becomes almost as infallible as the object itself,” says
Hunter in his preface (2 n.p.).17 One illustration even includes the reection,
11 . Smellie’s treatise was illustrated by van
Raymsdyk, Petrus Camper (1722-1789), and al-
so by Smellie himself. Hunter’s illustrations were
drawn by van Rymsdyk (who did 31 of the 24 draw-
ings), Edward Edwards (1738-1806; plate XVI),
Alexander Cozens (1717-1786; plate XXI), and
Nicholas Blackey (1739-1758; plate XXII) (see
Caroline Grigson “‘A Universal Language’: William
Hunter and the Production of e Anatomy of a
Human Gravid Uterus.William Hunter’s World.
e Art and Science of Eighteenth-Century Collecting.
Eds. Georey Hancock, (Nick Pearce and Mungo
Campbell. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited,
2015), 65, 69, 71-2). According to Lyle Massey, these
treatises “wrenched a semiprivate female ritual out of
its homely connes and into the full light of public
scrutiny and medical science” (73, see also Ludmilla
Jordanova, “Gender, Generation and Science:
William Hunter’s Obstetrical Atlas”, William
Hunter and the Eighteenth-century Medical World.
Eds. W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (Cambridge; New
York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 386).
12 . Martin Kemp, “Dr. William Hunter on the
Windsor Leonardos and his Volume of Drawings
Attributed to Pietro da Cortona.” e Burlington
Magazine 118.876 (1976): 144, 147-48.
13 . Smellie’s and Hunter’s treatises, according to
Don Shelton, illustrate more than thirty pregnant
bodies. e illustrations in e Anatomy represent six-
teen bodies, twelve of which Hunter would have dis-
sected with his brother between 1766 and 1744 (Don
Shelton, “e Emperor’s New Clothes” Journal of the
Royal Society of Medicine 103.2 (2010): 46, 49; Don
Image 16. Plaster anatomical model (Gravid Uterus, Hunter
Cast 48.4). © e Hunterian, University of Glasgow 2018.
Image 17. “A sagittal section of a uterus, ovary,
vagina and bladder some time aer birth.” e
Hunterian Museum. Photography: Emőke Dénes.
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Shelton, “Shelton’s response” Journal of the Royal
Society of Medicine 103.5 (2010): 167). Kaufman and
Malcolm-Smith arm that Hunter illustrated only
ve women, all of whom were nine months preg-
nant (Matthew F Kaufman and Nigel A. Malcolm-
Smith. “e Emperor’s New Clothes.” Letter. Journal
of the Royal Society of Medicine 103.5 (2010): 166.)
and Stuart McDonald and John Faithfull state that
Hunter used thirteen cadavers obtained through
exhumations, in addition to supplemental material
from births and several abortions (Stuart McDonald
and John Faithfull, “William Hunter’s Sources
of Pathological and Anatomical Specimens, with
Particular Reference to Obstetric Subjects.” William
Hunter’s World. e Art and Science of Eighteenth-
Century Collecting. Eds. Georey Hancock, Nick
Pearce and Mungo Campbell (Farnham: Ashgate
Publishing Limited, 2015), 52-55).
14 . e three dimensional works have been at-
tributed to van Rymsdyk, as well as to sculptors
Edward Burch (1730-1814) and Agostino Carlini
(c. 1718-1790). In his manuscripts, Hunter regis-
tered the existence of twenty-one pieces, fourteen of
which were connected to John Teacher in his catalog
(1900). However, only eleven are found today in the
Hunterian Museum (N. A. McCulloch, D. Russell,
and S.W. McDonald “William Hunter’s Casts of
the Gravid Uterus at the University of Glasgow”,
Clinical Anatomy 14.3 (2001): 210, 213. 216;
John H. Teacher, Hunterian Museum (University
of Glasgow) and William Hunter. Catalogue of
the Anatomical and Pathological Preparations of
Dr. William Hunter in the Hunterian Museum,
University of Glasgow. Vol. II (Glasgow: James
MacLehose and Sons, 1900), 659-67).
15 . On the relation between the preserved spec-
imens and those represented in e Anatomy, see
McCulloch et al.,“Hunter’s Gravid”, 253).
16 . William Hunter, e Anatomy of the Gravid
Uterus Exhibited in Figures [1774]. [Facsimile], 2 n.p.
