Cartesian Cut? Exhibition 27.5.16 - 12.6.16
Fringe Arts Bath 2016 FAB1, 146 Walcot Street, Bath Curated by Eloise Govier
Artists Suze Adams (performance/installation) Nikki Allford (installation) Lou Baker (sculpture) Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman (installation) Eloise Govier (performance sculpture) Ellie Harrison (online archive) John de Mearns (painting) Laura Waite (sculpture) Daniel Witnicki (drawing)
List of artworks Suze Adams Nikki Allford Lou Baker Lou Baker Eloise Govier Ellie Harrison John de Mearns John de Mearns Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman Laura Waite Daniel Witnicki
At One Remove Mapping the Body All the babies I might have had II Nobody I Cartesian Cut? Tea Blog The Monks I only want to change the world 15:44 Viscera Red Triptych (I, II, III)
Introduction The Cartesian Cut? exhibition reveals and unravels the boundary of the body. The title of the exhibition relates to the philosopher RenĂŠ Descartes (1596Ěś 1650) who made a clear distinction between the mind and body. Contemporary philosopher Karen Barad problematises his boundary, calling it the Cartesian cut (2003: 815). Contra-Descartes she offers an understanding of entities not as unique beings but phenomena in constant intra-action (2003: 815). It is the search for the 'cut', the place where I end and you begin, that has inspired the works in this exhibition. The pieces present unique imaginings and interpretations of the workings of bodies. The findings of these investigations are simultaneously familiar and yet unknown. The artworks act as vignettes about bodies becoming. John de Mearns executes paintings on glass that utilise skin and paint to create unique residues of the body mid-action. Daniel Witnicki draws complex fantastical worlds of intertwined humans and things. Lou Baker exhibits her soft-sculptural forms to acknowledge the transition between (m)other. Laura Waite contributes finely modelled sculptures that imaginatively capture the organs that form in the cavities and voids of the body.
In our search for the cut the body is abstracted and metaphysically explored. Nikki Allford s site-specific Body Mapping traces the rhythms of the body by revealing complex layers, forms and patterns. The piece simultaneously calls to mind the fat of the body and charts the artist s movement in and through the exhibition space. Eloise Govier s melting sculpture physically captures the daily shedding of skin and hair in a piece that holds and transforms unique body information. The exploration extends to the digital body. Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman create a digital apparition, a new morphing body that slips between embodiment and disembodiment. The piece juxtaposes the alive and the digital body to explore the anxiety of occupying digital space. The exhibition also hosts Ellie Harrison s Tea Blog, an online digital artwork that archives a fragment of what Harrison was thinking about every time she had a hot drink between 2006 and 2008. A total of 1650 thoughts were recorded on the microblog, formed in the days before Twitter. The work archives a spatiotemporal nexus of tea and ideas: a body or body part caught in cyberspace. The living body is on site too. Not only in Evans and Newman s spoken poetry but also through Suze Adams performed artist residency that presents the artist at work. Her material trails will grow and accumulate during the exhibition as she commences her piece At One Remove. The exhibition invites you to think through and with bodies. Welcome to the Cartesian Cut? exhibition.
Acknowledgements The original idea for the Cartesian Cut? exhibition was developed in the summer of 2015 and submitted to Fringe Arts Bath (FAB) in the winter of the same year. At the time I had a clear idea of the exhibition concept and wanted to find other artists engaging with the subject. When the exhibition callout went live artist proposals began to arrive and the project was slowly defined. During this time I made several visits to the artists studios. The catalogue documents these meetings, and much of the information that was shared during those first conversations has filtered into my text. Meeting and working with other artists has been a great experience. Some of the catalogue entries include artist statements, I have titled these sections so that the reader can distinguish between our voices. I would like to Thank Daniel, Johnny, Rowan, Maisie, Laura, and Nikki for their enthusiasm and support for the project. I would particularly like to Thank Suze and Lou for reading through a draft of the catalogue (though I take responsibility for the final edit and any mistakes). I would also like to Thank Ellie Harrison for kindly allowing us to host the Tea Blog. I approached Ellie in March, and despite the artist being in the middle of a media frenzy, she still found time to listen, respond and to allow us to share her work. We are following her project The Glasgow Effect with great interest and wish her continued success for the important work she is doing.
