Artist Profile: Hannah Black

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have developed a significant body of work engaged (in its process, or in the issues it raises) with technology. See the full list of Artist Profiles here.

 

Hannah Black, My Bodies (2014). Digital video.

Your work concerns bodies, or the condition of being bodied. Your last video Fall of Communism (2014) feels like a sculpture in the sense that as a viewer, one's own body is pulled into relief, as with an object in space. I felt pulled into the space of the video, vertiginous. At your show at the Legion TV gallery in London, one half of what was on display was a hand-cut latex the color of skin. Is the work an analog for the body, or otherwise, where does the body (of the maker or the viewer) intersect or interact with the body of the work for you?

It's true that if you look at a lot of my work there is an interest in viscera, in the interior of the body—but it's not a Paul McCarthy guts and blood thing, it's a stand-in for interiority in general, for the inside being outside and vice versa. The phrase "being bodied" could mean "getting killed" as well as "being embodied" and I think that tension is one of the ways that I'm interested in what it means to have, or not have, something called "a body." I tried to write about how our concept of the body might one day, in a utopian way, be replaced by the framework of lifetime or different concentrations of experience. My wildest idea was that this reinterpretation of sensory experience would "render death merely chronological," a phrase I still love, though it's hard for me to recall exactly what I meant by it. Something about placing yourself in the long flow of time, allowing your self-conception to accommodate more than just your own conscious physical experience, I think. In the end it was too sci-fi an idea and didn't work out as an essay, so instead became the video My Bodies. I wanted to say something about how there is no generic body, no such thing as "the body"; bodies are raced, gendered, and assisted differently in the world. I collected images of white business executives, and you hear the voices of African-American female singers—Aaliyah, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, and many others—all singing the phrase "my body." I also use Ciara's song "Body Party." There is a whole tradition in black philosophy of trying to think about to what extent white thought is able to conceptualize black people as having bodily integrity. Hortense Spillers says that the enslaved body, for example, becomes just flesh; Frank Wilderson picks up this train of thought. This is part of the black critique of white feminism: the latter assumes, absurdly, that all women have bodies in the same way. The first part of the video presses on this tension. The second part of the video imagines a realm in between lives where someone is considering whether or not to be born again into a new body, knowing all of the implications of that, knowing how many people in this world have bodies that are racialized or impoverished or perhaps don't, in some senses, fully have bodies at all. It's like the famous romantic scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where they realize they have had their relationship before: would I do it again? Would I choose to be embodied again?

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Do You Follow? Art in Circulation 3 (transcript)

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Do you follow? Art in Circulation 3
London, October 17 2014
Featuring Hannah Black, Derica Shields, Amalia Ulman

This is the third and final panel discussion in "Do You Follow? Art in Circulation," a talks series organized by Rhizome and the ICA, hosted by Rosalie Doubal and moderated by Michael Connor. This talk began with the polemic prompt that "Internet circulation changes bodies into image-bodies."  A transcript of the first panel is available already; the second panel's transcript is delayed because of technical difficulties.

Rush transcript compiled by Loney Abrams and Anton Haugen. Discrepancies may exist due to transcription errors or unclear audio. Original video footage can be found here.

Introduction

Michael Connor: Today's panel deals with the theme of bodies as— bodies and images in circulation. We are going to have a video by Hannah Black. The other panelists Amalia Ullman and Derica Shields will then join me on stage. Amalia will present her Excellences & Perfections performance, kind of the first real public-outing for that particular body of work. Derica will give us a visual sampler of the "Black Woman Cyborg," and then, we will have a general discussion.

This has been a really eventful week. This has been the most immersive, best research experience for me, personally, and I hope for some of the people who have joined in as well. The first panel began with questions of aesthetics and artistic practice, and how we think about aesthetic judgment when the work as a stand-alone entity is dissolving into this idea of the work as a circulating object. In the first talk, there was quite a lot of emphasis on opinions being statements of a subject-position rather than any sort of assessment of a work. There was also a lot of emphasis on the idea of disavowing, on resisting internet circulation, resisting being a part of media cultures, and developing alternative infrastructures. 

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Rhizome in London: "Do You Follow? Art in Circulation" at The Old Selfridges Hotel

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October 15, 2014 - October 17, 2014

A series of afternoon talks as part of the ICA's Frieze-week program at The Old Selfridge's Hotel in London. Featuring Kari Altmann, Alex Bacon, Hannah Black, Michael Connor, Constant Dullaart, Renzo Martens, Monira Al Qadiri (GCC), Takeshi Shiomitsu, Martine Syms, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Amalia Ulman.

With the screen arguably now the primary site of encounter for contemporary art, this talks series, taking place as part of ICA Off-Site: The Old Selfridges Hotel, examines the ways in which internet circulation has affected art practice and art's function.

Do You Follow? Art in Circulation begins with the premise that images do not merely depict their surrounding reality, but actively produce and shape it in economic, social, and physical ways. With the advent of the internet, the image's power to effect such transformation has greatly expanded. As a result, image production is by default a posthuman process, subject to the demands of global flows. Images circulating on a network may produce far-flung realities, in unpredictable ways. Some even claim that the world is becoming an image.

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