email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Beluga is named of course after a variety of caviar, which are quite a delicacy, consisting of fish roe. The book features photographs of topless models and dead fish in one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Antwerp, Belgium, the photographer's hometown. It a profoundly odd and basically unpleasant book, although it may appeal to those with an appetite for the bizarre.
The restaurant certainly provides a kitsch feast for the senses: the walls are wood-paneled with shelves of garishly colored Chinese vases and decorations, pictures and lanterns. The models are dressed up in black stockings, pearl necklaces, silk shirts, lacy underwear, and of course high-heeled black shoes. In some of the pictures there are men dressed as waiters. One is a person of short stature, while another is a young black man.
As bizarre as the pictures is a collection of recipes at the end of the book, with instructions for meals such as marinated jellyfish with sesame, ragout of octopus with Mediterranean vegetables, and tartar of stewed summer purslane with breaded plaice, crushed eggs and a lemon and olive oil sauce. These are illustrated with small pictures of the seafood and models, but not of the finished meals. I can't really imagine using this book as a recipe book, although I expect that someone will.
Some of the pages fold out, making large pages, although this has the disadvantage of making it difficult to browse the book easily, and making it inevitable that the pages will get unwanted extra folds in them after viewing them. On some of these fold-out pages, the main picture is nevertheless centered on the book's fold so it is impossible to fully see the model's face, in an apparently deliberate attempt to defeat the advantage of the fold-out format. The book is about10" x 12", which is larger in size than most of the other Goliath products, although it has fewer pages,
To give some sense of these pictures, I will describe a couple in more detail. In the "shark" section, a woman on a table crouches over a large shark, about five feet from nose to tail. She has blonde hair and is wearing it up. She has on black underwear, her breasts poking through open-fronted bra cups, and she wears thigh high black high heel boots. She looks up to the viewer's right, holding her hands to her buttocks. The woman looks expectant and ready for further instructions. Her mouth is open. The shark is glassy-eyed and open mouthed. Behind this couple are the omnipresent wood colored walls, a large Chinese painting, and two lit electric lanterns.
In another picture, this one a fold-out over four pages, a brunette with thigh-length stockings, high heels, black panties and glittery silver-colored necklace wrapped in several long strands around her neck and draped over her rather small breaks, resting against one pointed nipple, reclines on the floor. She pouts sexily, and this might be a silly cheese-cake glamour shot were it not for the glistening cuttlefish sharing her space to her left, stood on its head on the floor. It is a large and apparently slimy sea creature, maybe 15 inches high, and with some kind of tentacles arranged on the floor. The whole effect is disturbing and may make some viewers feel quite ill. I found it quite disgusting.
We might ask what photographer Jean Van Cleemput is aiming to achieve with this series of images. It is possible that there are people who have a fetish for the conjunction of attractive topless models and shiny dead fish, although I have yet to see a website devoted to such a fetish. There seem to be no bounds to what some people can find erotic, but for most of the population, the presence of the dead fish probably strips the images of their eroticism. It is hard to imagine that he is likely to make great financial profit from this book as a collection of sexy photographs. It is easier to imagine he is a fan of the bizarre and the perverse, possibly with an awareness of the traditions of surrealism and dada-ism in twentieth century art, as well as the obvious fantasy of pornography. These pictures lack any clear political or social sensibility, and one might complain that they are saturated with a flavor of self-indulgent decadence.
If there is anything valuable here, it has to lie in the sheer absurdity of the images and the possibility that Van Cleemput is poking fun at the genre of glamour photography. Indeed, these images are open to a rather straightforward feminist interpretation, that glamour photography turns women into dead fish, so to speak. These models, while certainly conventionally attractive, are effectively transformed into pieces of (fish)meat here. The trappings of stockings and high heels look about as erotic on them as a plate of sea bass. So maybe this is a surprisingly subtle work protesting the objectification of women. But I suspect not. The book might equally be read as an anti-female manifesto, comparing them to dead fish, or as a pro-seafood manifesto, comparing the culinary delicacies to the joys of beautiful women. There is no way to discover any definite meaning to these works. They will induce a powerful reaction in most viewers though, and I imagine that most will find them both a little intriguing and quite repellant.
· Jean Van Cleemput http://www.isawyou.be
· Goliath Books
© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.