17 . at gure which is a close representation of
nature, and which is nished from a view of one
subject, will oen be, unavoidably, somewhat in-
distinct or defective in some parts; the other, being
a gure of fancy, made up perhaps from a variety
of studies aer Nature, may exhibit in one view,
what could only be seen in several objects; and it
admits of a better arrangement, of abridgment,
and of greater precision. e one may have the
elegance and harmony of the natural object; the
other has commonly the hardness of a geometrical
diagram: the one shews the object, or gives percep-
tion; the other only describes, or gives and idea of
it. A very essential advantage of the rst is, that as
it represents what was actually seen, it carries the
mark of truth, and becomes almost as infallible as
on the viscous head of the fetus, of a window that lets in the light (Img. 18;
g. IV). ese limitations on seeing and knowing do not call into question the
authority of the anatomist’s visual knowledge; rather, they authorize his “visual
epistemology.18 Smellie and Hunter dissect, map out, penetrate, and scrutinize
the female body in order to produce scientic knowledge about it, a move that
is paradoxically authorized by artistic drawings.19 is visual epistemology orga-
nizes the body. When we say organize, we mean that it literally divides the body
into organs, slices it up, and produces a naturalized identity of, for example, the
vagina and the uterus. e genital organs do not exist prior to their anatomiza-
tion; that is to say, to the series of visual and epistemological cuts that produces
the ction of their identity and that establishes their supposed limits, their con-
nections to other organs, their function, etc.
In Hunter’s illustrations, we notice a series of successive cuts that rst sup-
press the head, the extremities, and the upper part of the torso, leaving the pelvic
body with legs spread open (Img. 19). From there, this pelvic body is cut into
several deeper layers: the belly is opened by the scalpel and by the anatomist’s
eye, and the uterus, fetus, placenta, and even the ovaries and the vaginal tissues
are extracted and illustrated (Img. 18). e anatomist is like a butcher (which we
suggest with all due respect to professional butchers). Donna Haraway, noting
Image 18. William Hunter, Plate 26, e Anatomy of the
Human Gravid Uterus (1774). U.S. National Library of
Medicine.
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that “[v]ision is always a question of the power to see— and perhaps of the vio-
lence implicit in our visualizing practices,” poses the question: “With whose
blood were my eyes craed?.”20 In the images that appear so “cleanly” laid out on
the pages of Hunter’s book and on his anatomical models, we can glimpse the
blood with which the anatomist’s eyes were craed. But we need to read them
historically “against the grain” as Walter Benjamin proposed.21
Hunter represents not only a new type of vision cast upon the genitals,
but a whole new optics that supposes and at the same time eects —both liter-
ally and guratively— his slicing and dicing of the body into exhibition pieces.
In addition to producing a detailed illustration and a three-dimensional repro-
duction (the plaster models) (Img. 16) as well preserving and collecting organic
specimens (Img. 17), Hunter produces knowledge about the “thing” he is rep-
resenting. at is to say, we are faced with a superposition, an accumulation of
ultravisible bodily fragments that is saturated, redundant, and hyperbolic.
the object itself ” (William Hunter, e Anatomy
of the Gravid Uterus Exhibited in Figures, 2 n.p.).
18 . Term coined by Ludmilla Jordanova, “Gender,
Generation and Science: William Hunter’s Obs-
tetrical Atlas”, 395-396.
19 . Hunter was a professor of anatomy at the
Royal Academy of Arts from 1768 to 1783 (Lud-
milla Jordanova, “Gender, Generation and Science:
William Hunter’s Obstetrical Atlas”, 386).
20 . Donna Haraway, “Situated knowledges. e
Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege
of Partial Perspective”, e Gender and Science
Reader. London: Routledge, 2001), 176.
21 . Walter Benjamin, Walter Benjamin: Aviso de
incendio. Una lectura de las tesis “Sobre el concep-
to de historia”. Edited by Michael Löwy (México:
Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2003), 81.
Image 19. Jan van Rymsdyk, Plate IV, in William
Hu nte r’s e Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus
(1774). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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In his treatise, Hunter explains that very few doctors have had access to a
sucient number of bodies to carry out their studies, and that in fact the oppor-
tunity to dissect a woman’s uterus occurs only one or two times in the life of an
anatomist, if indeed it occurs at all.22 Hunter, however, manages to acquire not
just one or two, but twelve cadavers of pregnant women; thirty-two if one counts
the dissections he did with Smellie. is abundance is suspicious. All anatomists
either hired people to ransack cemeteries, known as resurrectionists (Hunter him-
self was a famous exhumer, Img. 20), or they were able to attain the bodies of
executed criminals.23 Yet it is doubtful that these sources would have been able
to provide fresh corpses of pregnant women in dierent months of gestation,
much less thirty-two. Keep in mind too that pregnant women were not executed,
and that when they died of natural causes this was much more typical during
childbirth or miscarriage, not before. Even in the case of the death of a pregnant
woman, one would have to have an eective and ecient network of communi-
cation to get to the body before it began to decay. In an article published in the
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Don Shelton examines the relevant statis-
tics and argues that the “father of gynecolog y” obtained the bodies of prostitutes
by hiring murderers.24 e aptly named Dr. Hunter hunted pregnant women.
e abundance of fresh, untraumatized corpses that Hunter had at his disposal
is dicult to explain in any other way. e g ynecological gaze rests on the corpus
delicti; i.e., the anatomical specimen is the body of a crime (Img. 21).
