Saturday, 1 March 2014

Romain Slocombe - City of the Broken Dolls

Paris, juin 1997

Romain Slocombe, born 25 March 1953 in Paris , is a writer, director, translator, illustrator, cartoonist and French photographer. His works deal mainly Japan and / or bondage . 

Tokyo metropolis. Both in hospital rooms and on the neon streets, beautiful young Japanese girls are photographed in plastercasts and bandages, victims of unknown traumas. These are the "broken dolls" of Romain Slocombe's Tokyo, a city seething with undercurrents of violent fantasy, fetishism and bondage. City of the Broken Dolls is a provocative photographic document of the girls whose bodies bear mute witness to Tokyo's futuristic, erotic interface of sex and technology.

“Trauma history”. That is the phrase used by Richard Kern in the introduction to Romain Slocombe’s ‘City of Broken Dolls‘. It’s an evocative phrase. In the context of the introduction, Kern is relaying a story about a woman he knows who had been in an accident and believed that the resultant scars made her look ‘ugly’. Kern then relays the fetishistic desire within him to photograph this woman immediately after the accident. The scars represented the trauma history mentioned above. This woman, scarred by her injuries, now possessed a mystery that fascinated Kern. This anecdote serves as an explanation for the existence of ‘City of Broken Dolls’.

Romain Slocombe is a Frenchman who makes his love of Japanese women no secret. Combining overt Asiaphillia with medical fetishism, Slocombe creates false trauma histories that both unnerve and compel. The photos in this collection don’t rely on gratuitous sexualisation of the subjects. The emphasis here is definitely on the mystery and ambiguity surrounding these broken dolls. Slocombe isn’t interested in falsifying gore, which is telling and, to me, what makes these photos successful. We stare at these women and wonder what fantastical situation caused the need for medical dressing. These are photos that depict the healing process. Even the evidence of trauma history, so lauded by Kern, is masked. We, as voyeurs, know nothing. Evidence suggesting the extent of the injury, or the progression of the healing process is inferred from the environments the broken dolls find themselves in. Some are captured within the city, nothing more than a sling supporting their arm, while others are nearly mummified in bandages and prostrate in hospital beds. All we have is a series of photographs that keeps us guessing.

Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, found themselves in a hospital to visit a relative or friend? It is here that we get our own glimpses of trauma histories from the nameless patients we pass, immersed in their own dramas, that we can only guess at. City of Broken Dolls is a careful recreation of those moments of horror, intrigue and mystique.

Walter Robinson: How do you think your work fits into the contemporary art scene?

Romain Slocombe: It's difficult to say because I've always resolutely and purposely ignored the details of contemporary a student we had the choice between galleries and comics....and I chose comics and later Pop illustration, while doing my medical things.

WR: Perhaps you're work represents the clash between the French and the Indochinese culture?

RS: I think if it's symbolic at all it's a visual symbol, the injured person, when you walk in the street, even if you're not interested in bandages from a fetish point of view, the eye is obviously attracted by someone who is walking on crutches or has an arm in a sling, the white is very strong. People always look at people who are injured in a certain way. The injured person had an accident, she is already separated, that person is separated from reality and there's an aura around that person....For me of course it's a fetish, I would be immediately attracted if there were a girl with a bandage in the street. My bandages are a bit exaggerated like in a movie when you see someone has been injured the bandages are exaggerated, in Japan particularly so, maybe because the Japanese like people to wear the costume that is really proper to the situation. So Japanese in movies if someone is injured in the hospital you can be sure that the bandage will be enormous. So my girls are maybe movie patients rather than real patients. My doctor friend who makes the casts for me says that on the contrary to make people feel better they reduce the bandage very quickly so that the person thinks that he is really improving very bandages are really big and inconvenient and bandage-like...and that's what I like. Myself as a fetishist I'm satisfied if the model really looks like an injured person. Some people misunderstand and think that I'm excited if the model is in pain or that there must be some horrible scars underneath but it's not that at all. I'm more interested in the wrapping, in the visual, in the outside aspect, rather than what might be on the inside. The vulnerability and weakness also, that's why I called my book Broken Dolls. It does enhance the femininity of the model. I find it makes them really beautiful. Some people misunderstand me completely, people will say this is antiwomen he must hate women. To the contrary, I love them, not only as a male but as a person, a friend and a fellow human being. I admire their beauty, I envy them, being so beautiful. So in fact it's just for me a way of enhancing the women. 

Cast Clinic by PierreTasso


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