Wednesday, 8 October 2014


Ambiguous and intriguing, Mona Lisa's identity is still puzzling the scholars and art lovers worldwide, is she just a noble lady, da Vinci himself, or a combination of both?...

   This story is as old as the question of Time itself and it goes like this: Goddess Aphrodite, global mother of the glue named Eros mates with the playful trickster or else the all powerful phallus, Hermes and the child born is named Hermaphroditus...

Androgynous model Andrej Pejic turned into Andreja Pejic aiming to completion, a soul meeting its ideal body, photo for I-D magazine by Thomas Lohr.
Barbette, the legendary aerialist, one of the first drag queens, Barbette used to reveal his male side only at the end of his act, one of his/her most famous friends was Jean Cocteau, Barbette photographed by Man Ray, 1926.

A creature divine and most graceful
, this boy is truly a sight for sore eyes resembling equally his father and his mother but his tale doesn't end here, the imago needs further expansion and enrichment...Aphrodite, mother all permeating, trusts and grants the upbringing of the young boy to the nymphs and he's raised inside a cave, the cave always symbolic of the womb inside the realm called myth and the representations of the collective unconscious.  So, Hermaphroditus, divine child, becomes fifteen years of age, he leaves the mountain and his demigod nurses to wander alone towards his destiny, he crosses Minor Asia admiring the rivers and the springs, not a child no more but yet not a man either...It is in Caria, close to the Maeander river that Hermaphroditus finds the wonderful spring of the nymph Salmacis. Salmacis is present to the scenery, she's combing her long hair while admiring her own reflection on the water surface, Narcissus wasn't a pioneer as it seems...When Salmacis saw Hermaphroditus she fell for him, he could have been Eros himself, so lovely he was...

The mythical beginning, Hermaphroditus' story and form has inspired many artists throughout the centuries, Hermaphroditus and Salmacis by Louis Finson, 1600.

The boy tried to resist her lust so he jumped inside the spring.
Salmacis is so madly in love and intoxicated from his presence that jumps also in the water while she has a desire and a will that only gods can fulfill...while she embraces Hermaphroditus she merges and becomes one with him, one substance and body, an existence both male and female signaling the era of the androgyny, a favorite paradigm of the alchemists and their constant transmutations, a psychic condition linked to the male and female aspects inside of us, but also a physical actuality in some cases.
   One can wonder if the myth and the motifeme of one creature beyond comparisons of strict identity like Hermaphroditus, is echoing the primordial state of our being. Was there ever this time of unconditional unity as a fact? Is there a chance that the female concept of Eros can meet without frictions the male principle of Logos? We've been repeating the same patterns for centuries over centuries, the distinction of axioms, the categorizations of earthy and celestial powers and their attribution to the one sex or the other...The male is the sun, the female the moon, the sun is logical and forceful, the moon intuitive and passive, both THEY MAKE LIFE, no matter how political and religious powers have taken advantage of the dogmatic polarities the truth is that libido, the life force and motivation of being doesn't recognize the difference of the sexes.

Fashion industry's fancy with androgynous style has been a long time affair, Kristen McMenamy represented this androgynous movement back in the '90s.

 Libido as psychic force is mainly concerned with finding creative and healthy outlets and when oppressed things get against us anyway, becoming symptomatical, rigid, giving birth and a voice without a voice to neurosis...In this regard libido is not unlike Hermaphroditus, we're mentioning of a will struggling no longer to be this or that but to become both this and that without remorse but being oriented towards liberation, psychoanalytically speaking the power returns to its rightful owner while consciousness defeats the unconscious therefore symbolic and disguised truth. Hermaphroditus is the state of being when everything is open both underneath the sun and the moon, he's the offspring of the hieros gamos, a unison beyond guilts and the deceipt of punishment from earthy or divine blackmailers, a new kind of consciousness closer to the service of humanity in the here and now.

Amanda Lear, the Dali muse and her alleged transsexuality.
Saskia de Brauw, the danish model represents the androgynous inspiration of the contemporary fashion world.

