Artists mentioned Titus Kaphar, daphne Ahlers, Nils Alix-Tabeling, Rochelle Goldberg, Brook Hsu, Beth Collar, Suspiria (2018).
Rev., Apr 29, 2019.
In recent scanning of the perimeter for advances in contemporary art, as opposed to simply providing the status quo with fodder for maintenance of it, I have come to see that “body art” has undergone a strange new decomposition. A number of artists, especially in Europe, but involving a few Americans, have begun to address the body from a more “evolutionary” viewpoint, and, then, too, inside a dreamlike consideration of what, exactly, the body is. The issue is the continued power of the binary when it comes to telling us what bodies are, genderwise. Because society at large is controlled by the “mind forged manacles” and those are always generalized and binary, there is little danger that a male-female binary will be entirely dismantled any time soon; but, artists can dream of a time when that happens, or chart paths of mind or dream with wiggle room in them by which that might happen. And it looks like the strategy that has been most often developed by various artists is to return to a prototype space, preexistent to the current binary state, and, then, from that new premise, work up from there.
that is, they have been working in their particular mode, artist A making art A with various qualities, but ruled by the binary, and then viewer takes that in as “contemporary art” which may or may not make an impression on him or her. The main problem with art made about gender making use of the binary to critique the binary, well, you see the problem, it is just a vicious cycle, a spinning wheel, going nowhere. This sort of batting back and forth of the binary has become, of course, the premise and structure of all the “cultural” journalism disguised as art criticism that appears in the press and is as a result the sixth grade level of discourse that clouds minds with its endless rationalization, and its silly self-defeating ping pong of binaries.
The way out, then, is to leave the debate, to step aside or step out to reject the premises and terms of the binary itself. This is done by the artist undertaking a reagent sidestep to set up their practice on a nonbinary premise, and, for that, most artists that I have run into using that reagent reset have pushed past and through the space of their previous work into a prototype zone relative to it, and then set up a new idea of things in that prototype space.
in my terms, prototype space is somewhat dangerous because relative to what you have set inside current art in its medial relations, the prototype is real life, and this risks a return to essentialism in some form. But it is also true I have shown in several different ways how movies can backbuild the premise to an ever more essential or root cause of the scare, for by that strategy claim for its fright a primal quality. I have also explored how every time in ancient Egyptian art over many, many centuries, the conventions of the moment began to deplete and feel washed out the Egyptians reagently regrouped by intensifying the art again, and again, and again, mainly by looping back into a previously unexplored prototype space as imagined prior to the conception of the prototype space they were working with (in all cases, the mistake made by the rational mind is that this prototype is a precise, real thing, when it exists as “prototype” only relative to the current disposal of forms or media in the art). What appears to be going on in the discourse of body art is a similar effort by artists of a younger generation to intensify things by backbuilding into the prototype space, the wild west of body art, and see if they cannot find something there that can ground a new movement forward. They have, that is, undertaken a purposeful regression, in order to then, having found a ground that speaks to them, move forward from that.
In his commentary on his newer glass pieces, for example, the artist Titus Kaphar, who has interested me a great deal because he has been deconstructing portraits of the men of the house, ie slaveholders, into haunted portraits, which is, precisely, a deconstruction of the cult prototype image of the world of the slave, in an interview in Artnet (April, 2019), he explains that his method involved retrenching by way of abstraction (and glass, and it is a matter of interest as well that a lot of artists using this mode of approach have also enlisted glass and ceramic for their capacity to perhaps better represent what they conceive as a more intense, mucky, gooey, inosculate and conjoined type of space). My comment on FB
this, I think, is what he calls a “potential” of the form of a “hero”’
This is the quote, from Artnet
“A lot of what you’re doing, whether it’s sculpture or painting, is creating a balance in how we view our country’s difficult past. There’s almost this act of negating, or an element of pulling away, from the image of Jefferson to reveal the story of Sally Hemings through this glass vitrine.
So there are a couple significant parts to the material and the approach to the “Monumental Inversions” pieces. You know, we think of molds as a means to an end in a sculptural process. The mold tends to be the thing that gets us to the ultimate object. But I’m fascinated by the mold itself because the mold is also representative of this idea of potentiality. The mold is at once the absence of the object itself and all of the potential for it. And so for me to take these significant and important figures—the founding fathers—and represent them as molds, as potentiality, there is a way where you can recognize both the negative and positive things they did in their lifetime. We either deify or demonize our founding fathers and neither one of these extremes is beneficial from a historical point of view. And so with the works in this series I attempt to stack on top of each other the narratives of the founding fathers—that we have been bombarded with for our entire lives—and the narratives that we have always known but swept under the rug and didn’t want to bring to the surface”.
