2005 Installation and Performance by LITEWORX, Ewart Gallery, Sydney
BodyShift explores the miraculous and extraordinary nature of the human body in a way that attempts to bypass our usual cultural perceptions and parameters, in order to present an aesthetic based on life energy and a sense of awe of our common ground, our bodies.
Yves Klein in his Anthropometries series also explored life energy, using his model as a brush. In contrast, in BodyShift, the large hangings are of the hull or complete skin of the body, and the random calligraphic markings give rise to images that convey a quality of the mythic/heroic, angelic/demonic. Larger than life, yet carrying life, they fly.
The negative body spaces are anchored in matter, in earth. They explore the space around us, space we have touched with our bodies, leaving traces like fossils or meteorites, records of our passing.
The hairballs are leftovers, renunciations, losses, what we move on from or throw away. During our lifetimes, we go through these passages many times, each passage marking us in some way. The hair is a memorial of these times of change.
Together these elements form a kind of initiation or a moving from one state to another. At times they are veiled, hidden from view, at times apparent and clear. The veils themselves can also be our markers and carry traces of our passing through, with the hangings themselves as part of that veiling.
The sculptural artifacts are placed formally in a semicircle around the hangings. At the entrance to the space is a video of the initial performance/ritual of the placing of the artifacts. This performance consists of two over life size Janus headed figures – which have allusion to the large hangings – rhythmically, and carefully placing the forms on the prepared surfaces. There is soundscape/ music, and the space is lit with partial ultra violet and natural light – so that the veiling fabrics and costume have an intense white floating effect.
BodyShift attempts to deconstruct the concept of the body normally viewed through ego, with its attendant fears, worries, envies and anxieties. And to put forward an alternative viewpoint of the body as a vehicle for the life force. Its awe inspiring qualities can then be appreciated, absorbed and embodied.
Review by Ruth Faerber
In a time of accelerated change and shifting perceptions the fundamental question of what binds us as a species, the nature of the human body, is generally overlooked.
Attending the opening of this collaborative state of the arts event created by Carole Driver and Alan Roberts proved to be a highly rewarding experience.
The darkened gallery space lit only by the glow of ultraviolet light shrouding a wall display of larger than life body prints, the transfixed silent gaze of the audience as two black clad performers ceremoniously carried and laid a collection of plaster cast body fragments, like excavated artefacts, in a line in homage to the graphic wall hangings … their slow measured movements signifying reverence and respect highlighted by the white gloves they wore (like handling rare specimens).
When the performance finished and the gallery lights were turned on, I was confronted by a startling display of what was appropriately catalogued as Hairballs. Constructed from human hair, they balanced at eye level, large and round like heads, formally supported on pedestals. Breathtaking in their gleaming tactile beauty yet shocking, they challenge our perceptions, symbolically evoking a sense of loss and renunciation. Traces left by the rites of passage.
The total environment, accompanied by taped music composed by Andy Driver and a recorded video of the performance by Ed Foulsham, is a tour de force in its integrated presentation. Thoughts surface in the mind beyond the fate of the individual, to embrace the continuum of our being and becoming.
An exhibition of this interdisciplinary nature is at the very cutting edge of contemporary art practice and by association brings credit to the Ewart Gallery (I think Joy would be delighted). However, more importantly, in a period that resonates with violence and devaluation of the preciousness of life, this exhibition stirs a feeling of awe and tenderness. We are reminded of what is common to us all “the miraculous and extraordinary nature of the human body…the body as a vehicle for the life force.” (Artists’ Statement).