   The riddle of Hermaphroditus and his possible co-existence is similar to the gnostic riddle of the soul coming from a pansexual and infinite cosmic source and yet going through the burden to reside inside a single, rather limited and more or less definite body.
Hermaphroditus doubts the shape of things as they are, the shape internal and external, his cult is that of a differentiated and ever wondering behavior beyond preordained and biased schemes. That suggestion is very much different than a chaotic being though, an openess of experience cannot predetermine behaviors or phenotypes, this openess just asks for an expansion of tolerance, respect and appreciation of everything that surpasses the norm. The fashion industry has always been fascinated by this motivational role playing and identity investigation, the outcome is sometimes humorous, other times strong, vague or ambiguous the sure thing is that we can do more to push the limits of our image or self acceptance...Andrej Pejic, the famous androgynous model is now Andreja Pejic, this issue isn't just about the looks and their transformations but mostly about the individual that has to feel comfortable inside his/her skin, a struggle mental, emotional and also physical, societies still have to go a long way before understanding and respecting certain choices, and those are not easy choices but life changing decisions.

The daring best seller by Jeffrey Eugenides negotiates the hermaphroditus nature of its main character, a boy trapped inside a feminine body.

French comedian Guillaume Gallienne reveals another aspect of this wrestling with the self concept and its feminine/masculine sides in his recent film "Me, Myself and Mum". The main character of the film, Guillaume (the film is autobiographical) is attached to his rather rigid and indifferent mother while he faces the rejection of his father and two stereotypical athletic brothers for being too self-indulgent and soft. Guillaume explores his sexuality believing he's homosexual since everyone in his family share this belief about him, some scenes are awkward, others funny or sentimental. The question that arises is this: How can you change everyone's preconceptions about yourself and find your own voice? The identity crisis resolves naturally in the case of Guillaume, most unexpectedly for both his environement and himself, one day he falls in love with a girl, just because he was not the typical bloodthirsty male didn't mean that he couldn't claim his identity and sexuality on his own terms.
    Once on the path of actual and profound freedom, a path still to come for most of humanity, anyone can claim the individual decisions in a more unique way, perhaps the hermaphroditus archetype can help us towards this liberation and life lesson, things aren't as they seem and that can sometimes be confusing but let's try to transfigure this common knowledge into something less frightening and more promising. Shall we††† ?

Role playing and sense of humor, James franco by the provocative Terry Richardson.
To mingle inside water, the water standing for the environment of the womb, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus II by Roberto Ferri.

LIFT UP thy lips, turn round, look back for love,
Blind love that comes by night and casts out rest;
Of all things tired thy lips look weariest,
Save the long smile that they are wearied of.
Ah sweet, albeit no love be sweet enough,
Choose of two loves and cleave unto the best;
Two loves at either blossom of thy breast
Strive until one be under and one above.
Their breath is fire upon the amorous air,
Fire in thine eyes and where thy lips suspire:
And whosoever hath seen thee, being so fair,
Two things turn all his life and blood to fire;
A strong desire begot on great despair,
A great despair cast out by strong desire.

Where between sleep and life some brief space is,
With love like gold bound round about the head,
Sex to sweet sex with lips and limbs is wed,
Turning the fruitful feud of hers and his
To the waste wedlock of a sterile kiss;
Yet from them something like as fire is shed
That shall not be assuaged till death be dead,
Though neither life nor sleep can find out this.
Love made himself of flesh that perisheth
A pleasure-house for all the loves his kin;
But on the one side sat a man like death,
And on the other a woman sat like sin.
So with veiled eyes and sobs between his breath
Love turned himself and would not enter in.

Love, is it love or sleep or shadow or light
That lies between thine eyelids and thine eyes?
Like a flower laid upon a flower it lies,
Or like the night’s dew laid upon the night.
Love stands upon thy left hand and thy right,
Yet by no sunset and by no moonrise
Shall make thee man and ease a woman’s sighs,
Or make thee woman for a man’s delight.
To what strange end hath some strange god made fair
The double blossom of two fruitless flowers?
Hid love in all the folds of all thy hair,
Fed thee on summers, watered thee with showers,
Given all the gold that all the seasons wear
To thee that art a thing of barren hours?