Kaphar’s word is “potential,” that is, he backbuilds to a state prior to the binary, where the binary elements of it revert back by merging into an undifferentiated whole (the degree to which this is related to the existential, or the attraction to the primal, I leave off for now). The form that his outlines of elements of statues in glass, for example, have, is only in its “potential,” somehow, something will grow from its suggestion, but it will be different, from this point, a different binary or no binary at all might grow, and this is where he works, in the “potential.” Here is his example
Kaphar explains (also in Artnet)
“One of the works in particular, a sculpture I did a little while ago called A Pillow for Fragile Fictions (2016), which is blown glass in the mold of George Washington’s bust. The glass vessel is about two feet long and three feet high. Because it is hand-blown glass the figure of Washington is distorted. The piece started out after a friend read this book about George Washington and his relationship to slavery. To summarize the narrative, Washington had become sick of this one slave continuing to run away. So Washington decided to trade this man for a grocery list of items: tamarind, rum, lime, and molasses. So in this sculpture, those elements are actually what are inside of the vessel itself, this distorted glass bust”.
So, “potential” is the word. Then, even more interesting, on the same day, I viewed the art of Daphne Ahlers and in her press release she also makes use of the word “potential,”
“Perhaps Daphne Ahlers’ works could at first be described as revealing a relation to the body. We see impressions of faces, shapes of female genitalia, or structures that remind one of limbs or body fluids. However, the relation to the body is rather subtle and has to do with the utilized materials that include latex, silicone wads, nylon, or soft shell. With Ahlers, the body is usually not whole but remains a fragment. It is not evoked as an agent or an experiential space located beyond what can be grasped with language in the sense of a mystical or magical experience; and it is also not something that is expanded or altered along the lines of post-humanistic or post-identitary ideas. This is remarkable because especially in the past years the body has experienced quite a revival based on these aspects and potentials and is highly present in contemporary artistic and theoretical discourses”.
one could suspect from this that it might be artspeak or a buzzword in the making but for now its application is so particular and precise, and a dead on description of exactly what is going on, that, no, I don’t think we are in the pile-on moment when people who don’t know what they are talking about begin to exploit the term to use it inaccurately etc. Her realization of the word is also more literal, in that she presents forms which mimic in size, the body, and that is this large cushion form, a kind of effigy formation, and then she “dresses” them in ways that in abbreviating references to gender pushes them back down some imaginary evolution to start over from undifferentiate to by miosis dividing into some other binary state. Thus, in this one
and this one
this one too
(This from Daphne Ahlers, Die Langstreckensängerin, Halle für Kunst Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany, January 19 – March 29, 2019).
At this point, since this is also a kind of regression from consciousness–which in any time is defined by the binaries of social understanding by which people conventionally live–the scale of the work and then the operation of backbuilding to a “potential” state upon it happens in certain vigilogogic or hypnagogic zones. Since Kaphar works in glass with forms from public statues, and there is a faint whiff of de Chirico in his strange proto-statues, I think vigilogogy, daydream forms; but Ahlers works in more clothing or even bedding forms and this suggests the intimacy of the gown prowl in horror movies, and, for me, this, if for now only by association (she did a piece on witches burned in Glasgow), places her art in the hypnagogic. It is also in the hypnagogic, simply for convenience sake, I will place other works talked about here, to keep an easy hierarchy.
And there is a hierarchy, as I have mapped out a thousand times, I argue that there is a space in the mind between when the mind nods off into light sleep, falls through certain phases, and then finally drops into REM dream state. I have mapped out, lighter to heavier, leading to stage five, which is REM, the entoptic, the symbolic (what I call the glass onion), the lattice, and the whoosh; and, then, if the whoosh drops you in a spiral down in you slip into REM and have real dreams. And in each phase there are also segways into adjunct spaces where the mind can stall; and also dynamic dysfunctions, most of them at present worked out involving the ephialtic drop or leap, as a nightmare is experienced as a whoosh, then it splats, and if it splats that means you bounce out of nightmare into some further ambient lost zone. Using this model, and seeing what Kaphar and Ahlers are doing to forms, to backbuild into a prototype space where they are “potentials,” I place them such
but, then, vertically, I enclose that agentic array inside the zones of hypnagogy. I place them there because the basic human form of the form is still suggested, and still at “life size,” that is, the same scale as a human. They are simplified in order to act symbolically, but in a “potential” way remaining undefinable, that is, no signified or meaning assigned to them. At present, I place these “potentials,” taking somewhat human form, in the lattice, that is, third stage hypnagogy, concentrating on the body, since I have for some time located the single thing concentrated on when the mind gets heavy as very often consisting of the body, with elements of the adjunct lattice being extensions of the sleeping body itself imagining itself differently. I have seen this often in movies, here it is in art.
I should also say that I have already, in a less discriminating way, sensed something odd in body art over the last five years, and noted as early as 2014 that there was a trend sparked by Tobias Spichtig since 2015 in making use of clothing to represent the body, and then he actually treated clothing to allow it to stand up or sit in galleries, and that’s what he was doing
But this I called a homunculi, on the model of what is called a homunculi in brain science, that is, a physical representation of the connection of two body systems in a grotesque image of that body. But then, for me, homunculi, I now see, were “further out” toward the ambient, and might even have participated in a discussion of what I call psalliction, the sentient forces of the universe tearing the body apart, and leaving only devastated elements of it. All of this was homuncular art. but I placed it far out to the ambient, and, then, lower down, feeling the first vibes of whoosh to pull it apart. By contrast, as potential in lattice adjunct space seems rather stable, and symbolic, and tends in the devices of its alteration, at least in Ahlers, to use symbolic discourse, so I place it nearer in, and in the uppermost level of the lattice, toward and maybe even crossing over to the symbolic (glass onion). For now, then, this is where I see both Kaphar and Ahlers working with potentials.
But, then, at roughly the same time, I learned another word. Two Czech artists, Anna Hulacova and Zsofia Keresztes, had a show at Colleredo Palace, Czech Republic, in which they described the decomposition of body into some primal state prior to the binary, as “entomes,’ which is the Greek word (which, of course, I love, since I use Greek words to nail down both the specificity of the concept and my ability to remember it, given my increasing memory problems) for insects, which as in-sect, that from the latin, literally means, “alive after it has been torn apart” (the sect part), and this is what they came up with.
I would hesitate, however, to call these straight on entomes because they look too large and too fluid for insect forms, which suggest something smaller and more “dissected,”
and this, I think Hulacova
again, Zerestez, this from a one person show.
As is, with their curves, and their vertiginous quality, I would have to locate this particular type of entome, which I guess I will call positive-entomes, in close to the spiral of the life force, and near the very bottom, almost about to fall off the lattice, overseen, in fact, I would think, in my mapping, by a caretaker.
But, then, at the same time, that, I was also watching Luca Guadignino’s Suspiria (2018) and by way dance witchcraft Olga, a rebellious dancer, was reduced to a broken pulp
And, later, it was found that there was yet a room in the school where such reduced-to-pulp broken bodies, almost as if entirely and only works of animation now, alive by the spell on them only, and no other means in them, were left to lie in a dark room
surely, this was a horrifying idea, but a more accurate realization in the flesh of entomes, that is, living on after being torn apart. Since the battery done on them by way of witchcraft and dance was a psalliction, and did tear them apart, I have to take in sentient space, where the energy for that type of witchcraft can alone come from, and then too acknowledge that in the beating of them, reducing them from functioning humans to pulp left-overs of bodily life, but yet alive, that there is an element of suffering the whoosh, but in an adjunct way, so that entomes end up lying somewhere at the bottom of the splat, because they most certainly went splat, but then suspended still in sentience by a spell, and left out to pasture, and so I place them in a spot but relative to a path that got them there as such
these are negative entomes, lying as rubbish at the bottom of the whoosh, in the splat zone, on the roof, as I call it, locked out of REM by nightmare, so there they are.
I was thinking of another artist in this broad discourse, who is not only working with what appear to be potentials, like Kaphar, and often with glass or ceramic too, but in a more horizontally desolate way, almost in the desert of no meaning beyond, and in this context to she seems to have some awareness that when moving in hypnagogic space you encounter forms by the nature of the movement, and so she named her particular guide figures, which I generally place in the glass onion, as intralocutors, figures that ghostly move in and out of the door, basically helping you in or out the door, Rochelle Goldberg, who is also part of this discourse, but I have written of her before.
Then, more recently, I come across a few more artists, in this case, all of them women, who seem to be working in the same terrain of prototype space, a primal space before binary creation, in which forms grow in undifferentiated form, to create new forms, Brook Hsu and Beth Collar. Hsu seems to have also retrogressed to some original dreamland where Pan rules, in an ambiguous way, and then there is a muddy pool at which horned skeletons drink, for some cult reason. It seems a rather desolate place. I have written about this too (see previous post).
But, finally, now, another artist comes on my radar, and he seems to have, in front of my eyes, developed along some chain of association in the space of the potential, this is Nils Alix-Tabeling.
Nils Alix-Tabeling, Limules, 2018, Robot, animated wood carving, resinated papier maché, peacock feathers, speakers, ormeaux shells, trinkets, 7min sound piece looped, 70 x 70 x 110 cm
purely anecdotally, in the context of the story of Syrinx, whom Pan wanted to rape, she ran, the earth god covered her up and planted the spot where she was taken down into the earth with reeds, which made a melancholy sound when the wind blew through them, and these Pan tore up in a rage; but, then, found something soothing in remembering her, and in guilt at what he had done in a moment of lust, forcing her into this drastic, if not suicide, at least a complete decomposition of her current state of being, for another–and this model seems to reinforce this piece as entirely partaking of the entome, of the negative sort, because it was body part, then it waved some peacock feathers mechanically, then it let out a plaintive da da da, it was, to me, almost an uncanny realization in contemporary art of things on my mind, reading of nymphs in ancient Greece https://artviewer.org/pastoral-love-at-lucas-hirsch/
As to the title, I had to look up Limules, it refers to limulus, related to the word limn, and it means, as in the manner of a crab, to move sidelong, that is, limuluslike, and seeming locked into that limulite motion. This is, again, but another example of the broken body imagery that continues to flow out of European art (It may be that USA art lacks this certain broken quality because our rhetorical grasp of art as something to inspire and literally bring on social justice prevents us from telling the truth about the situation of body culture in the current age. If you always have to be a hero, it represses truths of struggle). But, the important point, I placed entomes as fragments out in the adjunct areas of some state of being past or bounced out of nightmare, so I would guess stuck in the Chthon, the black out. But, this term, limule, is much more specific, it says the same thing, this is a being, with a body, reduced to this, so it is past an entome, but, even more so, its limitation is that it is restricted to a very limited script of action, in a negative sense, as in it cannot do anything else. As a result, it is an entomes, truncated further by a limiting of its scripts, and its activities—what is the word when unused muscles lock together—and for that fixed state, it is a limulus, and controlled by a demon, that is, it is not free, but has a closed system, is not open and free, it lives in a caged state far below freedom of will. This is the limulus. Since the limulus as described is a sidelong movement only, like a crab, that is, moving crabwise, then I can only at present assume that it is a creature of the dark path over the top of the REM state, and toward the Cursed or Seventh deadly door, as it passes out to the ambient zone.
that is, it is a creature of this zone, at the bottom of the whoosh, but, then, the added detail is, it is bound by a spell or demon, or another, thus it exists inside brackets, derived from a higher source, such as this
and then it lives in that life, period. So I place these here, but, then, the instructional thing about Alix-Tabeling’s progression in his art is that a few years ago he was making figures like entomes, but of more serpentine bodily form, that is, up the ladder of development in the primal space, as positive entomes, perhaps.
But, then, maybe by way of thoughts of formaphilia, he began to see that there was more interest when these forms were trapped by a higher power in another type of object, so he began to both break down his positive entomes, make them more furniture like, and then work them out as pieces of furniture, with a memory of St Clair Cemin here, figures trying to wriggle out. I use the word wriggle, from May, 2017 to recently, January, 2019, I argued that the situation in terms of discourse politically in the West and possibly in the world had become so topsy-turvy that artists had begun to start with the chaos then wriggle back to the light. I pictured this as a difficult wriggling, through a darkness, not unlike wriggle figures of tight fits and bodies all but trapped in them which you see in cave movies like As Above, So Below (2017). As a result, I guess for the moment I will simply call these figures, wriggling-figures. They exist here, in my charts
that is, they are at the edge of the whoosh, living in the whoosh, feeling all currents and changes in a panic, they partake of panic politics; and, then, from that edge, almost in ambience, they begin to wriggle their way in. I place this wriggling as as a kind of narrow-arc’d horizontal whoosh, but the opposite of a whoosh, a pulling through, to approach, but not get to the light, and I saw a good deal of wriggling sculpture to confirm my view. I did, in fact, give a shout out to an Alix-Tabeling in 2017, I might have called a piece of his a wriggling figure.
for some reason, which I attribute to dislike of the white cube, I have noted that, by a desire by some artists to leave the white cube, to go outside its walls, then, in that crawlspace view it differently, then come back in, to then inhabit the gallery in an all but backwards, hesitating, entirely negated way, the spindly leg has become a form in contemporary Euro art, in Aline Bouvy, in others, and here.
