Gener ation Installation by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlíková
Installation by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlíková GV Art gallery, London 26 September - 5 October 2013
Every grain of wheat and every maiden contains all its descendants and all her descendants — an infinite series…the abyss of the nucleus. Kerenyi and Jung, Essays on the Science of Mythology
GENERATION A collaborative work by Rosalyn Driscoll and Tereza Stehlíková Published in 2013 by GV Art gallery, London 49 Chiltern Street London W1U 6LY www.gvart.co.uk Designed by Charles Gollop Publication © GV Art gallery, London Essays © the Authors All artworks © the Artists All images © the Artists, courtesy of GV Art gallery, London, except where indicated. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the copyright holders and publishers. VISITOR INFORMATION 49 Chiltern Street London W1U 6LY Nearest tube Baker St Tel: 020 8408 9800 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Front Cover Detail from sculptural video installation Generation, 2012
Contents Excerpts from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Generation: the installation
Artists Tereza Stehlíková and Rosalyn Driscoll talk to writer, Kay Syrad
Excerpt from The Pomegranate by Eavan Boland
Rosalyn Driscoll, Biography & Artist Statement
Tereza Stehlíková, Biography & Artist Statememt
List of Exhibits
About GV Art gallery, London
Excerpts from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter Translation by Helene Foley
Demeter I begin to sing, the fair-tressed awesome goddess, herself and her slim-ankled daughter whom Hades seized; Zeus, heavy-thundering and mighty-voiced, gave her, without consent of Demeter of the bright fruit and golden sword, as she played with the deep-breasted daughters of Ocean, plucking flowers in the lush meadow— …The mountain peaks and the depths of the sea echoed in response to her divine voice, and her goddess mother heard. Sharp grief seized her heart, and she tore the veil on her ambrosial hair with her own hands. She cast a dark cloak on her shoulders and sped like a bird over dry land and sea, searching… …For mortals she ordained a terrible and brutal year on the deeply fertile earth. The ground released no seed, for bright-crowned Demeter kept it buried. In vain the oxen dragged many curved plows down the furrows. In vain much white barley fell on the earth… 1
…At once he [Hades] urged thoughtful Persephone: “Go Persephone, to the side of your dark-robed mother, keeping the spirit and temper in your breast benign…” …Then all day long, their minds at one, they soothed each other’s heart and soul in many ways, embracing fondly, and their spirits abandoned grief… …the fields would soon ripple with long ears of grain; and the rich furrows would grow heavy on the ground with grain to be tied with bands into sheaves.
Still from In the Field video, 2012
Generation: the installation
Czech film-maker Tereza Stehlíková and American sculptor Rosalyn Driscoll merge video and sculpture to create a haunting installation about the progression of life through generations of women. Drawing on the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, the artists explore the fluid exchange between conscious awareness and unconscious forces, and the contradictions between possibilities and limitations that lie at the heart of our embodied lives. Stehlíková filmed her grandmother, mother, daughter and herself in their country house in Bohemia, focusing her camera on the bonds and tensions between the generations. Driscoll's organic, translucent sculptures, made of rawhide, paper and beeswax, convey the complexities of the mother-daughter relationships. Stehlíková’s videos are projected into Driscoll’s sculptures, transforming both. The projected images animate the sculptures, while their visceral physicality reveals a hidden dimension under the women’s seemingly composed surfaces. The installation fills the gallery, moving from the outer world of the house and fields, and descending to the underworld, a rich, mysterious inner world, where the women seek their way, individually and together.