Yea, love, I see; it is not love but fear.
Nay, sweet, it is not fear but love, I know;
Or wherefore should thy body’s blossom blow
So sweetly, or thine eyelids leave so clear
Thy gracious eyes that never made a tear—
Though for their love our tears like blood should flow,
Though love and life and death should come and go,
So dreadful, so desirable, so dear?
Yea, sweet, I know; I saw in what swift wise
Beneath the woman’s and the water’s kiss
Thy moist limbs melted into Salmacis,
And the large light turned tender in thine eyes,
And all thy boy’s breath softened into sighs;
But Love being blind, how should he know of this?~

Hermaphroditus by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Chapter IV : Make - Up The Ritual.

Make-up, a transformation, Amy Wesson as one of the faces of beauty of the previous decade.

Hera's symbol, the feather of the peacock as reminder of vanity and beauty.

"Hear me, Mighty, Illustrious Graces, Daughters of Eunomia, Thalia fair, Bright Aglaia, and Joyful Euphrosyne,
All-Lovely Mothers of Mirth,
Pure and Abundant pleasure is Yours,
Forever flourishing and beautiful,
Desired by mortals and delightful to mankind,
Come and bless Your mystics with Your bounty."
Orphic Hymn to Graces.

"I see your true colors", the magnificent nature and the connection of the aqueous medusa with the concept of the tantalizing "femme fatale".

Natalia Vodianova for Vogue Paris.

Make-up, a necessity, a certain  logic containing the ritual no matter the era, make-up and its practice has been part  of this earth enhancing or distorting the human features since the emerging of the first cultures and their consequent progress in sophistication or their waning and downfall. Specific techniques, aesthetics and obsessions concerning its use from various tribes and historical figures is very much revealing of the humane need to charm others, to fit in the surroundings or make a difference and enjoy an impact and a particular innovation, cause if the face is a canvas the possibilties to paint this canvas are almost endless. There's heavy make- up trying to conceal the face lurking behind it, there's light make-up adding some freshness and rhythm to the construction called face, to the temple of the microcosm called body. Characteristics can become more prominent cause of the right combination or analogies of make-up products and although in western civilization make-up is mostly associated with female narcissism and efforts of beautification a look into past social arrangements indicates that make-up has also been a male case as well, there's the hypnotic and pompous example of the faces of ancient egyptian Pharaohs as well as of the indigenous and colorful tribes of the world coming instantly to mind. Make-up can also be used by groups of people like the gay community or the transgenders as a form of protest and differentiation from the strict, predictable and stagnant ideas of the conservative part of society when it comes to fixed ideas on genders and their limits, in this perspective cosmetics are a weapon against oppression no matter if some would find that this idea is just scratching the surface.

The prerogative of a Pharaoh, Yul Brynner as the narcissistic male version of beauty, Pharaoh Rameses II in the Ten Commandments, 1956.

inside the tribal organization and the rituals of african indigenous people, the exagerration and the mesmerism of the unknown.

Contemporary yet tribal, Nick Knight for Another Man magazine.
the alternative side of the make-up as a form of diferentiation against the boundaries of sexes, photo by Rene Habermacher, 1994.

A gothic notion, La petite sirène by
Sofia Sanchez & Mauro Mongiello for Numéro, 2004
Make-up serves as a code inside community and its events demanding of its members to present themselves accordingly to rules and norms and even if these constraints seem less essential and have been proven more liberal nowdays the person still has to make sure to show up in circumstances fitting in, the same goes with dress code and manners in general, this is some kind of symbolic behavior but also a transition, a woman starts to apply make-up on her face most times as soon as she feels she's no longer a child, when as a young girl she's dreaming of the woman emerging from inside of her, sometimes a sheer illusion cause it may still be evident that behind the shades and sophistication of the looks a child is hiding. The colors employed are also of essence implying intentions and the mood of their bearer. Red lipstick is provocative, loud yet certain, mostly connected with the prototype of the femme fatale whatever the term has been led to mean,  light pink is mainly innocent trying to send the message of decency and of eternal adolescence no matter the actual age of the lady wearing it, black is synonymous with the revolutionary aspects of the punk and goth culture and its fascination with the occult and the enchanting...make-up is a costume, sometimes one of conformity and other times that of reaction against monotony and uniformity.