But, then, on its top, and in its form, a wriggling narrowing, this is a figure that has wriggled, he has done a lot of it, and now is close. But, then, as he approaches enlightenment, it looks like the back of his brain is shot out, as happens a lot in zombie movies, and from that brain, empty, springs, not Athena, but a kitschy Roman style chariot group in ceramic (like the kind I wanted to buy in the window of a shoe shop window on Smith Street near Union in 2012), and this seems to materialize in a miniature allegory right there the brain state of a wriggling creature, that to get from a to b in his wriggling he makes use of tropes that rotate in the cingulate in his head, and if they happen to be dated or nonsense urban legend-like models, or just scenes in movies, like Ben Hur, it doesn’t matter, he will make use of whatever it is in his brain that is actionable in order to push his wriggle on. Thus, I see the outbreak of the miniature form here as evidence that this particular wriggling statue has come close in.
And, the interesting thing is, finally, it appears that in order to get to a point where he thinks he can work without any interference by devices inherited from others which he is not interested in using anymore, it appears that Alix-Tabeling has as an artist enacted a purposeful negative devolution down the chart from Potentials, through Positive-entomes, through wriggle figures, and, then, finally, in his latest work, which I think is in fact his leanest and meanest and the work best suited to develop into something new, to the negative entomes at the bottom of the splat. But is there “room” for him to wriggle in, vertically? I think there is.
Other terms continue to emerge, for example, just to make mention of them for future reference. There was also a show in Brussels on transfusive forms that evoked entities like “geniuses” or lares in Roman art, so, I place geniuses at the entoptic level, a conjure figure would be one; at the glass onion level are the Potentials, then below that you have the entomes; but then at the bottom of the whoosh, the limuli. Another new category, in a show in 2017, is the hypokeimon, which is the theorized essence that remains after all elements and artifacts are gone, an essence, so there is a class of forms that somebody considers evocative of the hypokeimon, another category. This I will place down in the realm of actual REM past nightmare.
Finally, at bottom, the word worm is showing up a lot in this sort of art discourse. It is apparent that there is a kind of race to the bottom, to represent the body in as primal broken down forms as possible. As a worm form, I picture this as being pressed by a fever or external demon force (see the exhibition, Fever dreams, previous post), from the entome state to a state prior and lower even that that. Beth Hsu is also going here, and in her cultivation of the green slime of this world she has raised the word holometabolys, that is, very early insect forms, in fact, egg, pupa, to imago, the life cycle of (again) insects, with a radically restricted Umwelt (yes, I think all this derives from von Uexhall), and she does the green slime
And then Collar the pupalike form (see previous post). So at present, I will place these as splat forms that have, by external pressure, been pressed through the membrane of REM dream and hover in the sliver of space where some small consciousness remains, as one dreams, or lives in a dream
So there we are. A full somatic cosmology of the body that is being torn apart, by psalliction, in the universe of today: theory is, the Euros are feeling it, as their traditional sense of who they are is perhaps being pulled at from outside; while in the US we are still entirely in an aspirational state, with the ego or the demon of the exploitational mind often propping up a semblance of real bodies, but in a binary way, even when we talk about nonbinary, that is our blockage, our demand for immediate social outcome in this
This is a system in the making, at present, in the graph derived from just going through notes on the artists, Titus Kaphar, daphne Ahlers, Rochelle Goldberg, the movie Suspiria (2018), then the work of Nils Alix-Tabeling, and the work of two artists in the Fever dream show, Brook Hsu and Beth Collar, a taxonomy, in a hierarchical treatment of dream formation, takes shape, I have identified SEVEN pre-binary forms of body forms being explored by artists either side of the Atlantic at the moment.
This piece is a companion piece to an entry made about Brook Hsu et al, in Fever dreams; as well as my treatments of Rochelle Goldberg, and others. It also cross-references with my ongoing explorations of forms in horror movies, and with my treatment of likenesses, like doppelgangers and other forms of homoioma, or likenesses, another word (they exist in a mirror space across the nexus, no doubt), in the context of twinfire.