Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Work I'm looking at

Tannaz Farsi
Hands Remain Still
36’x 4’ vinyl, fluorescent lights, paint
Tacoma Contemporary with Elissa Cox, & Petra Kralickova

This collaborative project was created from three original texts from the artists.
Reconfigured, the words create a temporal play and can be read both in horizontal
and vertical columns as dictated by the window breaks. The text creates a
syncopation that alludes to concrete location while juxtaposing temporary expressions
of longing and placelessness.


Mausoleum under Construction, from London Portfolio, 1992
Screenprint, on wove paper, with full margins, I. 21 7/8 x 31 in. (55.6 x 78.7 cm); S. 27 7/8 x 34 3/4 in. (70.8 x 88.3 cm) signed, titled and numbered `AP 19/20' in pencil (an artist's proof, the edition was 45), published by Paragon Press, London, an area of the palest soiling at the center lower margin, othewise in very good condition, framed.

Possibilities for intervention

I'm going to visit the museum space tomorrow where our show will be held. It's currently closed to the public, but I went to Brian Wallace yesterday and asked if I could have access to photograph and measure the space. I feel like I'm in limbo-- I haven't been working on anything but writing since I got back Thursday night, and I feel like my making is stunted-- I can't truly start until I know what space I'm working with. And I can't imagine working with any other space in the museum other than the cave; a penninsula of space off the main gallery. I'm not sure what I'll do if I don't get that space.

I've been thinking more about the problem of repair-- there are no flaws in the gallery space that I know of (perhaps I will be happily mistaken) which would give me a chance to exploit the possibilities of spacial repair. There are, however, seams. The place where one wall meets another, where the floor meets the wall and the ceiling meets the wall; all interesting possibilities for interventions. Are there analogies for these seams in the human body or the familial body?

There are the seams where interior meets exterior; orifices. The seams between walls suggest the promise of an opening; a more mysterious orifice for we are inside a space rather than viewing it from the outside. (What would it be to tuck in the corners of a room?)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Twenty minute reflection on my body

What can I actually feel of my body if I sit still with no distractions for twenty minutes?

feel waves of movement
gentle rocking back and forth with rhythm
insistent sharp hard feeling in chest extends forward and back to surface
tingling in legs, static
feel gentle, constant brush of fabric against my arms, legs, torso, feet
surface of the inside of my mouth
surface of the inside of my throat when i breathe in
can feel inside of ears; full buzzing round feeling
jaw tingling
stomach a stretched out fuzzy feeling attached to heart
sudden bright tingling in bowls down to thighs
can feel smooth backside of teeth; bumpy soft tongue
cold air on nose hairs
loud squeezing in chest, out to back
cold palms, fingertips, runs in shiver up arms to upper back
can't feel the tips of my ears

this is an intensely frustrating exercise in part because it is ridiculously difficult to describe the sensations felt by the body with any specificity and without resorting to generalities such as "feel heart beating" (which was my first inclination)

can i only feel the surface because the air is touching my skin? would i feel these things in a vacuum?

Thesis work

I currently have a rough draft of the four channel audio piece I plan to install in the four corners of the gallery space where my work will be shown. I'm embedding the file below, but if that doesn't work, it can also be found on youtube.


I'm also working on a new iteration of the Bone Line from last semester. Some changes I'm planning on making are:

-the piece will be comprised of 206 bones; the number in most human skeletons
-each bone will only appear once
-the line will taper in thickness from human scale at one end down to model scale at the other
-the bones will have a steel core to prevent them from snapping (still working on this)

Keith from sculpture has generously agreed to teach me how to weld. We start Wednesday.


A few things I want my thesis installation to accomplish:

Activate the space; cause viewers to take a closer look at the space, provide an immersive experience

Keep the space open, but limit access to the space, challenge the way people move about the space, provide confusion in what parts of the gallery people are able/allowed to access; this provides a more phenomenological experience rather than simply and intellectual one

Suggest a portrait of a dying body, capitalizing on the connection between museum and mausoleum (expand on this)

Repair and Space

To repair the body with the space and the space with the body

Simulate the body with materials used to repair/ create space


The problem with my idea of repair of body/space is that there is no wound to which I am responding; Doris Salcedo created a wound in the Tate Modern (or rather exposed a mental wound by creating a physical one) the repair I love so much was not possible without this wound.

But perhaps it is the decay, the dying that I am chasing, and not the act of repair per-se.

If this is the case, then it is particularly interesting that my thesis show will be in a museum; it has been said that museum and mausoleum share not only an etymological root, but a conceptual one as well. The desire to protect and preserve cultural remains from the wear and tear of the world.

So perhaps embracing my thesis space as a body contains within it the implication that it is in fact a dead body-- I would wish that it were a dying body rather that a dead one; this distinction is perhaps contingent on the success of the audio installation, which makes the space breathe, although that breath is tenuous and troubled.


