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35 / Corpus Constructed / 1995 - 1996
01 / Corpus Disireae / 1995-'96 / 70x90cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
02 / Corpus Androgynous I / 1995-'96 / 90x70cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
03 / Corpus Delicti / 1995-'96 / 50x60cm / oak frame, glass / 1100
03 / Corpus Delicti / 1995-'96 / 70x90cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
03 / Corpus Delicti / 1995-'96 / 100x80cm / metal frame / 1500
04 / Corpus Callosum / 1995-'96 / 60x50cm / oak frame, glass / 1100
04 / Corpus Callosum / 1995-'96 / 90x70cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
05 / Corpus Lurex / 1995-'96
06 / Corpus Christy / 1995-'96 / 70x90cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
07 / Corpus Surpriseae / 1995-'96
08 / Cornu Copiae Vertility / 1995-'96 / 60x50cm / oak frame, glass / 1100
09 / Corpus Transposon / 1995-'96 / 60x50cm / oak frame, glass / 1100
09 / Corpus Transposon / 1995-'96 / 90x70cm / oak frame, glass / 1500
10 / Corpus Androgynous II / 1995/96 / 60x50cm / oak frame, glass / 1100

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Related Text:
Jean Ruiter's "Corpus Constructed" by A. D. Coleman, Photography critic, New York


Jean Ruiter's "Corpus Constructed"
by A. D. Coleman, Photography critic, New York

When I was growing up small and skinny in New York City, prey to the aggres- sive males of my species and an avid reader of escapist fantasies, one loca- tion where these aspect of my risky boyhood social situation coalesced were the advertising back pages of comic books.
There - amid the sales pitches for "X-ray specs," sea monkeys, whoopee cushion, fake blood and other gimmicks - I could always find two reccurent assurances that such imbalances of power were rectifiable. One (these were the 1950s, the early days of martial-arts activity in the States) was instruction via pamphlet in the mysterious, sly Oriental craft of jiu-jitsu.
A mere decade after the end of world war II, it carried the provocative taint of its origin in a recent mortal enemy's camp; nonetheless, its promise that little guys could beat up big guys was consoling. The other,absolutely all-American in its wholesome, outgoing flavor, was the mail-order body-building course offered by Charles Atlas. This enticement came complete with a simple pictographic mythology. A young man of average or under-developed physical size and musculature lay under a beach umbrella at the shore with his girlfriend. A beefy type came along, kicked sand in his face,and than -- with our protag- onist humiliated, unable to retaliate -- stole the girl away.

Cut to months with the barbells.
Then back to the beach where, this time,the bully gets his comeuppance, a punch in the mouth, and the original girl's replacement expresses her ador- ation. At the time, I found nothing plausible about either of these techniques of equalization. (Many years later, for the purpose of spiritual self-development, I would in fact study jiu-jitsu, somewhat to my surprise.) So it was with bemusement that I watched, over the next decades, as both martial arts and body-building became interconnected and evolved into major national pastimes and billion-dollar businesses, their best-known pract- itioners -- Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme - turned into Hollywood superstars. Yet I can identify with this mythologie,and easily empathize with its believers.

