24 September to 14 October 2010
This is how it feels
It seems strange to me, that disjunct between my body and my brain. I might locate anxiety deep with in my chest but I feel sadness in my head. Melancholy is all about heads, but for the Ancient Greeks melancholy was rooted deep within the body. They thought melancholic despondency and malaise was caused by an imbalance in one of the four humours, an abundance of black bile. Like ink I suppose.
Bodies interact with art in interesting, often unconscious ways. I tend to like art that I can feel in my body rather than in my head. I like to feel the anxiety, the sadness, the frustration. Regardless, I often find myself looking at art like it's a puzzle or an elaborate maze that I need to decipher and decode. But how can they (artists) stop me from doing this? How can they make me feel? Feel a narrative? A narrative about the body's potential in space? There are always limits.
For Katie Lee, Dean Linguey and Bridie Lunney their bodies are often central to the work that they produce. In conversation one morning in a cold, open studio Dean says, "We always engage [bodily]... when we're setting up the work, and when we're setting up the gallery. We've all done videos of our own work and put ourselves in positions and a lot of the work comes in to being through that physicality within a space, testing out the space." But their bodies are not enough. They want my body too. Can they make my body feel it: a potential, or a narrative, a feeling? Can I imagine the potential of that bench? Can I feel the potential of that bench? That plank of wood? That piece of rubber hanging from the wall? Like Katie says:
For me it's about the audience imagining themselves into some of those gestures and testing the work because that's where my work is generated from. So I will imagine, for example, the rubber strap being stretched. But by the time the work is up, it's just on the wall as a piece. Then there's the possibility of what it can do, what its potential is. So if someone is not reactivating that in their own mind and just sees a limp piece of rubber it doesn't make as much sense, or it does make sense but it has a different language. A more formal language.
In non negotiable , dancer Kyle Kremerskothen is the trained body. His body is able to activate the work as only the artist's might. He reminds us of what we might do, of how we might engage. Do you see him? Moving about the room? He is the body made real. "To not necessarily be a performance per se but to actually be a person who is a trained body, who understands space through their body. To be able to move around the work and activate it in a way that the viewers wouldn't," as Bridie says. He is the body creating the space. The space is important. The space is as important as the body. Bridie is clear about this:
We all work differently but I've always generated work by being in a space and seeing how my body reacts to that space. And that's how the work comes. It's purely about gut and physicality within that space but it's being felt through my body. What do I want to do? How can I subvert this? How do I feel in this space just by being in it? And then making these simple gestures. Like the catalogue photographs. Standing on a table, standing on a chair. Seeing how this plank can lean up there. If I put one body here and one body there how does that relate? These are very simple things but that is the starting point.
But who/what is Kyle really activating? Is it the work? Or my body? Your body? The artist's body? Remember that this is a research project. And just as we are being asked to think about bodies and how we feel, we are also being asked to think about a language. The artists already know this language, they feel it. They talk it and make it. Maybe we should learn. Language is a structure and their language is structured around the way it feels in the body. Bridie says: "We all think of our work as poetic but it can look really formal and hard to access. So it's about trying to get that poetic language for the viewer again. How do we make that shift and how do we get that language back?"
In a sense the artists are creating a structure for us—an informal language of gestures and movements—of propositions about bodies in space. If I learn it, perhaps I will feel differently in this space. Perhaps I will understand more intensely what it is to exist, alive in a space, activated. But also activating.
We want to see if that's possible. I don't know whether that is actually going to happen. I think it might just activate the work, not necessarily the viewer but it shows what's possible within the work and how the body relates to that. It's still going to be a projection, I don't think people are going to start mimicking the dancer. It's not necessarily that their bodies are going to get activated but the work might get challenged more to show the potential of it.
Still, I like to think that if I learn it, this language of feelings, I might wake it up: the rubber, the wood, the gallery. Or perhaps I will wake me up: speaking the language of bodies in brains and brains in bodies because this is how it feels.
Brita Frost, Writer