"Museums, cemeteries! Truly identical in their sinister juxtaposition of bodies that do not know each other. Public dormitories where you sleep side by side for ever with beings you hate or do not know. Reciprocal ferocity of the painters and sculptors who murder each other in the same museum with blows of line and color. To make a visit once a year, as one goes to see the graves of our dead once a year, that we could allow! We can even imagine placing flowers once a year at the feet of the Gioconda! But to take our sadness, our fragile courage and our anxiety to the museum every day, that we cannot admit! Do you want to poison yourselves? Do you want to rot?"
-exerpt from The Futurist Manifesto, F.T. Marinetti, 1909


Quotes from "Mourning Sex" by Peggy Phelan

Read several chapters from Peggy Phelan's book, Mourning Sex over the break. It was dark and dreamy- part memoir, part musings, part art theory, part anthropology. She approached the book as a body; each chapter was named after an ailing body part-- Immobile legs, Uncovered rectums, Bloody nose, Shattered skulls...). The most resonant chapter was "Uncovered rectums: disinterring the Rose Theatre." I responded so strongly to this chapter in part because it was written about the discovery of the remains of the Rose Theatre, located in London's Southwark borough; I visited this area to see the nearby Globe theatre while in London. Phelan refers to the remains of the building as a disinterred body; discussing architectures relationship to the human body. My thesis work deals heavily with this relationship, and Phelan's remarks were helpful, and in some cases, revelatory.

The following are some of the passages I found the most provocative in Mourning Sex:


"Maybe bodies come to be 'ours' when we recognize them as traumatic. Sensing they need a foothold, we take them into us. Sooner or later, we are burrowing into them. The holes in them help us feel attached. But that attachment is also what motivates the catastrophe and curative lure of the touch." (Phelan, 18).

"Discovering the remains of the Rose actually meant discovering the remains of a double architectural body. The question posed to the architects who were hired to revise the plan for the original office building was: How can we make this new building allow us to see multiple distinct architectural bodies?"

I am using the word 'body' here quite deliberately; I'd like to suggest that the Rose Theatre is and was a mutating, 'theatrical' body. As the demands upon Henslowe's theatre increased in 1592, he transformed and added to the building; as archaeologists and politicians debated the remains of the Rose in 1989, new plans were drawn up to re-animate the footings that remained. In these mutations, the Rose of 1989 changed from an archaeological site into an architectural one. In this transformation, the Rose became less an 'object' full of racks, coins, and artifacts, and more a 'subject,' an unruly, even contradictory form that refused to stay dead. In short, reversing Beaumont-Dark's prediction, the 'rubbish' of the Rose became a building - a structure and an activity.
The architectural question about the Rose can best be understood as a theatrical challenge: how can the single body of the actor display two (or more) distinct but coherent 'selves'? And how is the articulation of that doubleness always already dependent upon a notion of a 'proper' (singular) body? How do buildings themselves, in their solidarity and singularity, contribute to the notion of 'a proper body'?" (Phelan, 79-80).

"Architecture has of course long been considered theatrical. Buildings are said to 'stage' ideas about space and time, to dramatize arguments about form. Architecture also establishes a specific relation with and among its inhabitants <...> and often insists on a mimetic relation to the human body. In this insistence, architecture is performative as well as theatrical, for it actively shapes and forms the bodies that inhabit it <...> Housed in flesh, we build houses; human form forms the buildings which keep us in them. The mimetic relation between buildings and bodies is difficult to destabilize." (Phelan, 81).

"Hollier points out that the invention of architecture was motivated by a desire to forestall and forget death. This desire functions according to the rule of psychoanalytic desire, which is to say the desire is focused on an object which perpetuates, rather than satisfies, that desire. In order to forestall or forget death, architecture invents the tomb which both distracts us from the specificity of the dead body and underlines the stone cold fact of death itself. As Hollier puts it:
The monument and the pyramid are where they are to cover up a place, to fill in a void: the one left by death. Death must no appear: it must not take place: let tombs cover it up and take its place... One plays dead so that death will not come. So nothing will happen and time will not take place. (Hollier 1989: 36).

The tomb is appealing precisely because it is static and still, unlike the decomposing body it covers. If death were guaranteed stillness perhaps it would be less dreadful. Architecture offers us this monumental stillness and helps transform dying into death. <...> Theatre itself is the space in which death is made to play, to be a play. <...> And the dramam of the Rose excavation, complete with actors jumping in and climbing out of the grave-like pit, threatened to make death in the contemporary city too visible.
<...> The Rose forced architecture to abandon its customary notion of itself as a spatial art, and to reinvent itself as a temporal one (Note 24: Rachel Moore argues: "we look across boundaries of space at the living rather than across time at the dead" (Moore 1992:23). It may well be that spatial art forms are fundamentally philosophies of vital bodies and temporal art forms are philosophies of dying bodies. It may be that the work of mourning requires movement and motion - the transformation of space into time.)" (Phelan, 83, 94).

More about the Rose Theatre can be found here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Repair and Death

The act of repair reminds us of our own mortality.

Miss Havisham, the brooding, aged and rejected bride-to-be in Dicken's Great Expectations leaves her home to ruin and rot, because she does not want to admit the passage of time. Repair would indicate defeat; in not attempting to prevent the decay of her home and her person is, in essence, an attempt to stop time.

Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham in 'Great Expectations'

by Cecil Beaton
bromide print on white card mount, 1945
9 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. (239 mm x 189 mm)
Given by Cecil Beaton, 1968

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Collection of Objects

I've been thinking about a collection of objects, relating the act of bodily repair to the act of building repair. I'm imagining them laid out side by side on a long white table, like a sentence. Some of the objects I'm considering are: