I must have been 15 or 16 years old when I read the book “The Transposed Heads”, by Thomas Mann. This book, inspired on an Indian legend, had a great impact on me.
The plot is about two best friends that behead themselves for the love of the same woman.
This story stayed with me for many years as part of my imaginary. In 2005 I decided to explore it and created a photographic essay that I exhibited in that same year.
My reading of “The Transposed Heads”, as I still remember it: the story begins with two best friends falling in love with the same woman. The woman finds herself loving the two friends for two different reasons: intellectual and earthly. She marries the intellectual, but longs for the physic of his friend. The story develops. Out of love and respect for his friend, the earthly man decides to go away and live his life in a far away place. My romantic memory plays it that he decides to live his life as a hermit, in the middle of the woods, as he was a lumberman. The intellectual, becoming aware of his friend’s decision, and because of the love he feels for both of them, tells his wife he will be away for a couple of days, thus creating the opportunity for his wife and his best friend to spend a night together.
The following morning he goes to meet his friend. They both agree this situation cannot go on and decide to end their lives. They go inside a cave and chop each other’s heads. The wife goes looking for them and finds the two beheaded. Feeling guilty for the situation, she decides to end her life. When she’s preparing to hang herself, the Holy Mother, moved by the gesture, appears to woman and gives her – and them – a second chance. She’s to pray and put the heads back in the bodies. Be it her unconscious mind or her earthly desire, she swaps the heads and gets the “best of two worlds”… The friends wake up and the three embrace. Something doesn’t feel right and they realise what has happened. Now a choice must be made. With whom should the wife stay? The intellectual with the strong body or the earthly, now with a weak body? What defines the person? The head or the body?
With these thoughts in mind, I photographed the project “Body Talks”, raising the following question: what makes a person? And by trying to answer it, this question raised even more questions. Can we separate the body from the head? Can there be an order of preference? Is the person defined by the trunk or by the head?
A psychologist asks the child to draw a body. The level of maturity is assessed by the drawing: if the trunk is separated from the head, it is read as a sign of immaturity. The head and the body are one. They can function independently, but cannot be separated. And what are we? A head with a trunk? I cannot be a head that thinks nor a pair of legs that walk.
The project “Body Talks”, launched and exhibited in 2005, was my first essay to answer the question “who, or what, am I?”
Link to Gallery: Body Talks