Rift detail, 2013
Artists Tereza Stehlíková and Rosalyn Driscoll talk to writer, Kay Syrad Kay: You are both members of Sensory Sites, an international collective of artists committed to exploring the integration of the senses in art making. Can you tell me how this concern takes form here, in your examination of life as it progresses through generations of women? Tereza: At the simplest level, it is a question of the body, which channels the world to us. Having been with a partner who had long term health challenges, I was reminded over and over how the experience of the external world either dominates—in moments of ‘losing’ one's body, where the body is in perfect harmony with the external space that envelops it, like the experience of swimming in a beautiful warm sea where little effort is needed to stay afloat—or is suppressed by the body, which in turn dominates through pain (physical or emotional), obscuring our view of the external world, closing us down: the body an agent of so much pleasure and so much pain. Motherhood then is a fascinating experience on all these different sensory and sensual levels it is the extending of one's life into the future and the past, beyond one's individual life. Becoming a part of this chain is itself a form of mythologizing of life, making it larger, impersonal. This experience starts with pregnancy, where much attention is turned inward, while birth itself is such a brutal act of separation. But as one is being drawn forward into the new life, the more one feels connected to and in need of understanding what came before, and one perceives this in a light that is now transformed. I thought of this very much as I was spending the summer with my family in Bohemia, where I had the privilege of observing my daughter, my mother and my grandmother all in the same room: my daughter playing various 6
games of clapping hands with her great grandmother; my grandmother, who is so full of life, now struggling with hearing and also sight. It is a natural process of course and she has been luckier than others. The body, as an instrument of perception, is slowly losing its sharpness and precision. A faint veil is falling over the sensory image, making it less vivid. She is retreating, almost imperceptibly, into some kind of interior world. The cyclical aspect of life—the ‘feverish process of decay and renewal upon the point of existence,’ so beautifully described by Thomas Mann in The Magic Mountain—is embodied in the relationship between these women who are an integral part of my bloodline, tied closely to me by biology that somehow transcends itself: the initial dependence and basic need is transformed into the complexity of love, which already contains the shadow and pain of inevitable loss.  Roz: We chose the Demeter-Persephone story because I could see elements of it playing out with Tereza and her daughter, mother and grandmother, as I had lived through it with my own daughter, mother and grandmother. Now with two granddaughters by my daughter, the successive generations of women assume mythic proportions. All these roles are embedded in each of us, the way a woman's eggs develop in her body before she's born. Working with Tereza, a woman my own daughter's age, allows me to re-experience these core relationships through our collaboration and through my art, and to mythologize them. These relationships play out in the body, as Tereza says: holding my baby in my arms, wrestling with my teenage daughter, caressing my mother during her dying days, washing my grandmother's body after she died. These are somatic, sensory memories. The sculptures distil these bodily exchanges into the very place where we meet—skin. Skin is both inner and outer at the same time. When I was growing up I was taught there is a barrier between inside and outside, the senses are separate, the mind and body are distinct, and individuals are isolated. 7
The second half of my life has been devoted to transcending those divisions—sensorily, somatically and artistically. Gestating my daughter inside myself and then separating in the powerful emergence of birth, is a positive experience of the two poles of relationship within which we live. The dynamic movement between intimacy and distance—as we engage and withdraw—can be represented spatially, sculpturally, as it is in this installation. The sculptures range from womb-like enclosure to winnowing baskets that toss grain into the wind. The videos show the generations moving apart and coming together. Kay: How does the visual—sight—fit in with this tactile, physical sensibility? Roz: When I first started making tactile art twenty years ago, I denigrated sight for its distancing, abstracting qualities. I sought to exclude from my art any phenomena lacking tactile dimensions, such as light, shadow, colour, transparency, mirroring. But I've come to embrace the fullness of sight, which responds to and stimulates the somatic senses: motion, sensations, feelings, emotions, balance, even temperature. In our installation, we fuse seeing and feeling. We combine ephemeral, moving images with solid, corporeal sculptures. The projected, moving light touches, enters and transforms my sculptures. The transformation of the two media is like our collaboration, as we penetrate and transform each other's images, artistic media and ideas. In the same way that the senses influence and augment each other, we two influence and enrich each other's sensibilities. Kay: And how is the sensory represented here in what you describe as ‘the tensions between surface and interior, world and underworld, conscious and unconscious, life and death’? Roz: Surface and interior form one of the dichotomies I seek to overcome. In these sculptures, 8
the skin forms both surface and interior. The shapes look like internal organs. Light lands on the surface of the skin, but also penetrates it, the way a fetus can see light through the mother's skin. World and underworld is another, related dichotomy. I thought using touch in my work was a way to reach beyond myself and more fully connect with the world, but to my surprise, touch led me below the surface, into the underworld of the body: gut, joints, muscles. It called me to engage with the world from my depths. Outside and inside turned inside out. We're imagining the underworld not as the Greeks did in antiquity, as the bloodless land of the dead, but as the unconscious – as the rich, inchoate realm of internal, bodily, emotional experience. In our installation, we've reversed the usual imagery of world and underworld— conscious and unconscious—so the world on the street level of the gallery is sepia-coloured, even ghostly; descending the stairs into the underworld, one enters a darker, but more textured, embodied, colourful realm. Our videos show the different generations of women struggling to find their way in this confusing under-world. As for life and death, the skins used in the installation connote real death—the slaughter of a cow—but that death has generated new life through my art. There’s another kind of life and death as the moving images give the skin life whilst that skin presages death. The women are in their lives, but their lives play out contained by their death. Death and life are fluid rather than absolute. Tereza: We are very much thinking of the artistic process as a form of submergence into the unconscious, a way of opening oneself to its mysterious influences, while at the same time directing the flow of its impact so that something articulable can come into the light. The descent into the underworld can then be seen as a way of entering a different, subliminal 9
space, where the sensory input from the external world is cut off, forcing you to turn inward, towards the bank of your own sensory memory and imagination. Down there the world is recreated from within. What happens there – in the dark, so to speak – always contains an element of mystery, because when you return, back to the surface, your perception is different from before: what was invisible is made visible, at least momentarily. This thought brings me back to somebody I knew quite well who (as a boy of 15) was put into solitary confinement in prison, with no access to daylight for about six months. From his prison cell he described to me his first encounter with a tree when he was being moved elsewhere. I could sense, in the intensity of his description, the vividness and the power of his experience. The tree this boy saw was a tree intensified by his months in darkness, longing for the world. The impression must have glowed like a beacon of organic life in his sensory deprivation. This is how I imagine Persephone would think of a tree when first kidnapped and imprisoned in Hades. Somebody else I know, an Arctic photographer who spends long periods of time at the North Pole, described to me once the experience of landing, after months away on ice. He told me the smell of earth that suddenly hit him was quite profound. The whiteness and cold can be an equivalent of darkness – a similar kind of sensory deprivation. The longing for colour, variation, for sensory input, enhances appreciation of them on their return. I think of these temporary absences as small rehearsals for the ultimate absence from the phenomenal world that is the condition of organic life. Keeping this inevitable fact always close can have the effect of heightening everyday experience. It is this painful intensity, amongst other things, that I try to convey in my work: the world as seen from a place where world is no longer accessible; a dream of being in the world—often a place experienced more vividly than the real world. 10
The exhibition here with Roz is a variation on the theme â€“ the jewels of memory islands glowing in the darkness; tangible images in the skin and golden wax and paper, yet somehow inaccessible; the women in the images moving within a liminal space of their own. There is a ritualistic aspect to this process, which has to do with cycles of returning seasons, of generations, of comings and goings, of greetings and goodbyes. In my collaboration with Roz, a ritual of its own was born. Every summer the four women (my daughter, myself, my mother and my grandmother) meet in our house in Southern Bohemia and participate in the ritual of filming. And there is, of course, the ritual of working with Roz.
Kay Syrad, September 2013 www.kaysyrad.co.uk
Descent, detail, 2013
Threshold, detail, 2012
Excerpt from The Pomegranate by Eavan Boland I could warn her. There is still a chance. The rain is cold. The road is flint-colored. The suburb has cars and cable television. The veiled stars are aboveground. It is another world. But what else Can a mother give her daughter but such beautiful rifts in time? If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift. The legend will be hers as well as mine. She will enter it. As I have. She will wake up. She will hold the papery, flushed skin in her hand. And to her lips. I will say nothing.
