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Bellmer’s Legs: adolescent pornography and uncanny eroticism in the photographs of Hans Bellmer and Anna Gaskell

University of Manchester
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Hans Bellmer's photographs of his two dolls from the 1930s have become classic surrealist images. Bellmer said of his motives in making the two dolls: 'I shall construct an artificial girl whose anatomy will make it possible physically to re-create the dizzying heights of passion and to do so to the extent of inventing new desires.' By reading Bellmer's photographs alongside those of the contemporary American photographer Anna Gaskell, this article argues that the 'new desires' invented are ones which confuse binaries of identification and desire, circulating around the body of the adolescent girl/doll. To think through the significance of the adolescent girl/doll as a shared trope by both artists, the concept put forward by Julia Kristeva of 'adolescent pornography' (in her essay 'The Adolescent Novel') will be used to inflect the focus on the uncanny that has dominated discussions of both artists. This paper will argue that the doubling between self and other, animate and inanimate, creates a queered eroticism in the work of Bellmer and Gaskell, overlaying narcissism and homoeroticism in these images of proliferating female body parts that deny any straightforward reading of subjecthood or desire.

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