August 24, 2013 § 2 Comments
Since moving to Sub Saharan Africa I find myself struggling with a new understanding of the medically scanned body. Whereas before the scan dataset was something I took more or less for granted, I now recognise its strong symbolic resonance signifying privilege both in terms of wealth and access to digital technology that is far from global. I have returned to the images of Melanix that the radiology software first offers: Melanix utterly alone floating in a deep black vacuum, a weightless void ripe for dreams, nightmares, superstitions, suspicions, myths and rumours. My mind brims with questioning images and I am driven to see them; Melanix with her worth in cows, Melanix having her soul released by a buffalo thorn branch, Melanix with a cloak of Angolan hair braids, Melanix hollowed out like a canoe in order to float, Melanix leaking. This intense proliferation of images encourages a refinement of my practice and my first body of work in Angola has been to create a series of images rather than sculptures. Returning to techniques I specialised in as a student (and have since become rarefied thanks to digital technologies) such as silver gelatin photography and etching I am creating what feels like a library of clashes, impossibilities and paradoxes between the physical and the digital worlds we are all having to precariously straddle. Moving forward my intention is to use this library as a resource for creating sculptures that make real some of the imagery within them whilst fusing together ancient manual skills such as wood carving, fishnet making, marquetry and weaving with those that digital mechanisation make possible such as laser cutting, CNC machining and rapid prototyping.
April 15, 2011 § 3 Comments
Last week Sophie sent me a text to read by Cathy Caruth. It was the introduction to ‘Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History’ published by John Hopkins in 1996. She said that when she read it that she had thought of my work and a project I had told her about. Sophie spoke particularly about a quote in the text;
Wood as a sculptural material for me has a strong allure – it was alive and now is dead and it bears the story if its life in its grain. This coupled with the possibilities of laser cutting have made me think of a number of possible sculptures. For the Carne Vale show I waned to make a wooden post like those used in a Xingu Quarup. The Quarup or Kuarup is a Xingu (an indian tribe in the Amazon) funerary festival/rite. I first saw a Quarup post in the Museo National da Hisotria in Rio de Janeiro. A Quarup is a tree trunk that has had its bark stripped and the exposed wood painted. The trunk is then decorated with feathers, coloured string and beads. It is a very curious object and somehow it reads as an object which stands in for a human. It feels like a place holder. The Quarup ceremony is a festival for the dead – the post standing in, or possessing the spirit of the deceased.
My idea was to play on this notion using a CT dataset. Trees, especially in Brasil are so evocative of human form that it was very easy for me to imagine a trunk which ‘possessed’ a human form. I worked on repeating and rotating the scans to create a form that was made up of a human body but that in its repetition its derivation lost/confused. The idea was then that the stripped bark of this ‘trunk’ would reveal the inside of the body (muscles/bones).
I didn’t make the work for the usual reasons – lack of time and funds (I wanted to make it out of laser cut 3mm pear) but it is an idea that keeps coming back to me. Maybe I should make a maquette using some cheaper material – cardboard……
Anyway – this text and the concept of a spirit being held inside a trunk is relevant here.
The idea of blood coming from a cut in a tree is also very strong and again something I have been thinking about. Here in Brasil there is the Pau de Brasil (hence why Brasil is called Brasil). It was a very important export for its red dye in the 18th Century which has now led to it becoming an endangered tree. There is one in the botanical garden which seems to ‘bleed’ from a knot. I need to photograph it but in the meantime;
I also really like the idea of a cut into a trunk revealing a scan, a cross section. A bit like Orixa but with wood, a trunk.
To return to the text. I highlighted some other passages, made some other notes;
- Since Freud, Trauma is understood as being inflicted not only on the body but also on the mind
- persists in bearing witness to some forgotten wound
- Is the trauma the encounter with death, or the ongoing experience of having survived it?
- Listening to the voice and to the speech delivered by the others’s wound