Over the years it would appear that Arran, Scarlett and the committee have developed FAB into a truly unique festival, and something Bath is lucky to have. Indeed, it seems that Bath knows this as FAB was awarded a Bath Life Award this year. First and foremost, FAB celebrates contemporary art. Alongside early career and established artists, the festival provides a home for those who like to function outside the gallery based art scene. By prioritising these values, and offering a rare level of curatorial freedom, FAB have made an inspiring, original and non-commercial event. In addition to the artists and organisers, I would particularly like to Thank Professor Janet Burton, Dr Louise Steel and Luci Attala at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD). I am truly grateful to the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at UWTSD for funding the printing of the exhibition catalogue. Alongside the exhibition there are a series of talks that address the key exhibition themes which include: intimacies, residues, and absent bodies. It is our vision to publish these talks, ideas, artworks, and essays in the future. Thank you.
Suze Adams, At One Remove Dental X-ray
Artist Suze Adams is occupying the exhibition. She is a living, breathing entity whose presence is felt in amongst the residues and traces she leaves at her desk. On visiting the exhibition you might happen upon the artist mid-work, sketching at her desk, perhaps a mug of tea is left indicating she is on site. Perhaps she is next to you. Suze is here; whether she is felt from the carbon she breathes out whilst in the space or the materials of her stuff of living". Her absence is made present through her residues, and explores the concept of an absent presence; being at one remove". The theme of the piece emerges from her own practice-led research that is rooted in phenomenological approaches to being in the world . In her work she responds to situations. Her performances and installations are actions, reactions, diversions. She is prepared but her plan will adapt to the unfolding and becoming that occurs within the space and the spaces between us: all those molecules, thoughts, movements and objects can do things to a space and others (human and non-human) occupying the space. Thus in her work she will respond, as humans do, to the environment.
The performance speaks about bodily assimilation and absorption. The more time Suze spends in the space, the more she will become integrated within the space â€“ objects and residues of her presence will accumulate and traces of her lived actions will become increasingly evident within the exhibition (whether she is bodily present or not). She describes this as a "processual approach" - a process-driven exploration. The artist explains: "I'm quite a private person, the performances I do, I keep quite private, having a presence and gradually removing myself". The piece is also opening a debate on the transition between live and recorded events and how narratives change when the performance is over. There is potential for new meanings and approaches to be taken and offered from such gestures. For multi-perspectival documentation of the shared event we encourage visitors to record and archive Suze Adams. Share her movements and residues on instagram using @cartesiancut #SuzeAdams #FaB16.
Nikki Allford Mapping the Body Masking tape
Nikki Allford As a maker and installation artist Allford works with time-consuming processes - the artist has an obsessional attention to detail. She often works with found materials, and responds directly to the context of the space. Mapping the Body investigates the way repetitive actions can result in the formation of a work. Structures are built from the accumulation of lines and tape, as are the rhythms of the body that echo in the methodical folds of the tape The resultant pieces can be read as abstract or as hinting at other bodily qualities. In the piece the masking tape shape-shifts and becomes reminiscent of pelts and skins, or the innards of the body. Perhaps fleshy wads of aerated fat? The tape rolls are left in-situ. This simple gesture contextualises the soft forms so that the materiality of the piece - the very products it is made from - are clearly referenced. This act anchors the installation to both method and maker.
Lou Baker All the babies I might have had II Leather, babygrows, Hand knitted felt, zips
Inspirations that have informed her practice include artists Christian Boltanski and Louise Bourgeois who use empty second-hand clothing in their work to suggest a physical absence and ultimately, death, the most extreme abjection. By hanging her sculptures, Baker also conveys a sense of vulnerability and ambivalence which contrasts powerfully with the violent intensity of the piercing with meat hooks, and the chains.
All the babies I might have had II (2015) and Nobody I (2014) are sculptures that hang from meat hooks and chains. Cloth and stitch is used to evoke the abject feelings that Kristeva remarks on - the emotional boundary and feelings of loss that emerge when there is distance between bodies. Through the sculptures, artist Lou Baker explores the separation between me and (m)other, from a mother s perspective.
There is a merging of the senses of touch and sight associated with cloth; as a type of "second skin" cloth can be regarded as an extension of the body. Both the materiality and skin-like nature of cloth provide an alternative range of meanings to the use of clothing in art. In this context material acts "both through the haptic and the scopic simultaneously" (Dormor 2008: 240).
