Trembling Of A Soul Learning That The Body Belonging To It Has Its Own Logic And Its Own Mind

Egon Schiele, “Young Girl” (1910)

How does Schiele transform a human body into an alive human body? “A corpse has the same body” as still living human being (dead and alive bodies look identical). It is through movements, facial expressions and gestures we grasp that the body is alive. But Schiele is able to go beyond realism in his depiction of the very aliveness of the human body. In his “Young Girl” he is, as if, mixing flesh and blood to help us see the living body, not to just guess that the body is alive because we unconsciously decipher the dynamic cues. It is, as if, the body didn’t have blood vessels and had the ability to accumulates and assimilate only capillaries.

But it is the mental relation of the young girl to her own body made Schiele in this painting so fascinated, a relation that makes the human body not only alive, but human, full of awkwardness and strange deformations produced by the protagonist’s emotions towards her bodylines (these distortions are only in the girl’s sensations of her body, which, as if, are projected by her into her anatomy through the painter’s glorious intuition).

The girl is shy to the point of being tormented by her nakedness opening her to the sword of trivial curiosity. And her own gaze is trying to intervene between her body and human anonymous gazes (predatory with anonymity). Her gaze, as if, whispers to us (and to herself) – I know myself that I am getting something like breasts, leave me alone! Her own eyes are trying to avoid looking at herself, as if trying to show viewers the way – that they are not suppose to stare at her, or, at least should pretend not to.

The girl doesn’t want to see that others see her flesh, as if, if she doesn’t see it, they can also turn away. The psychological magic of this gesture of turning her eyes away from her body is, as if, the attempt to take/to pull the viewers’ gazes off her ‘shame”. Turning away her gaze is like a desperate authoritarian command to the viewers to behave in the same way. But it is not enough for her not to see herself and by this to magically try to distract others from seeing her. She is also, as if, in seizure of impulsive, only unconsciously motivated gesture of closing/squeezing, like with an improvised cross, her breasts with her arms. This gesture is so passionate, that it is, as if, deforms her arms and hands which are becoming, as if crippled – so quick, so “hysterical” her desire to block the viewer’s gazes at her breasts. Schiele‘s painting projects her emotions into her body, and her arms and hands become, as though, tortured, bruised, ugly (as she is afraid her whole body is).

But why do her arms/hands cover up only her breasts, not her pubis which is doomed to be abandoned to the viewers’ greedy indifference? There is something surrendered in the prosaic naturality of her pubic hair, something naïve and doomed in wild helplessness of the lips of her vagina. May be, the girl is too young to cathect her sex with the same sensitivity (triggered by the shame as a psychological defense) as her breasts? It is, as if, her breasts were for her personification of her becoming a grownup, not the ultimate incarnation of her gender. At her age she protects herself by protecting/negating her breasts, not the final proof of her sexuality. Her shame hasn’t so far appropriated her sex into its spectrum; it keeps her gender worries separate from sexual ones.

Take a look at the girls’ thighs – they are not articulately feminine: she didn’t lose yet the veil of androgynous condition. But she is already a human being for whom human sexual differentiation commanded by nature and acceleration is not yet obviously came. For this reason her worries about her bodylines are, mainly, pure from sexuality. Hers is just a torment of being in flesh, being heavy and full of sensations, full of future which is mixture of life and death. Is it the stress and the cross of a soul learning that the human body has its own logic, its own mind? Is in its wisdom her soul surrendering to this fact while feeling burdened and frightened and sometimes trapped?