Untitled (study for portrait), Francis Bacon, 1962.
Sophia Loren, iconic beauty in the 70's and her Francis Bacon painting.

~You'll never know babe
The state I'm in
It's a plastic world babe
No tiger skin
Don't talk to me
Your perfume sighs
I'm lost inside babe
Your painted smile~
" Your Painted Smile" by Bryan Ferry.
"The perfection" By Steven Meisel, so evident of the 80's make-up infuence on today.
YSL vintage ad.
illustration by legendary Antonio Lopez.

Teint de Nacre et Corps D’Ivoire, Yves Saint Laurent Beaute by Guy Bourdin
Vogue Paris 1974, photo by Hans Feurer.

Do we turn into the disguise of tones and shades cause we lack a certain amount of self-esteem or simply cause we're that self confident exploring and experimenting with a better outlook on ourselves and  the world? The cases vary. Is this need a pragmatic one or mostly a yearning to turn into fantasy?... Make-up is a ritual communicating sensual angles and correlations, a proper use can bring closer the object of our desires, a wrong use can stigmatize us and keep us away from our longings. This is an evaluation game and foreplay. The toned almond eyes  acquire a dramatic aspect and effect accented with lots of mascara, the long and painted nails externalize the feline aspect of the woman searching for a prey among the males, the cheeks are blushed, cheekbones defined to show the health of an unrelenting puberty or the pale beauty of a vampiric and mysterious nature, the tone of the skin becomes immaculate, smooth, exotic with a bronze like quality or snow whitish depending the mood and season.  This is the arena of magic and the nature of seduction, where the importance of appearances prevails and conquers. Does make-up signify the character of the person and say something  revealing of inner reality and problematics? We all want to look and feel better, that's a common saying... sometimes we're tired and distressed, we haven't slept properly, make-up in these cases is like putting your happy face while facing the storm, it is a persona, the mask in which we find comfort and relief, no wonder archaic peoples made use of masks with often preternatural features, make-up is our compensation to ourselves and the whole world for the fact that we're not going to last for ever but then again we have to manage this fact with grace, to endure while knowing that the greatest hypothesis is that someone may not remember anything else from us but the impression of our face and figure when all the words, touch and scent will be forgotten, a contour sustaining its imprint while being lost in time and experiences of life, this is the power of the sense of sight and vision multiplying a certain image into eternity, the prototype of beauty.

all glittering, photo by Hans Feurer for Antidote Magazine, 2013.

a splash of color, Dior lip gloss.

Milla Jovovich and her Chanel fix in "the fifth element", 1997.

    The web and the market are abundant and plentiful with brands and brands of contemporary cosmetics but also remedies and spells of the past for the most demanding and imaginative clientelle possible, from high fashion to more practical solutions, some sort of excess and profit over the need of the individual to feel one with society and its standards of beauty and behavior, to indulge into pleasure but also unify perhaps the inside with the outside, to make evident an indentity and taste, a transformation sporadic, a metamorphosis lasting a few hours, an alchemy with a rather unstable outcome, a Philosopher's Stone ( Φιλοσοφική Λίθος ) born of chemistry but evaporating too soon...And through this stylization sometimes idols and icons can be created and born, women inspiring other women in their path of declaring their preferences and charms. Queen Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette,  Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Kate Moss, Madonna, Siouxsie Sioux, Jerry Hall to name just a few...women so unlike in characteristics inhabiting different and dinstict cultures yet all of them emblematic and influential, the world of beauty is fun and playful, revolutionary or classic, reassuring still tragic, as William Blake would say echoing Jakob Boehme and Emanuel Swedenborg, "Opposition is true friendship", the cause is better served when you take an account of all aspects, polarities struggling with each other, supposed contradictions of inner/outside tenor and paradoxes, the realm of beauty ( Κάλλος) couldn't be a different case, while in the combat towards perfection and idealized appearances we must also detect the inside poetry, vibration and pulse, unity and solidarity attended†††.
She Walks in Beauty
     She walks in beauty, like the night
        Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
    And all that's best of dark and bright
        Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
    Thus mellowed to that tender light
        Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
    One shade the more, one ray the less,
        Had half impaired the nameless grace
    Which waves in every raven tress,
        Or softly lightens o'er her face;
    Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
        How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
    And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
        So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
    The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
        But tell of days in goodness spent,
    A mind at peace with all below,
        A heart whose love is innocent!
 "She Walks in Beauty" by George Gordon, Lord Byron.