Sculpted using a selection of skin-like materials and her son s old clothes, these body-like forms communicate the depth and range of emotions which are an integral part of the transitions of motherhood. From the yearning for children and the losses surrounding childbirth to the ongoing separation as a child becomes an adult, Baker s work explores and remarks on not only the physical departure of leaving home but on the child s development of self and the impact this has on a mother s own identity.
The materiality of clothing can involve a sense of smell too, which can also powerfully evoke memory. As items of used clothing are incorporated into the pieces some of the sculptures have a distinctive second-hand, musty smell, and the imitation leather emits its own peculiar odour, adding to the immersive experience. Baker forges cognitive relationships between material, process, and concept.
Themes of identity and purpose, loss and absence are raised. Zips are used as devices to visualise the liminal space between that which is revealed and that which is concealed. By doing so Baker provides a potentially changeable threshold between her interior and exterior selves blurring boundaries and adding poignancy to the precarious separation between self and other.
“What is left behind when someone leaves?” “The abject marks the moment when we separated ourselves from the mother, when we began to recognise a boundary between ‘me’ and other, between ‘me’ and (m)other” (Kristeva, 1982).
The soft, impermanent nature of cloth evokes the human form and its mortality, revealing alternative meanings in its folds and surfaces. By using recycled imitation leather and human hair she invokes debates surrounding 'dirt' and anxieties associated with notions of 'contamination'.
Baker’s pieces eloquently explore the separation between self and other. The transition between (m)other is captured as process. The sculptures act as material expressions of abject feelings of loss that are entangled with being a ‘mother’. Dormor, Catherine, 2008, skin: textile: film in Textile, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 238-253 Kristeva, Julia, 1982, Powers of Horror, Columbia University Press: New York Parker, Roszika, 2010, 3rd edition, The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the making of the feminine, London: Tauris
Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman, 15:44 (still) Original poetry, music, and 3D animation running time approx. 15 minutes
Maisie Newman and Rowan Evans (collaboration) "when I am no longer vivid my voice will enter the chamber where my body cannot and look upon its face rendering creed and supplication" (Evans) Artistsâ€™ statement 15:44 is a cyberpunk liturgy to disembodiment and digital apparition. A collaboration between digital artist Maisie Newman and poet and musician Rowan Evans, the film combines poetry, 3D animation and original music and was first commissioned by Mercy (Liverpool) and Penned in the Margins as a live performance for the EVP Sessions (November 2015). Developed in response to a fear of occupying simulated spaces, encountering digital objects and the empty field beyond their periphery, 15:44 interrogates how the live body interacts with digital structures that perform without an identified user. Through the vocabulary of ritual, it causes an encounter between the viewer and a technological system which draws them near to a body of light . Created with Blender software, Newman s animation uses geometric construction and shifting textures to explore the dismantling and re-emergence of form, disorientating our faith in a single plane . The viewer moves beyond the live body into the unknown dimensions of a simulated space, encountering a digital apparition which responds to itself by continually changing in form. The viewer becomes more conscious of the eventual performativity of this apparition as it begins to replicate â€“ and learn from â€“ an awareness within its technological environment, separating the viewer from their physical location. Simultaneous to this process, Evans poetry draws on spatial theory, religious text and science fiction to create a lyric response to fear and disembodiment in a virtual field. Spoken by two alternating voices, the recitation of the poem forms vocal patterns abstracted from the body as sound, yet sonically present in the space of the artwork. This recorded vocal trace parallels the video and its process and generates a conscious presence of its own, as the voices feed into one another across the stereo field. Music moves between ambient drone, postrock guitars and minimal electronic composition, interacting with the voices and underscoring and amplifying the images.
