Sex'n'database: A Corporeal Taxonomy

By paula roush

During a residency at the Arab Image Foundation I looked at several photographic collections that, in different ways, reflect the city of Beirut and its links to both the Arab and international photo-visual culture. This initial artistic research resulted in several photobooks that were published by Beirut-based PlanBey publisher, and an accompanying exhibition at their Makan Gallery (September 2015). This installation, titled Torn Folded Curled, reflected the impact of the civil war in some of the collections that came to the Foundation already damaged - photographic materials rescued from heavily bombed sites around Beirut and Lebanon.

In contrast to this kind of dusty paper-based materiality, I also became interested in the Foundation’s online database, both the textual taxonomy and its digitised photographs. Opening myself to chance, I let myself be guided by the intention to find something sleazy or sexy - photographic material with a twist… that might be troubling the archive. I typed in the database search fields the word ‘sexuality’ and found no sexuality in the archive, but found ‘sex’, as well as ‘body’, ‘nudity’, ‘breast’, ‘leg’, ‘bedroom’… Overwhelmed by the joy of corporeal indexicality, they are already digital archaeology. They are a testimony to an out-dated bureaucratic classification system of French colonial legacy, soon to disappear under the auspices of a new open access database to be implemented at the Arab Image Foundation.