Cave of the Eye, detail, 2012
Rosalyn Driscoll Biography Rosalyn Driscoll is an American sculptor who investigates the experience of the body and the somatic senses through sculpture, installation, photography and collage. Her work has been exhibited in the US and Europe, and received awards and fellowships from the Dartington Hall Trust, UK; New England Foundation for the Arts; Massachusetts Cultural Council; and Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She is a member of Boston Sculptors Gallery and Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London that generates collaborative exhibitions, installations and research to explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. Her deep engagement with the body, touch and perception has led to presenting worldwide at conferences for neuroscientists, engineers, philosophers, designers, art historians and people involved with the body and disabilities. She has written numerous essays for books and journals and is writing a book, By the Light of the Body: The Somatic Senses in the Visual Arts. www.rosalyndriscoll.com
Artist’s Statement I begin with the feeling of being a body, and the ways I am affected by what I see and touch. I focus on the somatic senses of touch, movement and sensation–my own and my viewers’—to plumb the inner dimensions of experience, be they ‘physical, psychological or spiritual. The artworks are constructions ranging from small enough to cradle to large enough to enter; they use a variety of sensuous materials rich in expressive qualities and tactile appeal, now also integrating light, motion, neon and video into their meaning and structure. Central to my work is the effort to transcend the dichotomies of outside and inside, sight and touch, mind and body, and self and world.
Tereza Stehlíková Biography Tereza Stehlíková is a London-based artist working primarily in the medium of moving image. She holds a PhD from the Royal College of Art, where she researched, in theory and practice, how the tactile and somatic senses can be evoked by audio-visual means. She is currently a research coordinator at the Royal College of Art, animation department and also teaches animation theory and practice at the University of Westminster. She is a founder of Sensory Sites, an international collective based in London that generates collaborative exhibitions, installations and research projects that explore multi-sensory perception and bodily experience. Stehlíková is currently collaborating with professor Charles Spence of Cross Modal Research Laboratory, Oxford, investigating how the interactions between the senses can be translated into the expressive vocabulary of a filmmaker. Stehlíková has presented her work at international conferences and film festivals, most recently at China International Cartoon and Animation Festival (CICAF) May 2013, and also Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland, November 2012. Her photographs were published in Railtracks (2011), a collaborative dialogue between the writers John Berger and Anne Michaels, one of the top ten bestselling titles of the London Review Bookshop’s first decade. www.terezast.com cinestheticfeasts.wordpress.com
Artist’s Statement In my creative practice I draw my inspiration from the intensity of certain childhood images that haunt me still. In the words of the Polish writer Bruno Schulz, these images are “like filaments in a solution around which the sense of the world crystallizes …” I am inspired by the concept of mental morphology, a poetic way of understanding the meshing of the internal world of imagination and emotion with the external world, as mediated through our senses, especially during childhood. In my work I return to some of these glowing, multi-sensory images of childhood in search of a way to communicate them. Because the senses play a vital role in these experiences, I have been drawn to the study of perception.
Winnowing, detail, 2012
C.G. Jung and C. Kerenyi, Essays on a Science of Mythology (Bollingen Foundation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963) Helene Foley, ed., The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994) Carl Kerenyi, Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter (Bollingen Foundation, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967) Margot Kathleen Louis, Persephone Rises, 1860-1927: Mythography, Gender, and the Creation of a New Spirituality (London: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2009) Amanda Ravetz, Sipping Water: Reverie and Improvisation, Critical Studies in Improvisation, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2012) Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Aldine Transaction, London, 2008)
Our heartfelt thanks to Robert Devcic and Charles Gollop for all their support. To Jirina Vojácková, Petra Stehlíková, and Anna Wozencroft for participating in the films. To Kay Syrad and Amanda Ravetz, for their engagement in our panel discussion. And to Emily Candela and Maya Oppenheimer of Metalab: metalabseries.blogspot.co.uk for facilitating our workshop. Finally to Irena a Vojtech Havlovi for the use of their music in our soundscape: Irena a Vojtech Havlovi Czech musicians Irena Havlová and Vojtech Havel, a husband-and-wife duo, started to work together in the mid-80s, at the experimental Capella Antiqua e Moderna ensemble which won both public and critical acclaim. They are well versed in music history, spanning various styles of European classical music , ranging from the Renaissance to contemporary music, and were able to develop what since the very beginning had been a very unorthodox approach to both historical and modern compositional techniques and interpretive procedures. www.havlovi.wz.cz
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