Jennifer Cohen, Grey Lines in Formation (i), Excerpt, at P.P.O.W, 2011
At a recent day-long conference at The CUNY Graduate Center, Professor Patricia Clough discussed the concept and formulation of the body via feminist and technoscientific discourse. In summary and reduction, the body's various meanings draw from multiple lineages. Current definitions include: the body is a container of consciousness, its consciousness is potential; the mind is disembodied; conversely, the mind is embodied and endosymbiotic with the body; the body is material/gendered/sexless/constructed; it is situated and locatable. The range of defining qualities indicates the spectrum of debate, and the body's importance in arenas beyond academic conversation (e.g., shaping the literature in jurisdiction and personal rights). Academia is laying the groundwork for evolving nomenclature, and reconsiderations of the figure of life.
An attempt to grasp the body’s metaphysical nature highlights assumptions of the past: modes of inquiry, method, and research were long established along philosophical terms of defining primary qualities that cannot be changed, and secondary qualities that are provided by humans. While incredibly useful in definitive classification, those steady states wobble now that we can almost transform primary qualities. In nanotechnological reality, an object can occupy two places at once and atomic level rearrangement can occur, leading to a multitude of tangible forms.
Matter is in constant process and tends towards movement; mobility implies some level of consciousness or intelligence. Algorithmic in behavior, matter has the capacity to change itself through its interactions. It can hold multiple explanations, just as light can be composed of both particles and waves. That relational definition of light, as discussed by Karen Barad via Niels Bohr, is determined by its measurement apparatus: Depending on the object and what it's in relation to, variable definitions ...
Heba Amin's My love for you, Egypt, increases by the day is featured this month on The Download.
Still from My love for you, Egypt, increases by the day (Heba Amin, 2012)
From The Conceptual Tourist, Fragmented City, and other works, it's clear that the relationship between abandoned buildings and the surrounding's inhabitants is important to you. What experience are you investigating with these relationships? Does it alter depending on your medium (e.g., drawing, website, installation)?
I think my fascination with abandoned buildings has to do with the abstract, the feeling in the air. They fascinate me as spaces of lost memory or as time capsules of history. I am also interested in how they fit within a broader framework and what they say about the contemporary context.
I grew up in Cairo, where its visual characteristics bluntly display the deterioration of urban life, where abandoned buildings have become normalized within the urban fabric. I began to explore them when I couldn’t make sense of the mass waste of space and money in a city where so many are struggling to survive. My reaction to them was emotional; they disturbed me. So, I began to use them as visual symbols for the emotional collective, metaphors for unrest.
My explorations are not limited by medium, and in fact I experiment with various media in attempt to confront and portray the emotions they move in me. Somehow in the process of working intimately with them, these buildings became beautiful to me because of their honesty.
With your most recent work, you've expanded that spatial connection from Cairo, a place you're intimate with, to Berlin, a newer locale. What are some differences you encounter in the change of location? Are there seeming universals you could apply ...
Still from Animation, masks (Jordan Wolfson, 2011)
The central figure in Jordan Wolfson’s Animation, masks (his video which showed at Alex Zachary Peter Currie until recently) is only visible to his torso, like a Jack-in-the box. He’s a caricature who lip-syncs borrowed text while making gestures and expressions that seem cinematically familiar. He's not comprised of anything; rather, he's composed through appropriation.
The character repeats and repeats Richard Brautigan’s Love Poem, heralding a morning without falsehood. In the piece's most powerful segment, he's the face for two emotional and articulate individuals whose frank sexual conversation showcases the distance between lovers who, even with their privileged understanding of one another, can't bridge the difference between empathizing with someone and embodying oneself.
Still from Animation, masks (Jordan Wolfson, 2011)
That sliver of difference between subject and object and the impossibility of fusing within and without defines the piece. Wolfson has created a compelling synthesis of consumption where the distance between an observer to their object of attention or affection is small but vast. An adept receiver of popular culture exists under his character's mask of mimicry and enactment; one who inhabits references by parroting them. Animation, masks is that absorptive sponge's clearly rendered dream.
Still from Hangmen Also Die! (Fritz Lang, 1943)
Per-Oskar Leu's Crisis and Critique consists of a video of trial scenes selected from German films from the 1930s and '40s, leather coats hung over speakers sometimes playing Bertolt Brecht's 1947 testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and four mattressed seating areas with the German words for locked up, night, your ears, and misfortune printed on them. Presented in a curtained-off room, the installation at 155 Freeman Street was accompanied by a newly translated essay by Otto Freundlich entitled "The Artist and the Economic Crisis." The sum of these parts might make for an ominous, harrowing piece, which by its content, it is. It's also an insightful and engaging installation on the role of the artist and art in the whole mixed-layered world at large.
'At large' is apt as Leu, in the show's press release, cites an investigation of Verfremdungseffekt—distancing effect—in relation to the experiences of Bertolt Brecht. The video of trials in German cinema demonstrate how the format of a trial flattens the dimensions of an individual, with the defendent often used as a tool to prove a political point or create legal precedence. The transcript and audio recording of Brecht's testimony before the Committee is rich with content, displaying the State’s fear of insurgence, problems with translation and misinterpretation, and a reminder of art’s ability to incite. Brecht's words in songs and poems, the primary reason for his appearance in Washington, D.C., were quoted to him (in poor translations, he stated to comic effect) during his testimony. His appearance, along with those of so many artists and others during the McCarthy years, serves as a reminder that critical thought can be powerful and dangerous. Poets, writers and ...
Tommy Hartung, Anna, 2011
Your work calls to mind surrealist cinema, and seems nostalgic in a way, for the earliest motion pictures. What, if anything, are you drawing from the past? Do you feel you are reinterpreting the past by using modern technological tools to create the work?
I don’t think of my work as surrealist. Surrealism presupposes an ordered, sensible world where something foreign or fantastic has intruded. The reality created in my video is so far removed from the reliability of a real world concept like gravity or time that it is hard for me to think about it relating to surrealism. There is definitely a relationship between early cinema and my current work, but I would not characterize it as nostalgic exactly. I am interested in the methods, pace, and intensity of early cinema. I’m not trying to use these archaeologically. Films like Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, or Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible have a pulverizing intensity. Nikolay Cherkasov in Ivan, and Maria Falconetti in Joan of Arc are almost in trance states as the film unfolds around them. There is a tension in early cinema that I find hard to match, and try to build in my work.
Much of your work includes a still, lone figure amidst a changing environment. When there are multiple figures, like the busts in Anna, there's a sinister or disharmonious feeling. Is there something to this in how your characters operate or relate? Do you think of cinematic roles with these figures? How do you incorporate your references (to literature, documentary, and more)?
The interaction of characters can sometimes be sinister, cold, or terse. The characters I develop tend to be workman-like in their tasks or roles. I also think there is a very ...