The Beauty of Ungraceful Matter: The Erotic and Obscene Drawings of Keizo Miyanishi
One of the most interesting features of Japanese culture is the way artists, especially mangakas, deal with the representation of the human body. In the work of an artist like Keizo Miyanishi, whose production, in the 1970s, was focused on erotic manga, published in alternative magazines, the representation of the human body is done in an unusual way, with fine lines, exploring the contrast between black and white, at times resembling the drawings by Aubrey Beardsley and the Yamato-e style drawings (Fig. 01 to 05).
Keizo Miyanishi began his career as an assistant to the renowned mangaka Misaki Mamoru. In the West, his work was published only twice. The first was in a Heavy Metal styled perfect bound anthology titled Simply Manga, a unique effort by a group of Japanese comics professionals interested in publishing their works in the United States (Fig. 06 to 13). Even its year of publication is controversial: 1980, 81, 82? The second appearance of Keizo Miyanishi 's work took place in another anthology titled Ax Volume 1: A Collection of Alternative Manga, published in 2010 (Fig. 14 to 24). Shortly after the heyday of alternative manga in the 1970s, Keizo began working as an illustrator (Fig. 25 to 32)
Keizo is also a musician. In 1983, he and his band, Onna, reached number one on the Japanese indies chart. In his narratives, as well as in the illustrations he made for his band's LPs, the ero guro nansensu aesthetic predominates, which is revealed by its morbid, perverse and hallucinating aspects directed towards sex. Joe McCulloch notes pointedly that: “With Keizo Miyanishi, what I think is real about his work is the grotesque artifice through which he communicates desire's burn, stretching 'erotic' characteristics until they are faintly horrible, while still carrying the signal of pleasure. In this way, tantalizing images of a young girl's sampling of unfamiliar bodily fluids become commingled with a woman having an eye pecked out whilst being impregnated by a randy gamecock, afterward laying an egg for an obese housemate to devour.
I wonder if knowing what the dialogue says would aid in my understanding of these direct-yet-elusive drawings, or if the desirous meaning afforded to them by Miyanishi's creeper line would supersede logic entirely, relegating a decapitation, yes, to an orgasm's burst” (https://www.tcj.com/this-week-in-comics-81413-tales-from-beyond-context/).
Disruption of the Visible
Thus, the body, when exposed from mutilations and various practices that seek to break with its integrity, appears visually truncated, labyrinthine, since one of the characteristics of this type of representation is to deny the vertical axis of human anatomy in favor of splitting and multiplication. The result, as we can see in the work of Keizo Miyanishi, is a proliferation of images that are established in the body by the disruption of the visible as overlapping, multiplied, interpenetrated and simultaneous fragments.
These fragments arise as the body is conceived not as a stable configuration, in which the identity remains imprisoned, but, rather, the possibility of breaking with the limits that condition the self, at the moment when its interiority intersects with things and the external spaces they inhabit. The disorder, originated from this process, thus offers bodies in a permanent collapse, like excess flesh. The expression “excess flesh”, created by the Brazilian theorist José Guilherme Merquior in his text “The school of Bocage”, would be a way of trying to define the obscene as “no longer human flesh” (MERQUIOR, José Guilherme. A razão do poema: ensaios de crítica e de estética. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira, 1967, p. 161), because “the body, in the obscene dimension, appears as a meaningless thing, as an excremental leftover, expelled from the digestion of the erotic consciousness as equivalent to what the fecal bolus represents for nutrition” (MERQUIOR, op. cit., p. 161). For the Brazilian author, “an obscene passage is not that a priori because it deals with sex, but rather becomes obscene, as it degrades, at a given moment, its theme sex in an ungraceful way” (MERQUIOR, op. cit., p. 159).
Articulating the Obscene
In the images of Keizo Miyanishi, the human form is at the same time fragmented, multiple, incomplete, so that its excesses are offered as expressions of the grotesque and nonsense, by articulating the obscene as what deeply disturbs at the moment the body is made part of the eschatological contemplation, thus causing a distancing between the subject and the object of its possible excitement. The work of Keizo Miyanishi, as well as that of other artists of the ero guro nansensu, perhaps, disturb the public not because they represent naked bodies, but because they engender a critical consciousness capable of destabilizing order through obscenity, by leading the human being to evaluate the absurdity of the existence, the moment life and death are intertwined, the flesh torn apart by the void that haunts the human species.