Curator The intention of the piece is to communicate a feeling of dread produced by something digital. Amongst the static, the listener can decode the voices; there are those who argue that the voices of the dead can be heard in white noise. 15:44 explores the idea of being haunted by a digital apparition. The artwork captures an object that falls and starts changing forms, and by the end of the piece the object is performing for the audience. Both Evans and Newman work in theatre, both comment on the there being something human about performing . They explore this idea by producing an object that can learn, and occupy space and who presents itself as a body of light . The title 15:44 partly refers to the chapter and verse of the Book of Corinthians, in which a distinction between the terrestrial and the spiritual body is made; the human body is sown in the earth and raised in the light. Evans poetry is influenced by ritual forms of speaking, forms of utterances that are prophetic in nature. Querying the repercussions of post-humanism when a body might become something violently technological, the form in the piece shifts into spiked edges - blade like - something of light. The piece is described as a cyberpunk liturgy because such authors delight in technical, highly mechanised language. This hard, metallic vocabulary is present throughout Evans text. The separation between the physical and digital body is at the heart of the piece. The duo urge for a reconnection to the self.
Eloise Govier Cartesian Cut? Frozen liquid, household dirt, glass casing
Eloise Govier What is the body? In her book Vibrant Matter Jane Bennett reminds us of the colonies of bacteria that inhabit the crook of the elbow and how they function to moisturise the skin and help with the movement of the arm. Bennett remarks the its outnumber the mes [!] (2010: 112). The performance sculpture Cartesian Cut? interrogates Bennett s ontological re-framing of the body as an array of bodies by highlighting the boundary of the body as porous (Bennett 2010: 112). The human body sheds stuff . Skin, hair, tears. Are these residues still part of the body? Some of these bits are microartifactual and only visible at the end of a microscope. And yet some of our most vital information is caught with and amongst the dirt trail we leave as we go through life.
By utilising energy drinks to hold the microartifactual information the artwork brings together the things that are consumed (and become us) with the things that are dispensed and shed from us. In the Cartesian Cut? Govier considers the vitality of household dirt by freezing the remnants in handmade stalagmite shaped moulds using the lurid drinks. The sculpture reacts to the environment and captures a congealing, melting, and becoming body form. The adaptation of the environment and how this informs the piece are integral to the work. Initially the frozen sculpture holds together collective body-information, but by allowing the ice-forms to melt, the piece sustains the idea that these are ongoing emergent processes, continually unfolding in and around us.
Ellie Harrison Tea Blog Microblog 1st January 2006 - 31st December 2008
Ellie Harrison The Tea Blog captures a trail of steaming beverages and human reflections on day-to-day living. This piece was collated between January 2006 and December 2008 when artist Ellie Harrison recorded every thought she had whilst drinking a hot beverage. She microblogged each tea-drinking event and presented the digital archive as an online artwork. At the time Harrison was making art out of data-collecting. The artist relentlessly recorded data from her day-to-day living. Eat 22 is another example of her work, from 11 March 2001 - 11 March 2002 everything Harrison ate was digitally recorded. Tea Blog similarly hosts a spatiotemporal nexus intrinsically linked to Ellie Harrison s life and work, which are often blurred. Shortly after Tea Blog Harrison published her book Confession of a Recovering Data Collector (2009) where she publicly renounced this method of working.
In February 2010 Harrison was the first UK artist to publish an environmental policy; the statement covers energy use, diet, hygiene products and even banking. Her aim is to reduce her carbon footprint and offer transparency in her practices. Harrison explains that a crucial part of her activism is to inspire positive behaviour change in everyone else .
Sustainability and activism are at the heart of Harrison s practice, and this often takes precedence over production. A key aim for the artist is to highlight the threat of the 2% rise in carbon emissions. For one residency she had four signs emblazoned with climate and change , these are her Early Warning Signs. Subsequently the artist felt tremendous guilt at having had these objects produced and vowed to re-use the signs. Every year she invites 4 galleries to host the signs, and this will continue as a durational project as her career progresses. Harrison is currently engaged on a site-specific art project in Scotland called The Glasgow Effect. The artist has committed to living and working in the City for an entire year (1.1.16 31.12.16). A tagging device attached to her person will text her funding body, Creative Scotland, if she moves beyond a 20 mile radius of the City centre. By reconceptualising the role of artist, and shifting the emphasis from product to practice, Harrison is redefining both the concept of art and good practice. The artist is also pioneering contemporary digital art practice. Tea Blog is an open-access free resource that the artist has allowed Cartesian Cut? exhibition to host. You don t need to be in the exhibition or any gallery space to access the piece. www.teablog.net/
John de Mearns The Monks Original fired glass
John de Mearns I only want to change the world Original fired glass
John de Mearns "A meditation on embodiment." Since 2002 de Mearns has focused on the medium of glass as a surface through which to offer up and explore corporeality . Two works by the artist are featured in the exhibition. I only want to change the world is made from an interaction between glass surface and flesh. Paint informs this moment and captures the residues of the movement mid-flight on the glass. The artist expands his interest in embodiment to the exploration of conscious embodiment. The cognitive aspect of the notion is expressed in his piece The Monks. At the time of painting, the artist was looking through medical books. The artist had experienced a great amount of dental trauma as a child and later on in life felt drawn to medical images. The piece recalls the dental X-rays from these books. The viewer is invited to meditate on the content of the work. Capturing a flicker between thoughts: half x-ray, half mise en scĂ¨ne. Some might come to see the monks in their robes walking alongside the lake, their bodies caught on a mirrored background.
