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The first striking quality of Giacometti’s “Femme Debout” is that, though the sculpture

generally resembles the shape of a woman’s body, it is not strictly mimetic. Like his past

constructions, it is “not ‘natural’ to a model posed in a studio.” In fact, “its sources was in

another work of art,” which, in Giacometti’s case, means a “primitive” source. The face of the

woman resembles the formalized African masks, with its unrealistically long face and angular

features. Throughout his work, Giacometti rejected Western Classical art and its attendant

associations with rationality and realism. Instead, he embraced the primitive, with its implied

primal irrationality. In the jagged, undulating surface of Femme Debout, one can see the

“rhythmic, varied sequence of some theme in mass, line, or surface” that was said to be

characteristic of African art. Expressed by this unrestrained rhythm is “an absolute freedom and

pleasure,” the freedom promised by the abandonment of Western restraints, in which our primal

desires and impulses are given free rein.

This renunciation of rational fetters liberates the libido and the savage lust for violence.

Giacometti’s sculpture is altered and deformed, thus embodying the “primal vandalism wrought

on the images of men” and sating the desire for sadistic destruction and death. Femme Debout

possesses neither the smooth surface nor the beautiful form we might have come to expect of a

sculpture of a woman. Its emaciated is deathly, resembling a decomposing corpse rather than a

live and robust Classical sculpture.

This violence towards the figure of the woman is erotically charged and evokes the

“fantasy of rape.” Here, lust and violence, and ecstasy and pain are intertwined. The distinctions

between love and violence are collapsed, as the woman’s body is the object or receptacle of both

sexual and violent impulses. This idea of a woman’s body as receptacle was present in

Giacometti’s earlier work with the concept of the spoon/woman, “in which the bowl of the

implement is likened to the lower part of the female seen as a receptacle, or pouch, or cavity.” In
“Femme Debout,” this characteristic is manifest in the distinct, exaggerated grove in the groin

area.

Perhaps Femme Debout’s most marked deviation from former sculptures is its verticality.

Rosalind celebrated Giacometti’s horizontal sculptures, in which the sculpture is the base.

Implicit in such a collapse of the sculpture/base dichotomy is a critique of the tall monument,

which aspires to something spiritual or elevated rather than embracing the lowly and the dungy.

The pedestal of a tall monument attempts to separate the sculpture from reality and from the

“baseness” that is “the real source of libidinal energy.”

Despite its traditional verticality, Femme Debout nevertheless continues to embody the

characteristics of baseness. The pedestal and the monument are not clearly distinct- they are of

the same material and texture. In fact, the monument looks like an uninterrupted extension of the

base. The feet are huge, like trunks rising out of the dirt and soil of the base, organically united

and dependent upon the base’s mud and grime. As in Giacometti’s previous work, “feet are

highly charged objects.” They are “simultaneously the focus of disgust and eros, they are the

part of the body that is mired in the ground.” Even without a horizontal orientation, this

sculpture still challenges the distinction between the monument, which is set apart upon a

pedestal, and a sculpture that is fused with the real world. Like Giacometti’s earlier works,

Femme Debout emphasizes a “base” materialism, its texture suggesting mud, rock, and stone.

These lowly and earthly materials recall the primitive, dark cave within which lingers man’s

secret desire for lust, death, and decay.


DISTORTION:
 “violence has historically been lodged at the heart of the sacred; that to be genuine”
 crude and “cruelty” “delirium”
 “the distinciton is blurred between inside and outside”
 “the cave”

 in regards to femininity and its associations with pregnancy and birth, “Giacometti was
obsessed with the idea of the rock that bears fruit, or, as Arp had written, ‘The stones are full
of entrails.’” “death and monument”

anus?
hole at the top of the cranium?

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