Fairly recently I used a beautiful painting of Fernando Vicente in order to illustrate (quite literally I have to say) my article about Deleuze’s concept of the body as a Desiring Machine. It turns out that this Spanish artist has a whole series of those painting that he calls Anatomias that represent sections within women’s bodies as seen as machines both erotic and frightening at the same time. It is very likely that there would be a feminist reading of this work, as much as the one of Zola further in this article; however, I won’t be the one doing it here.
It is actually interesting to notice that, when one would think of a machine as a de-sexualized entity, F. Vicente’s bodies are highly sexualized and thus literally embody successfully this concept of desiring machine, or the human body seen as a productive entity.
In his novel La Bete Humaine (1890), French XIXth century author Emile Zola accomplishes the opposite of F.Vicente’s bodies by describing all along his book a locomotive as a woman. Never this comparison would be as strong as when this same locomotive -that even has a female name “La Lison” is involved in an accident and “dies” from it as described in the following paragraph (that I did not find in English and I had to translate myself which is terrible when one knows how beautiful is Zola’s prose…sorry about that):
On n’entendait plus, on ne voyait plus. La Lison, renversée sur les reins, le ventre ouvert, perdait sa vapeur, par les robinets arrachés, les tuyaux crevés, en des souffles qui grondaient, pareils à des râles furieux de géante. Une haleine blanche en sortait, inépuisable, roulant d’épais tourbillons au ras du sol; pendant que, du foyer, les braises tombées, rouges comme le sang même de ses entrailles, ajoutaient leurs fumées noires. La cheminée, dans la violence du choc, était entrée en terre; à l’endroit où il avait porté, le châssis s’était rompu, faussant les deux longerons; et, les roues en l’air, semblable à une cavale monstrueuse, décousue par quelque formidable coup de corne, la Lison montrait ses bielles tordues, ses cylindres cassés, ses tiroirs et leurs excentriques écrasés, toute une affreuse plaie bâillant au plein air, par où l’âme continuait de sortir, avec un fracas d’enragé désespoir. (Zola Emile. La Bete Humaine. Paris: Gallimard, 2001.)
Nobody could hear anymore, nobody could see anymore. La Lison, dragged out on its side, its stomach open, was loosing its steam by some ripped off spigots and some pierced pipes, in grumbling breaths, similar to some giant furious rales. A white breathing was coming out, continuously, rolling some thick whirls close from the ground while, from its heart, fallen braises, red like the blood of its guts, were adding their dark smokes. The cheminey, in the shock’s violence, had been buried, the frame had been broken and the wheels in the air, like a monstruous cavort, desultory by some formidable horn punch, la Lison was showing its crooked cogs, its broken cylinders, its drawers and their smashed rods, a real atrocious wound open to the air, from where the soul was keeping exiting in a desperate and enraged clamor.
following paintings by Fernando Vicente