The piece captures a cognitive gesture. By looking at the image the artist and viewer experience a mutually shared field of consciousness . The artist encourages the viewer to bear witness to their thoughts in the moment; to recognise but not necessarily identify with them. According to de Mearns, these meditations allow the individual to cultivate their relationship with the self. "A thought arises in the mind, either you witness it or you don't. We are very rarely in the present, but always in the past or the future".
Laura Waite Viscera Wax, wood, pigment
Laura Waite, Viscera Wax, pigment
â€œThe eye does not simply look... it also feels.â€? (Barnett) Artist s statement Laura Waite s practice is focused on exploring the relationship between looking, touching and feeling that occurs in the gallery space. She uses materials that have emotive and haptic qualities: paper, fabric, hair, plaster, wax. These turn into sculptures and photographs that are unplaceable yet evoke memories of a familiar sensation, or else entice the viewer to explore via their sense of ocular touch. Often Waite s work receives a visceral and immediate response. Her aim is to simultaneously present the intriguing and uncomfortable, tactile yet repulsive, and encourage people to question the collective and bodily reactions they have to a piece.
Viscera explores the notion to contain: to
have or hold (someone or something) inside, to keep something harmful within limits and not allow it to spread, to control, restrain or hide (ones self or a feeling). The series is a visual exploration of both the action (to contain) and the reaction (to feel contained) by using the way wax turns from liquid to solid to capture moments of rupture or deflation. The pieces are placed specifically to interact with one another and the space they occupy. The wax sculptures spill out over low plinths, cleaved apart wherever they meet an edge, forever trapped in their own spaces. Curator Gut-like and strangely familiar, the pieces offer a moment to imagine what lies inside.
Daniel Witnicki Red Triptych I Printed digital drawings (Giclee Print)
Daniel Witnicki Red Triptych II Printed digital drawings (Giclee Print)
Daniel Witnicki Red Triptych III Printed digital drawings (Giclee Print)
Daniel Witnicki "Creating and living in these worlds - you need these worlds like a narcotic."
Witnicki works in his sketchbook. Hours are spent on drawing fantastical worlds of humans, things, and unique forms; familiar and yet uncertain. Bodies merge with other bodies. A fast-food cup haplessly balances on a shelf; a body seeps into a rucksack. All forms are inextricably linked by line and shadow. These works are inspired by the grand narrative paintings of the Middle Ages. The artist explains how he always tries to keep to reality but, inevitably, the process always takes him to the fantastical, to the un-reality". Out of all the works in the exhibition about the body there is a hint of death in his pieces. Inspired by the work of Gunther von Hagens, the artist would draw from youtube videos of the German artist s Bodyworlds exhibition - works that utilise plastic to preserve the human form in different states. The sinews of the body, as seen in Witnicki s drawings, capture the body somewhere between the living and dead.
Despite the content and inspiration of his work, the artist explains that he found the von Hagens videos "gross". But, this was an important challenge that the artist wanted to address. Witnicki explains how he told himself: "you have to see this, you have to accept this; this will be you next". The artist is bored by the obvious and the beautiful, and sees his work as a reaction to the photoshopped beautification of the body in contemporary media. Whilst there are surrealist undertones evident in his pieces, the artist is adamant that his images are not too detached from reality". Art is biography, and Witnicki argues that you can really "know a person, because of their work". Witnicki s work challenges how we think about the body. The artist notes: "We often think of it as one thing, one flesh. We don't think about the flesh and the bone, the blood - its complex".