Monday, 24 February 2014


"Child with a Dove" by Pablo Picasso
Celestial Harmonia Macrocosmica of Andreas Cellarius

"General, your tank is a powerful vehicle.
It smashes down forests and crushes men.
But it has one defect:
It needs a driver

General, your bomber is powerful.
It flies faster than a storm

    and carries more than an elephant.
But it has one defect:
It needs a mechanic.

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect:
He can think."
Bertolt Brecht

The genesis of harmony in human life is a strife (a war) towards love and well being, the good struggle+.Cadmus and Harmonia painting by Evelyn De Morgan.
Actor Michael Caine and Punch
The birds of war

war toys for boys, photo by Steven Meisel
Edward Norton in American History X, the stigma of nazism and prejudice

   Ares, the mighty, fiery god of war meets the watery and fluid nature of Aphrodite and the child born is called Harmonia. A riddle; this offspring of adultery, Aphrodite contributes her soothing and welcoming properties inside a calm unison most times that of opposite or additional powers while Ares represents the strife for a equilibrium and rationality inside the war affairs and war as a case can almost signify every struggle, a struggle without, in the external affairs but also a struggle within, towards personal growth and the effort of the individual to conquer the self, to conquer the self is to rule over the world as perhaps the eastern tradition would have it, after all the microcosmos is a miniature of the macrocosmos if we listen to neoplatonic ideas of the creation...what we meet in the outside reality is what possibly hides within even in some distant area of the conscience phenomenon. Harmonia, the tuned daughter, mothers the noun of harmony, a word spread in many languages around the earth, a call for balance inside a world of turmoil, unconscious decisions and still very much archaic terror, pain, violence, traumas and death.

Roma città aperta
A fashionable war? I-D militant issue
war and terror, the real vietnam and illogical reality of violence
girl soldiers, models playing war, photo by Steven Meisel
Despair and loss, the actuality

Linda Evangelista and unhappy face

As humanity and collectiveness we've shown our capability of producing high technology War machines and gadgets of all kinds, there are countries debating on the right of their citizens to carry a personal gun, there's Chekhov's gun, a dramatic and narrative principle obeying a certain rule, the author states it like that: "Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." In his perspective the presence of a gun stands as a countepart of a promise, action is what comes to mind when thinking of the imago of the gun, many times action leading to havoc if we attempt to see the big picture. There's a charm and some mystery when it comes to the owner of the gun, a distortion of intentionality or even instincts, personal instincts but also those of the collective consciousness tracing threats and enemies, manufacturing the monster of the state war machine resembling a lernean hydra.

Banksy's famous riot of flowers
Joan Baez and her diamonds and rust activism

Carl Jung would have wondered if the war affair in its current state is the result of the mass-man, the victim of all 'isms', shouting bipolarity, separation, demarcation...confusion. Not that the ego has to identify with its opposites to keep its integrity, it's more like a challenge for the ego to understand how to keep the balance between them,to investigate among tendencies and achieve a subjective unison, a courageous negotiation without having to overlook the possible differences. The political and religious systems of today make this effort extremely difficult for any individual struggling towards this direction, of finding the unification among paradoxes and controversies, postulating one-sidedness as unique truth and dogma, that's huge pressure and actual war for the psychic organ and its organization. Jung testifies (On the Nature of the Psyche), ' The current "isms" are the most serious threat in this respect, because they are nothing but dangerous identifications of the subjective with the collective consciousness. Such an identity infallibibly produces a mass psyche with its irresistible urge to catastrophe.' According to this thinking we may assume that the "instinct of death" is served this way while in a freudian view we lack the stamina towards the "instinct of eros", we got the Ares' element but we miss the Aphrodite as his companion, creation and creativity forces are at great stake if things continue to operate this way.


