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  • Anatomy of Permutational Desire:Perversion in Hans Bellmer and Oshii Mamoru
  • Livia Monnet (bio)

Bellmer's Anagrammar of Perversion

Oshii Mamoru's Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004, Inosensu) traces a murder investigation conducted by two Public Security Section 9 detectives, Batou and Togusa. Hadaly 2052 gynoids—sophisticated robot dolls produced by the Locus Solus company—have murdered a series of men. Batou and Togusa eventually learn that a Locus Solus inspector tampered with the dolls' inbuilt ethics code (i.e. the Three Laws of Robotics forbidding robots to harm humans, to disobey the latter's commands, and to do violence to themselves). The gynoids embarked on their killing spree, hoping to call attention to the tragic fate of scores of young girls who had been kidnapped and handed over to Locus Solus for the purpose of "ghost dubbing"—the copying of a human being's "ghost" (consciousness, mind, soul) onto a gynoid's memory hard disk in order to render her more human-like and thus more desirable.1

Inosensu affords an animated museum of technological and artificial life forms—dolls, robots, automata, and cyborgs. But the Hadaly 2052 gynoids play the central role. Oshii drew inspiration for the gynoids' design from the Doll photographs of surrealist artist Hans Bellmer and from the exquisite [End Page 285] prepubescent girl dolls of Yoshida Ryō. He also curated the exhibition "Dolls of Innocence" for the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art (February–March 2004), which focused on Bellmer's art and the Japanese art of ball-jointed dolls (kyūtai kansetsu ningyō).2

This essay has two main objectives. On the one hand, I will look at the writings of Hans Bellmer (1902–1975) to show how he offers not only a theoretical articulation specific to his work but also a general theory of perversion. On the other hand, I will show how Inosensu offers both an homage to, and a subversion of the German artist's vision of modern perversion. In this first part, I will examine the anagrammar of perversion that Bellmer articulated in The Doll (1963, Die Puppe) and other essays.3 In subsequent parts, I will consider Inosensu's remediation of Bellmer's conception of perversion, which allows the anime to produce an aesthetically and conceptually distinctive approach to perversion.

The Dolls

Between 1933 and 1935, in Berlin, Bellmer created two life-size mannequins of young girls that he called Dolls or "artificial girls." The first Doll consisted of an armature of wood and metal; a torso, a head and a hand made of flax fiber coated with plaster; and of a pair of legs joined to the pelvis by wooden ball joints. The second Doll was mounted around a large, round wooden ball representing the stomach, which in turn was topped by a double pelvis whose curved base allowed for the insertion of ball joints for the legs. Called the Center of the Doll or the Torso, this piece permitted greater freedom of combination, permutation, or reconfiguration of body parts than did the first Doll. These body parts included two identical pairs of legs, two arms, a torso endowed with several breasts, and the head of the first Doll. Round wooden ball joints joined the various segments of the second Doll's body.

Bellmer produced two series of photographs of the two Dolls. Comprising about thirty photographs, the first series documented various scenarios, in which the first Doll is captured in poses evoking seduction, deprivation, violation, or sadistic punishment. The second series of photographs consisted of roughly one hundred negatives showing variations or rearrangements of the body of the second Doll. The second series developed a sense of narrative potential, with a melodramatic aura reminiscent of cheap crime movies. The sinister, enigmatic, or uncanny atmosphere of the pictures was greatly enhanced by aniline coloring evoking hand-colored postcards from the beginning of the [End Page 286] century and by the severely truncated, multiplied, or doubled body of the Doll.

A selection of ten photographs from the series documenting Bellmer's first Doll appeared in 1934 in a little book entitled Die Puppe (The Doll). Bellmer wrote a short poetic text to accompany the pictures, "Erinnerungen zum...