Body Image Screen – Introduction

Keith Gallasch

Rihoko Sato, Saburo Teshigawara, Broken Lights performance

Rihoko Sato, Saburo Teshigawara, Broken Lights performance

Rihoko Sato, Saburo Teshigawara, Broken Lights performance

The screen, in its many manifestations and sites (just short now of direct wiring to the brains of the blind), is ever more seamlessly integrated into our lives, in the art that plays us back to ourselves as fact or fiction and in the continuum between that is reality.

The screen is a receiver for projections, a way of seeing and can be anything—wall, water, cloud, body. But touch-sensitive computer, tablet and phone screens record and interactively transmit two-way ‘projections’—the most seductive form of contact save for face-to-face dialogue and skin contact. The screen (once just a platform for projections) has become a palpable entity, engrained in the perceptual phenomenology of everyday life. In his musings on Atlanta Eke’s Body of Work, Andrew Furhman thinks the screen has become a body, a performer—an idea that excites and disturbs him.

Two recent major photographic exhibitions celebrate the photograph as screen. Robyn Ferrell sees the images of AGNSW’s The Photograph and Australia not only as emblematic of cultural aspirations but also as a reminder of the public embrace of photography, supremely evident in the late 19th century passion for calling cards on which one’s photograph was reproduced—a prelude to today’s Facebook posts and selfies. AGSA’s Black Rose must be one of the largest exhibitions of the work of an Australian photographer—immersive for some viewers, overwhelming for others, irritating for those who saw it as egotistical and lacking the discrimination of fine art curation and engrossing for those who saw it not so much as an exhibition as a massive installation which depicts, projects, writes, speaks and plays back a traumatised life rescued by art as realised through the camera lens. Trent Parkes’ Black Rose is multimedia autobiography and as big, in its own way, as any book.

‘Installation’ is also writ large in Carriageworks’ 24 Frames Per Second. There’s a substantial history of film and video embedded in installation as well as varying degrees of cross-artform connectivity. 24 Frames pushes these further with a focus on the body, movement and immersion and involving artists and collaborators from a variety of fields. Above is a photograph of a live performance created by Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara and performed by him with long-time collaborator Rihoko Sato for a commission from the 2014 Ruhrtriennale. For their Carriageworks commissioned Broken Lights, an intimate, immersive four-channel installation from Teshigawara filmed in a refractive space filled with danced-on broken glass. Will 24 Frames Per Second inform or reframe our sense of the body and movement?

Performance art’s preoccupation with the body was put in fresh focus by the Australian Experimental Art Foundation’s PP/VT with talks, new performances and earlier ones ‘delegated’ for reproduction to other artists. Once performance art’s authenticity rested on performances being uniquely one-off and sometimes documented by photography, review or word-of-mouth—these are the evidence, as well as the traces of the performance in or on the artist’s body. Much has changed—video archiving, live transmission, coffee table books, celebrity status for performers and popular events like the Kaldor Projects’ 13 Rooms (2013). Performance art now wants to be remembered, duplicated and rewarded. But Ben Brooker, in his report on PP/TV, thinks that “only cultural memory can do that, somewhere in the complex and fraught mix of rumour and document, visibility and erasure, that has always been the genre’s terrain.”

Cat Jones attended SXSW Interactive in Austin Texas where topics such as digital cloning of the mind via social media (with intimations of immortality) and “the brain [as] an embassy of the digestive system” were assayed. Jones also encountered the open source Map Your World project which allows disadvantaged communities to see their world anew via data collection, drawing and digitising maps with which to impel social change. Catherine Fargher, also at SXSW Interactive, was inspired by Never Alone, a computer game collaboration between nearly 40 Alaskan Inuit elders, storytellers and community members for the preservation of their heritage. She was also taken with storytelling strategies involving wearables and sensors “to create context and interactivity.”

Philip Brophy, reviewing American video artist Ryan Trecartin’s, Re’Search Wait’S (2009-10), addresses some of the downside of the ‘distributed’ body. He writes that the type of “linguistic junction” Trecartin’s work evidences “is an inevitable staple of Web 2.0, because once so many people start talking/filing/sharing/commenting/linking on any topic, their speech will approach the event horizon of lifting off from its societal plane and floating into a meta-speech realm detached from its originating communicative impulse.” He later adds, “Similar to Web 2.0’s deliberated collapses of communication, Re’Search Wait’S characters are full of lens-centric monologues.”

The relationship between body, image and screen is becoming increasingly complex at the same time as it is constantly being normalised—by innovation, commerce and, yes, art for which the screen is rich in theme and tools. The immediacy of the body-image-screen conflation makes it difficult to step back from and reflect on the self that screens and is data-screened.

RealTime issue #127 June-July 2015 pg. 3

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

11 June 2015