You can see how it takes some basic ideas that we all find plausible,be- haviors we consider appropriate and desirable -- the capacity for adequate self-defense, the health-maintaining regimen of daily exercise -- and metastasizes them,the concept tending to rage out of control even as the processes involved demand utmost concentration.
I find in it a version of what anthropologist Robert Ardrey called "the territorial imperative" writ small: the expansion of one's physical self to its available limits, a hyperdisciplined version of the same symptomology that yields obesity.
It's a philosophy of the body that involves a peculiar combination of awar- enesses of one's physiology:maximum coordination of all body parts and,at the same time, the autonomous articulation and extreme "definition" of its separate components - a physiological anarcho-syndicalism. Watching trained performers of either of these forms makes one immediately aware that they are much involved with the striking and holding of a reper- toire of poses.
Originally, in the versions that Jean Ruiter addresses in this series,these poses resulted from art imitating life, and sometimes legend; in European culture,we see them first in Greco-Roman statuary based on stylized postures, representing athletes,warriors,and mythical heroes. Entering in this fashion the lexicon of Western art,they then replicated themselves self-referentially through centuries' worth of subsquent pictures and sculptures : art imitating art.
However,somewhere along the line -- beginning with the tableaux vivants of the eighteenth century, perhaps -- somewhere along the line --begginnen with the tableaux vivants of the eighteeth century,perhaps -- living people began actively to take and sustain these positions,as a form of theater: Life imitating art.
And nowadays, at beaches, in gymnasiums, on stages around the world,these iconic poses are struck, maintained, practiced,refined -- as if the body were both were both a proscenium and an archive of received expressions,and these archetypal postures needed to be stored,preserved therein, salvaged from the ravages of time,and played as repertoire. Does this mean that we have finally come full circle, to life imitating life? In the States, we call images of this exaggeration of the male physique beef- cake, to compare it with and at the same time distinguish it from cheesecake, the now-dated term used here to denote displays of conventional female pul- chritude.
(Until recently, this pursuit of personal infrastructure was an almost exclusively male fetish; but, in the past decade or so,an increasing number of women have been drawn to to it -- perhaps most famously, Lisa Lyon, the fem- ale bodybuilder photographed at length by the late Robert Mapplethorpe.)

For some reason, that nomenclature always brings to mind for me the brilliant surgeon and writer Richard Selzer's description of the interiors of men's bodies as "and women's as "yolky." We see few images of such bodies in a deteriorated state, wasted by disease or age.
Aside from the inevitable bathos, such pictures would have little vaule. This process is about abnormality; not the ills that flesh is heir to, but what it can become in itself when pushed to extremes.

A formalism of the flesh, a modernism of the physical self,if you will - an investigation of the inherent possibilities of the body, in and of itself, as a plastic medium of expression and communication. It also addresses the body as a costume: a deliberate construct, somewhere between the naturally given and the artifactual. If a consciously stylized, custom-tailored body functions as costume and/or mask, Ruiter seems to ask, what is covered up, what lies beneath, what is inside? This suite of imaginary x-rayce of beefcake he calls "Corpus Constructed" offers a wide range of unsetteling answers, from which, it seems, we're free to pick: edible meat, the impulse toward suffering and a yearning for trans- cendence, the banal and dreadful daily news, the feminine antithesis, the yawning void.
Ruiter's method of inquiry is a form of anti-appropriation. Beginning with found images of this posturing, he cuts away and discards much or (in most cases) all of the actual representation of the transformed bodies.
What he leaves is its merest trace, its outline, the illusionistic, ima- gistic space it once occupied -- the pictorial environment that contained it, the gap in its representation on the page,the place where it has been. In other words, its absence, a visual vacuum. As if in response to nature's abhorrence of same, fragments of culture rush in, neither more nor less "authentic" than what they replace. After all, culture imposes itself on the body -- male no less than female -- immediately after birth, in rituals as different as circumcision and bap- tism.
Between the infants in football helmets used nowadays to sell disposable diapers on U.S.television and the iconography of "Muscle Beach" that Ruiter reconfigures there lies a continuum of sociul imprinting of concept of masculinity that stretches back into prehistory. Ruiter here gives us equivalents of tutorial cave drawings, archetypal images made to inculcate and perpetuate ancient ideas of "the masculine" -- a ver- itable latter-day Lascaux of testosterone. If our relationship to be body reveals, metaphorically, anything about our culture, then it cannot be coincidental that, with western civilization in a state of convulsive crisis, the political rise of the so-called "strongman" as a type of nationalist leader and the increasing pervasiveness of "strong man" (and, now, "strongwoman") mythologies are occurring in tandem. The desire to "fulfill our potentials" must be held in check by the recog- nition that our potential are on display not only at the Mr. Universe contest but also in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda -- and that these are not dis- connected.
We all want and seek proction and; we all must find ways to defend our- selves.
The enduring problem, as Ruiter intimates,is that the most fearsome enemy of all lurks, as always, within.

Staten Island, New York
Copyright A.D.Coleman