John and Yoko, almost the last influential pacifists

   The previous decades of the 60's and the 70's reopened the dialogue on the peace matter, equity and liberation of speech and beliefs. The youth, at least a great part of it, was affected by these movements globally, everything indicated that a new era freeing the world from prejudices of centuries would occur, this was proven to be a false hope. The constant materialization of societies along with consequent conservative governments inrecepted those developments. Nowdays it's rather old fashioned and passé
to mention human rights, real sexual liberation and generally alternative and more natural ways of living. The youth prefers to take selfies and comment on celebrity life trying to obtain the image and neglecting the importance of a content, a youth unable to doubt stereotypes in a constructive way it's a youth without much hope. The "make love not war" slogan won't turn many heads these days.
   The potential is ever present, trying to calm the oppositions and obtain a better, more sober angle we must remember Peace, this Utopia, non place. In Aristophanes' play "Lysistrata" women decide to abstain from love making going on a sexual strike so to force their men to stop the war, the city is turned in an extensive household while in the absence of men, women and their nurturing nature trying to seize the control of polis so to restore and heal the situation. Their vision and female approach was one succeeding only in the realm of poetry cause no actual society managed to exist in this aspect, but the analogy is intriguing. What if things had turned otherwise...Is this world anything more than a random rolling of dice?†††.

nothing else but love, Lysistrata vintage illustration by Notor

Moschino meeting Peace and variety campaign
Bob Geldof the youth against war and poverty

"The tempest calmed after bending the branches of the trees and leaning heavily upon the grain in the field. The stars appeared as broken remnants of lightning, but now silence prevailed over all, as if Nature's war had never been fought.

At that hour a young woman entered her chamber and knelt by her bed sobbing bitterly. Her heart flamed with agony but she could finally open her lips and say, "Oh Lord, bring him home safely to me. I have exhausted my tears and can offer no more, oh Lord, full of love and mercy. My patience is drained and calamity is seeking possession of my heart. Save him, oh Lord, from the iron paws of War; deliver him from such unmerciful Death, for he is weak, governed by the strong. Oh Lord, save my beloved, who is Thine own son, from the foe, who is Thy foe. Keep him from the forced pathway to Death's door; let him see me, or come and take me to him."

Quietly a young man entered. His head was wrapped in bandage soaked with escaping life.

He approached he with a greeting of tears and laughter, then took her hand and placed against it his flaming lips. And with a voice with bespoke past sorrow, and joy of union, and uncertainty of her reaction, he said, "Fear me not, for I am the object of your plea. Be glad, for Peace has carried me back safely to you, and humanity has restored what greed essayed to take from us. Be not sad, but smile, my beloved. Do not express bewilderment, for Love has power that dispels Death; charm that conquers the enemy. I am your one. Think me not a specter emerging from the House of Death to visit your Home of Beauty.

"Do not be frightened, for I am now Truth, spared from swords and fire to reveal to the people the triumph of Love over War. I am Word uttering introduction to the play of happiness and peace."

Then the young man became speechless and his tears spoke the language of the heart; and the angels of Joy hovered about that dwelling, and the two hearts restored the singleness which had been taken from them.

At dawn the two stood in the middle of the field contemplating the beauty of Nature injured by the tempest. After a deep and comforting silence, the soldier said to his sweetheart, "Look at the Darkness, giving birth to the Sun."
Peace XVIII by Khalil Gibran.

Peace for all the kids- ειρήνη υμίν