I had the amazing opportunity recently of assisting in the suspension of Stelarc. I was part of the small team who were asked to perform the insertion of the hooks into his skin and ready the artist for suspension. The suspension occurred as part of the ‘Stelarc Suspensions’ exhibition held on 8 March 2012 at the Scott Livesey Gallery, Melbourne.
What draws me to perform this kind of ‘procedure’ is the intensive level of focus one must engage in to achieve inserting thick hooks into a body’s skin. The skin is tough and resilient, it doesn’t allow for hooks to pass through easily. It resists the action. But key to the performance is the absolute conviction that we will achieve this. Certainly at times the force was far greater than expected to get the hook as far in as we required for safe suspension – at these moments the sense of ‘this will work’, ‘there is no option but for this to work’, ‘there is no turning back’ is exhilarating. Fully engaged with the body as matter. I rarely such states of complete immersion in a task – my world is one of consist existential ruminations and uncertainty which no doubt flood this blog at time. Except when performing. Except when engaged with a body in such an intense moment as his. The focused pushing, pushing, pushing – a relief from the everyday scattered nature of my self.
As Stelarc is winched into the air we witnessed many moments of sculptural beauty. The body is suspended. The body hanging perfectly over Stelarc’s Arm/Ear Sculpture; the room is quiet; people seem thoughtful and reverent as they watch the body become art.
Stelarc Suspension Video
Scott Liversey Gallery
It rises up. Falling down, seeping in, surrounding. Not willing to let up. Refusing to reconcile. Refusing to find a place to rest. A muscle, an organ, a space somewhere inside. Anywhere.
Oh yeah did I mention I am a performance artist, video artist, installation artist, critical thinker, activist. I call myself these things because it is what I do. Sometimes they become joined in the production of work, other times they stand alone with me as I struggle in a world where art seems only of worth if it commodity. So I am writing about this again (eye roll) because during a conversation recently I was asked “why don’t you just sum yourself up as a Live Artist or something and get into a scene? Easier, sums up what you do, sounds good, contemporary, networkable, marketable…fuck you might actually get funding for once!” Well how can I answer other than I feel lost in a world where work must be definable, marketable, engaged in the great church of funding, support and sponsorship and let’s face it the two two ‘C’ words – Consumerism and Capitalism? I can’t pretend – I do not want to be managed, I do not want to be focused on labelling, defining, branding, selling, applications, business agreements, marketing, strategies of artistic production, my processes, the essence of my practice. I realise during the conversation that I am finally just unapologetically not interested.
I want the making of my artwork to be an act of inspiration, hardwork and dedication that creates some form of psychic liberation for me and some form of experience for my honoured spectator – be it an experience of entertainment, repulsion, joy, horror, excitement, arousal, sadness, catharsis, political illumination – or hell maybe they wee their pants. At times when I write applications, media releases, fill in forms, my intended work slowly dissolves before my eyes and I feel trapped. Caught in a web of making meaning out of what is supposed to come from parts of me I am yet to access. A hard to touch space where my constant, brain frying research into the political and cultural sphere of the world I live in merges with an unknown part of me and becomes the beginning of something exciting, inspiring that calls repeatably, neurotically at me to be made. Something that refuses to rest until realised in some form.
Today upon entering the world of retail to get stuff for a show, I hit the Myer department store. As I hunted for ‘those stockings’, ‘that eye colour’ I found myself thinking only in facebook posts – my brain was churning with status updates – but I don’t remember any of them – they were so f*king banal, so f*king boring, so f*king lame. Each one explaining the slight psychosis I was experiencing in the shopping precinct, the futility of consumerism and the banality of my fellow shoppers. My brain was processing these thoughts while I was immersed in the world of shoppers, consumers – I felt as if I was wearing status updates on my forehead. Perhaps this was my way of averting the panic that generally wells inside me when I am in these environments. Thinking in status updates in a department store I hate, acted like a baby’s pacifier in my mouth, a Valium on my tongue. Thinking in status updates in a department store I hate, was a call out to the social network that affirms my identity – a social network where my posts get liked, where people poke me, invite me, comment me. When drowning in alienating consumer hell today – facebook status updates maintained my sanity – I think I need a dislike button.
Some times I like to play Naughts and Crosses – I don’t always win – I can’t walk away from the game – I get pretty taken with the fascination of it – the sense of calm that sweeps over the world – I want the moment, not the memory – I don’t actually want to win – Sometimes I play with language, destroy it, etch it into my body, regret it – I begin things that order themselves – compulsive – no way to stop so I just keep going and I call it art – I am actually just doing what I have to do – like talking to you – whether or not you want me too – whether or not you are listening – whether or not you are there – I just keep going – the sense of calm the sweeps over the world.
This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of participating in “Fancy Work” at Pipemakers park in Melbourne. Pippa Willson of Future Art Research had constructed a stunning house out of domestic waste plastic and installed it in the park amongst the trees and near the river for 5 days. I attended for the afternoon dressed as a fifties house wife and served cup cakes and tea (I also did a little bit of tidying). There were weaving lessons with NT fibre artist Adrienne Kneebone, kids were playing wildly in the park, Izzy Brown showcased her political hip hop videos and there was one helluva cowgirl Diva Dingo cracking her whips. In a world where most of our entertainment is paid for and highly controlled Pippa created a space where we traded art, ideas, films, performance, energy, stories, food and fun – no cash required, no specialist knowledge required, no security guards, no pressure, just space, time and colour.
I left each day reflecting on the fact that art, when it distances itself from the art market, can be non-capitalistic it can be a place/time where we go for recreation that isn’t a pub, a shopping centre or a TV screen bombarded with adverts. ‘Fancy Work’ was fancy because we fancied creating some work together, we fancied sharing stuff, we fancied to do something which didn’t focus around the grind of buying and selling.
Thanks Pippa, thanks FAR and thanks to all the fabulous people who made ‘Fancy Work’ fancy in all the right ways.
The feelings are soft and insidious.
This is inevitable.
This will affect me forever.
This is somewhat banal.