I Contain Multitudes
by Anita Acman
I first learned about Anita Acman´s work through an online group for erotic content creators, when the Ljubljana-based artist announced she was putting together a collection of her photographs, to be released as an ebook exclusively through her Patreon page. Acman hopes that her Sensualminimal project can attract enough supporters through Patreon to cover the costs of publishing her work independently, in a printed format.
In our correspondence, she reports how difficult it has been to find support locally in Slovenia. "Most of the people here judge my photography as something bad, or link it to pornography, which it certainly is not," she writes in frustration. "Art is not as well exposed as all the other bullshit we see on social media." Some of Acman´s work is indeed sensual and erotic--I was grateful she allowed me to reproduce one of her photographs for the cover my most recent book On Freedom--but her images inspire more than the instant gratification promised by porn. Many of the subjects in Sensualminimal are nude, but their nakedness is more about intimacy and vulnerability, less about objectification.
The first part of the book, "self portrait", is an almost irresistible invitation to the reader to gaze at these pictures with the same openness as Acman herself. Composed of both black-and-white as well as color photographs, her body is first seen in fragments, like the piecing together of an intricate puzzle: the side of her bare ribcage, or just her ass, or just her torso. Brief original texts accompany some of the pictures, in a voice that reminds me of the poetry of Rumi; while minimal and elusive, the combination of her writing and photography creates a kind of boldness. Sensualminimal is a declaration of one woman´s humanity, of her desire to be seen and accepted on her own terms, and through the lens of her own complexity.
As this opening "self-portrait" section unfolds, natural settings and landscapes superimpose over portions of Acman´s body, until eventually we see her nude form in its entirety. We see her climbing a tree or slipping into a boat, as well as draped over the back of a horse or standing on the edge of a cliff. The effect is like going from the minute to the vast, a visual analog to Whitman´s infamous affirmation in Song of Myself. Like the American poet, this Slovenian photographer is large, and contains multitudes. When the final images of her nude form appearing in more civilized settings--an abandoned wooden farmhouse, a darkened city street--the viewer cannot help but recollect the earlier locations, as if Acman is demanding that the primal world of our sensual natures remain intact within our distracting and modern confinements.
The second part of Sensualminimal is entitled "other dimensions", and marks another shift in the unfolding narrative of Acman´s book. Nude self-portraits are replaced by a new population of women. No original writing contextualize these photographs, which alternate between color and black-and-white; the artist trusts that the ideas introduced in part I will linger and reverberate through the looking at part II. These women subjects are sometimes nude, sometimes dressed in lingerie; when we see them together, they touch in sensual embrace, delicately, tenderly. Towards the end of the book, Acman features their bodies once again in fragmentary-form, an echo to how she depicted herself in the beginning of Sensualminimal, before showing individual women fully clothed. Yet these final images juxtapose between being in an office or work-environment, with her models in nature amongst the flowers or floating in water.
All women possess multitudes, Acman suggests in Sensualminimal, and carry their vast capacities for pleasure within them, wherever they go. Each person here contains their own universe, and by depicting them in such candid vulnerability, Acman invites us to reconnect with our own sensuality and intimate experience of ourselves.