This blog is a space for sisters Marilene and Sophie Oliver to test and nuture a possible collaboration. Sophie is a cultural theorist with a background in human rights, and Marilene is a Visual Artist. As sisters they have been very close to each other’s work and after a decade long exchange of proof reading essays and presentation testing on the one side, and being the subject of artworks, an installation assistant and a serial private view attendee on the other, they now feel that perhaps it is the time for them to try and bring their two fields closer together.
Marilene Oliver works with medical imaging (such as MRI and CT scans) to create sculptural artworks. Marilene’s work is concerned with the status of the human subject in an increasingly digitised world. Most recently Marilene has started using anonymised datasets to embody specific narratives / identities, much like a gamer who creates an avatar/ or avatars. Marilene is experimenting with the power of a wound, a scar, a dissection of disembodied, digitial dataset to create artworks that deal with political issues.
Sophie Oliver (PhD) has for the last five years or so been working on the question of witnessing, specifically the secondary witnessing of trauma and human rights abuses. Trying to develop an ‘ethics’ of secondary witnessing – that is, an ethical approach to viewing the suffering of distant others – Sophie’s work engages with numerous disciplines, including cultural studies, philosophy and psychology. She is particularly interested in the possibility of seeing the body as a catalyst for ethical witnessing – a possibility that is of course complicated by the discomfort and dis-ease many experience when forced to confront real suffering bodies. It is perhaps this interest in the body – with all its possibilities and constraints – that marks the first point of coincidence between these two sisters’ ideas.
And yet, although their minds feel close in this and many other ways, their own bodies are regrettably far-flung: Sophie is based in Berlin and Marilene is soon to move to Angola. The space of the blog will thus become a pinboard for ideas, inspirations, texts to read, images, quotes, links etc. What will come of this ‘collaboration’ is still purely speculative – possibly an exhibition, possibly a conference, possibly only this blog.