22 . “Few, or none of the anatomists, had met
with a sucient number of subjects, either for in-
vestigating, or for demonstrating the principal
circumstances of utero-gestation in the human
species. [...O]pportunities of dissecting the hu-
man pregnant uterus at leisure very rarely occur.
Indeed to most anatomists, if they have happened
at all, it has been but once or twice in their whole
lives” (William Hunter, e Anatomy of the Gravid
Uterus Exhibited in Figures, 3 n.p.).
23 . Stuart McDonald and John W. Faithfull,
“William Hunter’s Sources of Pathological and
Anatomical Specimens, with Particular Reference
to Obstetric Subjects”, 46-53.
24 . According to Shelton, “Smellie and Hunter
were responsible for a series of 18th century ‘burk-
ing’ murders of pregnant women, with a death to-
tal greater than the combined murders committed
by the famous 19th-century murderers, Burke and
Hare, and Jack the Ripper” (Don Shelton, “e
Emperor’s New Clothes”, 46).
Image 20. William Austin, “e Anatomist Overtaken by the Watch... Carrying o Miss W-ts in a Hamper”
(1773). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Public Domain Mark 1.0.
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But even if we give Hunter the benet of the doubt, the point about the
violent slicing and symbolic butchering remains. Courbet’s L’Origine du monde is
to visual art what Hunter’s atlas and three-dimensional models are to anatomy: a
gyneco-scopic paradigm; that is, a visual regime that structures the androcentric
invention, representation, and subordination of the female body through synec-
dochal slicing, the ultravisibility of the genitals, and the erasure of the historical
conditions of this asymmetry. What we have are paradigms in the Foucauldian
sense: orphan examples of a totality that constitute and make intelligible certain
historical contexts.25
Setting aside the famous and much studied history of Courbet’s paint-
ing —which was commissioned by a Turkish diplomat for a private voyeurist
display of female nudes, copied by René Magritte (1940), and purchased by
Jacques Lacan, who hung it in his oce and covered it with a sliding mechanism
behind an abstract drawing by André Masson that paid homage to Courbet’s
original— let us concentrate instead on the sinister dimension of the painting,
which is to say its Hunterian dimension.26 For the majority of critics, the body
displayed in Courbet’s L’Origine du monde is not, at least not explicitly, a cadaver.
In fact, critics oen underscore the erotic vitality of the image, which, according
25 . “As Giorgio Agamben has signaled in his ex-
planation of Foucault’s paradigmatic method, the
notion of paradigm refers to a singular historical
phenomenon through which critical analysis estab-
lishes ‘a broader problematic context.’ Paradigms
‘both constitute and make [that context] intelli-
gible.’ In other words, the paradigm constitutes
a context and makes it visible in the way that an
example or a grammatical exception both makes
and proves the rule. e paradigm is not exactly a
part of the whole, nor is it the whole in which the
part would be inscribed; it is not a metonymy or a
metaphor, but rather an exemplum that, stripped
of totality or generality, analogously relates to
other examples to constitute a historical context
(Carlos A. Jáuregui, “Huacayñán (1952-1953) and
the Biopolitics of In(ex)clusion. Journal of Latin
American Cultural Studies: Travesia 25, 1 (2016):
54). For more on the paradigm in Foucault’s work
(that is, the paradigm as a singularity that consti-
tutes a principle of intelligibility for broader con-
texts), see Giorgio Agamben, e Signature of all
ings: On Method (New York, NY: Zone Books,
2009), 9, 17, 18-24).
26 . On the original commission of L’Origine du
monde, its acquisition by Lacan and the importance
Image 21. Joshua Reynolds, William Hunter
(c. 1787). © e Hunterian, University of
Glasgow 2018.
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to British artist Tracey Emin (b. 1963) invites men —let us assume she means to
say men and women— to bury their heads “right in there.”27 However, early
observers of the painting, such as writer and photographer Maxime du Camp
(1822-1894), were scandalized by the absence of a head and extremities.28 More
recently, historian Jean-Jacques Fernier entertained the notion that Courbet may
have originally painted the whole body, but that the painting was mutilated aer
the fact; that is to say, the work of art was the object and victim of a Hunterian
quartering (Img. 22). is hypothesis was based on the appearance of Tête de
femme, Courbet’s painting of a head that supposedly corresponds to the torso
of L’Origine.29 In any case, LOrigine does not represent a full female body but
rather a slice of one, cut o by the frame at the same place as the bodies in several
of Hunter’s illustrations (Img. 23). e pallidness of the skin and the mortuary
gauze surrounding the body suggest death. is body, like the bodies in Hunter’s of this painting to the psychoanalyst’s work, see
Shuli Barzilai, Lacan and the Matter of Origins
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999). e
painting was shown to the public for the rst time
in 1988 in the exhibition “Courbet Reconsidered”
at the Brooklyn Museum and in 1991 in the Musée
Gustave Courbet in Ornans. In 1995 the painting
was acquired by the permanent collections of the
Musée d’Orsay (ierry Savatier, L’Origine du
monde: histoire d’un tableau de Gustave Courbet
(París: Bartillat, 2006), 186; Frédérique omas-
Maurin, Julie Delmas and Élise Boudon, Cet ob-
scur objet de désirs (París: Lienart; Musée Gustave
Courbet, 2014), 29).
27 . Emin states: “it looks so real, it looks so eshy,
it looks sexy, it looks so inviting. [...] it was so rad-
ical; the fact that there is pubic hair, the fact that
you can see the clitoris, the fact that it’s a woman
inviting [...]. I can imagine men at the time, and
men now, imagining burying their heads right in
there” (Tracey Emin, “Tracey Emin on Gustave
Courbet’s e Origin of the World, 7.9.14.”
Interview with Mirjam Baitsch (video). Exhibition
“Gustave Courbet” at the Fondation Beyeler,
Riehen/Basel. Sept. 20, 2014, 00:14-1:02).
28 . Maxime du Camp writes: “[B]y some incon-
ceivable forgetfulness, the artist who copied his
model from nature, had neglected to represent the
feet, the legs, the thighs, the stomach, the hips, the
chest, the hands, the arms, the shoulders, the neck
and the head” (Du Camp in Shuli Barzilai, Lacan
and the Matter of Origins, 9-10).
29 . On Tête de femme and the supposed amputation
from its body, see Anne-Cécile Beaudoin, “Le secret
de la femme cachée.Paris Match 3 Feb. (2013), 65-
75; for a detailed analysis of the painting, see also
Bruno Mottin, “L’Origine du monde: une approche
technique.” Cet obscur objet de désirs (París: Lienart;
Musée Gustave Courbet, 2014), 33-39.
Image 22. Cover of Paris Match (February 3, 2013). Photography: Paola Uparella.
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works, cannot see us and never will. Whosoever buries their head “there” is impli-
cated in a game of necrophiliac orality that ignores the violence and the optical
objectication laid out in the painting. Sophie Matisse’s painting Origin of the
World (2013) in fact reproduces the nude as a (spectral) body covered entirely by
a sheet over a black background, emphasizing the morbidity we identify in the
Courbet piece.30
Allow us now to briey comment Etánt donnés (1946-1966) by Marcel
Duchamp (1887-1968), an installation that can itself be considered a metacriti-
cal work of gyneco-scopic voyeurism. Etánt donnés is an installation with several
layers: rst there is a wall with a gate; through two holes in the gate, the viewer
can see a small space; at the back of that space, there is a wall with a hole in it, and
behind that, a landscape in which a nude woman lies amidst the grass, holding up
a lamp that illuminates the composition (Img. 24). e woman’s head is blocked
from the viewer’s line of sight; the smooth body reclines with legs splayed open,
30 . A reproduction of this painting can be found
in the catalogue e Visible Vagina by Francis
M. Naumann and David Nolan, (New York:
JohnsByrne Co, 2010), 48.
Image 23. Jan van Rymsdyk, Plate I, in William
Hu nte r’s e Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus
(1774). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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revealing a hairless vagina that appears less like a genital organ and more like a
wound or a ssure in the alabaster surface of her skin.
Etánt donné makes the spectator’s voyeurism explicit at the same time
that it produces an ocular-vaginal mise en abyme. e work visually materializes
what María Elena Úbeda has called “the crisis of the scopic regime,” in the sense
that it both inuences and denounces the spectator-voyeur.31 e rigor of the
pose and the appearance of the vagina-wound could validate the perspective of
those critics who suggest that Duchamp based his nude on photographs of the
scene of a famous crime known as “the Black Dahlia murder”. But not only does
the work of art cite the crime, the crime itself seems to be the staging of several
surrealist motifs of the mutilation of female bodies. Take, for example, the work
of Hans Bellmer, René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, or Man Ray, where the female
body is “composed” in pieces or lifeless, and is always a thing; a disarticulated
mannequin or a reclining cadaver (Img. 25).
31 . María Elena Úbeda, “La mirada desbordada
el espesor de la experiencia del sujeto estético en
el marco de la crisis del régimen escópico. Diss.
Universidad de Granada, 2006. Web. 26 Feb.
2016. 240-41, 473.
Image 24. Marcel Duchamp, Etánt donnés
(1946-1966). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gi
of the Cassandra Foundation, 1969-41-1. ©
Association Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris
/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2018.
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Image 25. Hans Bellmer, La Poupée (1936). © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.
René Magritte, Delusions of Grandeur (1948). © 2018 C. Herscovici / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Salvador Dalí, Woman Sleeping In A Landscape (1931). © 2018 Salvador Dalí, Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society.
Man Ray, Primacy Of Matter Over ought (1929). © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018.
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Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss suggest that the homicide,
mutilation, and disposition of the body of Elizabeth Short (the victim) were
part of a surrealist installation by the painter Man Ray (1890-1976), a friend
of Duchamp.32 So although Etánt donnés can be read as critical of the gyne-
co-scopic regime, we must uphold our suspicions of it and perhaps even consider
it a sinister voyeuristic machine, as Candice Lin does.
Lin takes on the three historical moments we have referred to here
(Hunter, Courbet and Duchamp) with an audiovisual sculptural installation
that brings the gyneco-scopic regime into focus. Lin’s Hunter Moon / Inside Out
(2015) (Img. 26) reproduces the three-dimensional model made by William
Hunter (our “serial gynecologist”) (Img. 16). Hunter Moon / Inside Out is not
an exact replica of the anatomical model; it lacks detail, it has a silvery metallic
surface, and it looks unreal, articial. e esh of Lin’s sculpture is not esh;
it resists being consumed as an object and the sense of estrangement it pro-
duces refers back to the ominous eye of the doctor and of the voyeuristic viewer.
rough Hunter Moon / Inside Out we do not see the anatomical body so much
as we become aware of the anatomist who cut up the body and le us the inedible
scraps. In other words, Lin makes visible what the Hunterian model hides: the
violent scopic territorialization and the syndechocal subordination of the female
body; the relation between the consumption of art and the consumption of the
32 . On the possible surrealist inspirations for
this crime, the “aesthetic” posing of the body, and
the connections to the work of Duchamp, see
Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss, Exquisite
Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder.
New York: Bulnch Press, 2006.
Image 26. Candice Lin, Hunter Moon/Inside Out (2015), in “Canibalia” (KADIST, Paris, February 6-April
26, 2015). Courtesy of Candice Lin; Julia Morandeira; Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles; and KADIST, Paris.
Photography: Aurélien Mole.
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body; and, in the end, the multiple forms of misogynist violence, both material
and symbolic, that founds androcentric modernity.
e interior of the sculpture contains a video titled Inside Out.33 To see
it, the spectator-voyeur must bend down, put their head between the legs of the
sculpture, and peek through a small hole in order to penetrate the unknown ter-
ritory of this vagina / camera obscura. Inside, other vaginas taken from Courbet
and Duchamp threaten to devour the vulnerable eye, submitting it to a mon-
strous, indeed cannibalistic optic. We cannot fully capture in words the com-
plexity of the video; we can merely draw attention to some of its more striking
aspects. e rst image is from Duchamp’s Étant donnés. e spectator, looking
through the vagina of Lin’s sculpture, sees Duchamp’s door with its two holes,
but through those holes two eyes gaze back, preventing the viewer from seeing
the Étant donnés nude. Furthermore, the peepholes on the Duchamp door look
vaguely like eyes thanks to what looks like a natural discoloration of the wood,
but in Lin’s piece, the smudged wood is a fully formed witch (a naked teratologi-
cal witch) whose eyes impede any replication of the voyeuristic experience found
in the Duchamp installation (Img. 27). en Lin opens Duchamp’s door and
there is no landscape but rather a cartoonish version of Courbet’s L’Origine du
monde (Img. 28) in which the vagina of the famous painting has eyes. Whereas
Image 27. Bacchante on the gate of Marcel Duchamp’s Etánt donnés. Candice Lin, Inside Out, still (2010). Courtesy of Candice Lin and Ghebaly
Gallery, Los Angeles.
33 . Candice L in, Inside Out. 2010. Video. Fran-
çois Ghebaly Gallery, LA. https://vimeo.com/
15520740
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Duchamp’s installation obliges the viewer to recognize his/her nosy voyeurism,
Lin’s video-sculpture rejects the voyeuristic eye/I: the spectator peers through a
small hole, but instead of the body-object on passive display, the viewer is faced
with a vagina that looks back.
Lin’s sculpture is not the only work of art to destructure the sovereignty
of the eye over the female genitals and expose the violence of this voyeurism,
disrupting the relation of subordination between the observer and the observed,
and even producing a disidentication of the vagina as a sexual and reproductive
organ. Allow us to explore a few additional examples.
In the performance Esperando al príncipe azul (Awaiting Prince
Charming) (1999), by Regina José Galindo (Guatemala b. 1974), the artist
lies naked under a bridal sheet with a small embroidered hole that serves as an
irregular decentered framing of the vagina (Img. 29). In its social and religious
context, this sheet would function as a mechanism to prevent the obscenity of
intercourse, ensuring minimal contact between husband and wife and a type of
intercourse dened by a generative teleology (aer all, genital, from gig, give
birth or engender, refers to reproduction). In the performance, however, the sheet
exposes the obscenity of the mechanism itself. Whereas Galindo’s performance
exhibits a body destined for reproduction, the title Esperando al príncipe azul
suggests a body awaiting a romantic amorous encounter. e inverse occurs in
Courbet’s L’origine du monde, where the title suggests reproduction while the
painting represents an eroticized body. Galindo, through a visual segmentation
and genital ultravisibility critiques domestic(ated) sexuality.
Image 28. Candice Lin, Inside Out, still (2010). Courtesy of Candice Lin and Ghebaly Gallery,
Los Angeles.
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Image 29. Regina José Galindo, Esperando al príncipe azul (1999). Edicio de Correos, Guatemala City, Guatemala. Photographs: Andrea Aragón.
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34 . Anna C Chave, “Is this good for Vulva? Female
Genitalia in Contemporary Art.” e Visible
Vagina. January 28 - March 20, 2010. Francis M.
Naumann Fine Art, and David Nolan Gallery.
(New York: JohnsByrne Co, 2010), 31.
Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta (1948-1985) oers an intense visual
exploration of the vagina, both as a sign of androcentric violence and as uto-
pian and armative retrospection of a “primordial” femininity. An example of
the former, in the performance Body Tracks (1974), Mendieta explores genital
violence by tracing a “V” down a white wall with bloodied hands. In her series
of carved limestone Esculturas Rupestres (Rupestrian Sculptures 1981) and
El laberinto de Venus (Labyrinth of Venus 1982), Mendieta reinvents the sym-
bolic power of genitals vis-à-vis phallic power with a series of “prehistoric” sculp-
tures, retrospectively anterior to modern gyneco-aesthetic discourses and images
(Img. 30). e artist subverts the gyneco-scopic focalization and representation
of the pelvic body and proposes disembodied vaginas, vaginas that are the entire
body: “vulvocentric” bodies34 that circumscribe the eye.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz (b. 1961) creates two (sub)versions of the
famous painting by Courbet. e rst is a photograph made of dust or dirt,
which plays with the common moralist association between female genitalia and
lth (Img. 31). In the second piece, Muniz remakes L’Origine from an assem-
blage of journal clippings (Img. 32) that are reminiscent of the anatomic and
Image 30. Ana Mendieta, Guanaroca (Esculturas
Rupestres), 1981. [First Woman (Rupestrian Scul-
ptures)]. Black and white photograph. © e Esta-
te of Ana Mendieta Collection, LLC. Courtesy
Galerie Lelong & Co.
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Image 31. Vik Muniz, Origin of the World, Aer Courbet (1999). Art © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA,
New York, NY.
Image 32. Vik Muniz, Origin of the World, Aer Courbet (2013). Art © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA,
New York, NY.
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artistic procedure of cutting that produced the genital organization of the female
body. Muniz’s vagina-collage is both a mimetic representation and a distortion of
Courbet: as the eye gets closer, the image disintegrates into tiny pieces of paper
(Img. 33). As we have seen, the vagina-synecdoque only exists through a scopic
focalization and a series of visual, anatomical, and aesthetic cuts. Muniz oers a
cultural artefact that, by drawing near and focusing, allows for the deterritorial-
ization of the vagina.
Two Origins of the World (2000) by Mexican artist Enrique Chagoya
(b. 1953) recycles L’Origine du monde as a spectral backdrop behind three solid
black, blue and white squares of canvas in three of the corners of the painting
(Img. 34). In the foreground of the bottom right corner, an indigenous man sits
at a fourth canvas, this one on an easel, apparently “interpreting” the Courbet
painting. e indigenous painter does not oer a genital genesis like Courbet’s,
but rather a chromatic genesis that is superimposed over the Eurocentric origin of
the world: the work takes the náhuatl cosmogony that privileges four fundamen-
tal colors corresponding to the four cardinal points, which are associated with
the creation of the universe and the gods Tezcatlipoca (black), Huitzilopochtli
(blue), Quetzalcoatl (white), and Xipe Totec (red). Over the Eurocentric
backdrop of Courbet’s cosmogonic pubis, Chagoya reorients the world with a
counter-colonial gesture, revindicating the indigenous cultural signs erased by
colonialism. Furthermore, Chagoya superposes the “sensual” and “maternal”
Courbetian vagina with a canvas covered in blood red, evoking menstrual bleed-
ing-in itself a sign of non-pregnancy.
Returning to Hunter Moon, Lin’s sculpture, as we have said, subverts
Hunter’s plaster model and, upon further examination (as it were), turns out
Image 33. Vik Muniz, Origin of the World, Aer Courbet (2013; detail). Art © Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA, New
Yo rk , N Y.
The Vagina and the Eye of Power (Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)
106
to be exhibiting the violence of the anatomist himself and also the spectator
(Img. 35). Hunter is of course the last name of the famous anatomist, but also
the noun for one who hunts and kills. e title Hunter Moon also evokes agri-
cultural reproduction and the matter of seeing, as a Hunter’s Moon, also known
as Harvest Moon or Blood Moon, is the full moon nearest the beginning of the
fall or the autumnal equinox, which because it comes up right aer sunset helps
harvesters and hunters with its light. is supplemental though murky light of a
“blood red” moon enables the eye of the hunter, marks the reproductive harvest,
but also sheds light on the violence of Hunter’s hunting, gutting, and cutting up
of the female “reproductive” organs (i.e., genitals).
We can also read Hunter Moon as an “obscene exhibit,” for to moon in
English refers to the exhibitionist gesture of dropping one’s pants and show-
ing one’s backside as a vulgar prank. In this perverse sense, the piece in eect
“moons” the museum, the anatomist and his gynecological gures, and nally
the inclined spectator (who is placed in a position to moon everybody else in the
gallery). e second part of the title, the oxymoron Inside Out, means just that:
what is supposed to be hidden from sight on the inside is exposed; it also means
topsy turvy or the reverse of the usual. us the title proposes an exploration
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Image 34. Enrique Chagoya, Two Origins
of the World (2000). Courtesy of Enrique
Chagoya and Lisa Sette Gallery, Phoenix, AZ.
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35 . Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A
ousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia
(Minneapolis-London: University of Minnesota,
1987), 244.
36 . “e abnormal can be dened only in terms of
characteristics, specic or generic; but the anoma-
lous is a position or set of positions in relation to
a multiplicity. [...] It is a phenomenon, but a phe-
nomenon of bordering” (Deleuze and Guattari, A
ousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia,
244, 245).
37 . Foucault and Michelle Perrot. Power/
Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings
1972-1977. Ed. Colin Gordon. Trans. Colin
Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, Hate Soper.
New York: Pantheon Books, 1980, 24.
38 . “[A]t its most radical the object is that which
objects, that which disturbs the smooth running of
things. [...T]he subject’s gaze is always-already in-
scribed into the perceived object itself, in the guise
of its ‘blind spot,’ [...] the point from which the
object itself returns the gaze” (Žižek, e Parallax
View, 17).
Image 35. Spectator viewing Hunter Moon/Inside Out, in “Canibalia” (KADIST, Paris, February 6-April 26, 2015).
Courtesy of Julia Morandeira and KADIST, Paris.
and an inversion of Hunter’s anatomical gure. e very artifact is pregnant
with an amorphous creature, made from bits and pieces continuously disassem-
bled and reassembled. e creature does not suggest the kind of generation that
denes gender; rather, it is formed from the degeneration or teratological-genesis
that questions the generation of gender and that denies the spectator any relief
through its constant audiovisual ow of a body becoming: vagina with eyes,
vagina-face, anthropomorphous vagina, headless woman, two-headed woman,
castrating vagina, vagina dentata, vagi-penis, arm-foot, wolf-penis, the body
becoming vagina; bodies in a state of destruction, regeneration, amidst discon-
tinuous sounds, heterogeneous music, and messages devoid of syntax (Img. 36).
e female body, organized and normalized by the anatomical and aestheticizing
eye/I, becomes a gyneco-scopic monster, an anomalous body in the Deleuzian
sense; that is, “the unequal, the coarse, the rough, the cutting edge of deterritori-
alization.35 We do not mean to suggest that the images represent “abnormality,
but rather a “de-normalization.” ere is no border crossing: there is instead an
undoing of borders, a de-organization of the genital realm.36
In conclusion, we posit that Lin’s sculpture represents one of those “insur-
rections” against the eye (Foucault calls it “the gaze”) that the French philosopher
puts forth37: a radical disordering or a coup against the gyneco-scopic regime;
its epistemic violences, exclusions, and asymmetries. Hunter Moon / Inside Out
Lacanianly materializes the subjection of the subject and the resistance, the gaze
of the object.38 Or, amounting to the same thing, in this work of art, the vagina
The Vagina and the Eye of Power (Essay on Genitalia and Visual Sovereignty)
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Image 36. Body becoming. Candice Lin, Inside
Out, stills (2010). Courtesy of Candice Lin and
Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles.
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resists being an object and challenges the observer by looking back with the per-
turbing, discomting gaze of the Other. Lin’s work not only produces what Paul
Preciado calls an inersion-investment of the body,39 but also a semiotic de-terri-
torialization of the genital organ and a serious aesthetic challenge to the visual
sovereignty that engenders gender as a genital thing.40
e genitalia engendered by the sovereign eye/I dees such engender-
ing by looking back, unsettling the naturalized visual order that organized the
body. We must embrace the degeneration of the gineco-scopic regime; that is,
the radical disorganization of the body; a body without organs that becomes the
rhizome that triggers a “liberation of sexuality not only from reproduction but
also from genitality.41 e territorialized vagina can indeed become the line of
ight where we can begin to see an insurrection against a tyrannical sovereignty
that has ruled for too long over our bodies, our sexualities, and ultimately over
our lives.
