The work of Spanish photographer David Nebrada (Madrid, 1952) could be said to appeal to the voyeur in all of us. Nebrada suffers from severe schizophrenia and lived in a psychiatric hospital where he refused to be treated. He hardly communicates with anyone. He scars his body frequently, by burning or piercing himself. He eats his own excrement. He also uses his own body as an object for his art: ‘Un Chien Andalou’ is his new book. The photographs are fascinating – something disturbing is happening to the artist and questions arise: Is this really serious? Is this still Art? These are questions that haunt contemporary art since Marcel Duchamp. Up to what point are the photographs of an artist, living in a psychiatric hospital, nearly starved to death with a body of many scars, painted with blood and excrement, up to what point is this Art? Which boundaries should be crossed to convince the audience that Nebrada is an artist?
Who am I? I am a body rather than a spirit. How do I know? I can make it suffer heavily. That is Nebrada’s discourse on the method – that is his state of being. The photographs come along with a diary, with details about his experience of suffering. More than a photographical discourse of method, it is as an evangel (interrogation on values): the terror and dislike that provoke the photographs (and drawings) questions our limits, our ethics, and our fears. Has our relation to blood, excrement, scars, hunger, violence, and madness become so uncommon and unnatural? Since the Greek tragedies, we are used to seeing love, hate, death, murder, and betrayal on stage. Nietzsche said that the Greeks put the saddest things in tragedies to force themselves to overcome them: to accept that they are part of life. Can we overcome the work of Nebrada?
Finally David Nebrada finds in his work the intuition of its compatriot, Luis Bunuel, in Un Chien Andalou: representing violence against the body can create new spaces for freedom.
Purchase David Nebrada's book here.