39 . P. B. Preciado, Maniesto contra-sexual (Ma-
drid: Opera Prima, 2002), 50.
40 . is challenge of the gyneco-scopic regime
represents what Paul B. Preciado calls a “counter-
sexual practice;” aimed “to subvert the sexual or-
gans” by graing “new meanings onto certain body
parts,” through a quotation operation called “in-
version-investment” of the body that both inverts
and recodes “the semantic axis of the hetero-cen-
tered system” (Preciado, Maniesto contra-sexual,
41-42, 50).
41 . Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A ousand
Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 18.
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Acknowledgements
is essay would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of
Regina José Galindo, Enrique Chagoya, Julia Morandeira, Deborah De Robertis,
Vik Muniz and Candice Lin, who provided images of their work and responded
generously to our questions. We appreciate the careful reading and comments
of our colleagues Heidi Abderhalden, Rolf Abderhalden, Mieke Bal, Andrés
Biermann, Lisa Blackmore, Annia Carrillo, Juan Carlos Dávila, Elena Deanda,
Natalia Fernández, Emily Floyd, Dario Gamboni, Ana Mª Guasch, Ben Heller,
Karina Herazo, Virginia Holzer, Adriana López-Labourdette, Juliet Lynd, Maria
Rosa Olivera-Williams, Giulia Palladini, Nicolas Perilla, Luis Rebaza Soraluz,
César Salgado, José Antonio Sánchez, Yvette Sánchez, Camilo Sarmiento, David
Solodkow, Silvia Spitta, Adriana Urrea, Alejandro Valencia Villa, Bénédicte
Vauthier, Darío Velandia, Juan Vitulli, and Andrés Zamora. Our research was
made possible thanks to the support and assistance of the following people and
institutions: KADIST, Paris; e Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery at the
University of Glasgow; Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles; U.S. National Library of
Medicine; Royal Collection Trust / Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; Lisa Sette
Gallery in Phoenix, AZ; Galeria Nara Roesler, São Paulo; Vik Muniz Studio,
New York; Galerie Lelong & Co.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; VAGA; Artists
Rights Society (ARS); Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Basel, Switzerland; Center
for Global Studies, Universität Bern; e Kellogg Institute; e Institute for
Scholarship in the Liberal Arts (ISLA; Notebaert Professional Development
Award); Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; Hesburgh Library,
University of Notre Dame; Severine Berthias; Aurélien Mole; Graham Nisbet;
Zach Korol-Gold; Holly Stanton; Agata Rutkowska; Lisa Sette; Ashley Rice;
Lilian Shimohirao; Erika Benincasa; Sarah Landry; Danielle Wu; Julie Schilder;
Todd Leibowitz; Mirjam Baitsch; Denise Wright; Joshua Lund; and David
Dressing.
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Book
This book describes the life and achievements of the eighteenth-century Scottish physician William Hunter and outlines the history of the Museum named after him. © Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, 2007
Article
The foundation of the modern Ecuadorian State in the 1940s and early 1950s coincides with a series of attempts to synchronize and incorporate certain “problematic” sectors of the population that were supposedly resistant to progress and whose forms of life were incompatible with modernity, a capitalist economy, and a cohesive nation. This biopolitical project for the modernization and governance of the population also had repercussions on—and analogous manifestations within—the discourse of national identity, the design of cultural policies, and the production of State-sponsored national art. This article analyzes Huacayñán / El camino del llanto / The Way of Tears (1952–1953), a collection of FIGURE 3 aintings by Oswaldo Guayasamín that was commissioned by the government of Ecuador in 1951. Huacayñán was conceived within the ideology of mestizaje as an instrument of aesthetic cultural modernization and as a visual artistic showcase of the harmonious integration of ‘Ecuadorians.’ Despite, or even because of its governmental overdetermination, however, this article shows how Huacayñán instead materialized the exclusionary logic of the syncretic and biopolitical policies of the State, displaying dystopic visions of violence and exclusion, and of a fractured nation inhabited by monsters and resistant to mestizo-ization.
Article
This essay focuses on two eighteenth-century obstetric atlases published by William Smellie and William Hunter. Combining images of anatomical dissection and midwifery, these atlases medicalized childbirth in unprecedented ways. In The Birth of the Clinic, Foucault argued that the clinical method was founded on a descriptive technique that, when combined with pathological anatomy, became essentially a medical aesthetic. A similar aesthetic animates Hunter's and Smellie's atlases, transforming the epistemological link between the female body and pregnancy. Picturing childbirth as an illness rather than a domestic process, the engravings favor a pathological over a normative viewpoint.