Unit 3 thoughts

Moving forward from my last unit, I still am keen to explore the female form and women’s responses to their own bodies. I am interested in the aspect of sexuality, in regards to the taboo around it and the female body.

Harassment of women is something that I’m sure most can relate to or have an opinion on. Recently this has become a prominent aspect of my life, and my awareness to how women are treated in everyday life has heightened.

A powerful woman is seen as aggressive. A nice woman is ‘asking for it’. A girl who is confident in her body is a whore and one who is not has baggage.

I have been working closely with Emily and our work crosses paths in regards to themes. We want to reclaim our bodies from society- in particular, men.

To begin with I was exploring biological sounds the body makes and how to capture these as a part of the sound element required for this unit. I am happy with the recordings and my research into Foley, however I feel this sterile  and technical approach is leaving me feel disconnected to my work.

To progress, I am going to look at using spoken word in my work, either on its own, or to accompany moving image.

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the sun and her flowers- rupi kaur

I have followed artist and poet, Rupi Kaur since her period Instagram scandal a few years ago. From ‘milk and honey’, a collection of words exploring abuse, grief and rising, to her latest collection.

I have never connected to a poet in this way, the ethnic minority poets we covered in school all were said in thick accents or were laughed at collectively. This is raw. This is summarising the experiences of women everywhere and stands in solidarity. It is brutal and sensitive all at the same time and articulates words me may not be able to.

Poems about immigration from a second generation perspective. About losing your cultural identity and the fight to reclaim it in a post 9/11 western world. Shame and problems within our communities and how we can both admire and challenge our cultural traditions.

I take a deep breath after finishing these books because Kaur’s words organise the Brexit and Trump chaos in my mind. She helps me to rationalise my negative thoughts, and teaches me that I am enough the way I am.

Body

My final video comprises of short clips that cut in and out in a mosaic pattern. I drew inspiration from looking at my images on a contact sheet, and finding the difficulty to focus on more than one image interesting. Each person will be drawn to a different clip or aspect and so will experience the work differently because of this. I think this also aids to minimise the sexualisation of these clips, as nudity is often viewed in this way. I was more curious about the movement of the body in unconventional ways- ways that we do not use in everyday life.

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I think this awareness of your body is something that we rarely get to enjoy, as lives are too busy, but this project has allowed me to become familiar with the way mine actually looks vs the way it appears in images and video footage. I also found it interesting to look at responses after sharing my work from both people I am close with and those I am not. I received a lot of positive reinforcement, people telling me they “admired my confidence” etc, when this was not done out of confidence, but more curiosity. Despite this, I am aware that getting naked for my work would not have been an option a few years ago, and although I did hesitate to do this, it was not out of lack of confidence in myself, but more how others would perceive me (although these may cross over).

I wanted to keep the use of black and white in my film, and I feel it again, lessens the attention to the body itself, but more towards the movement it makes. This is also why I chose to use a low resolution camera, however it did also cross my mind that this would mean my cellulite and fat wouldn’t be in HD.

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I have had an inner conflict with whether or not I was ‘brave’ putting myself in my work. In some ways, it is a leap in my confidence and practice, and in others, I did take steps to make myself less exposed. Part of me was pushed to do this work because I could not find performance artists who are larger, but I simultaneously didn’t want my work to become about ’empowering plus size women’ or the ‘body confidence’ movement. I have come to accept that this will probably happen regardless of my intention, but that shouldn’t stop me making the work. It would be ideal if me using my body to make work, as a ‘plus size’ woman was considered normal, so that the focus was the work and not my size.

Body

Developing my work

Shoot 1:
This shoot was done using a 35mm colour disposable camera in the sculpture studios at Camberwell UAL. The space was plain, grey concrete like walls and floor. The neutral aspect of this space meant that the images focused on the body and movement. The flash from the camera was very harsh against the skin and emphasised the contours and definition in the models body.

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Shoot 2:
I used a compact 35mm film camera with black and white film as I wanted to develop my darkroom skills further (after experimenting with pinhole cameras). For this, I did not focus on the images, but more on having something I could learn from. Some of the images came out nicely, however hold little relevance to my project on a whole, apart from the use of 35mm film. I learned the process of developing 35mm in the darkroom and how to identify the correct timings, using the charts provided. From these negatives, I learned how to enlarge them onto photographic paper.

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Shoot 3:
After learning how to develop my own film, I wanted to recreate this initial shoot of movement and dance with 35mm black and white film so that I could develop it myself and print them as I wished. The space I initially used was no longer available and so I had to find a suitable space that would have a similar effect on enhancing the body contours.

Shoot 4:
I did not feel connected to my work in the same way as I have with previous projects, and I put this down to using a model and not using myself in my work. I had hesitations about doing this as I do not have a thin frame which is conventionally used and seen in performance art today. In this same sense, I was worried about my size distracting from the work itself- which had no intention to take this path. I did however have an interest to see how the different body shapes would make the movement differ, with highlights to the folds and rolls as opposed to bone. After looking back on artists that I have drawn influence from, these women all use their own bodies in their work and I think this definitely impacts its strength in portraying its message.

Sarah Lucas- I Scream Daddio

Sarah Lucas’ work “I Scream Daddio” was at the British Pavilion at the Vencice Bienalle in 2015. This consisted of abstract balloon-like sculptures that towered over the space. Within in had casts of body parts- mainly the bottom and legs- in various positions on furniture. These casts were made using disposable moulds from Modroc. In her exhibition book she explains in detail how these were made. Standing in one position for an hour or so and marking out where the pieces of Modroc would go and the seams for removal.

She explains that three people are needed; a model, and two people to apply the Modroc to the body. These moulds are then cast in white plaster and left to set. The result is a life size portion of the body in which cigarettes were places in the anus and vagina to capture the viewer’s attention.

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I found it inspiring once again to see a female artist use her body to create her work, this time in a non-traditional performance sense. Despite these being sculptures, the various positions create a sense of movement and have a performative feel to them.

I would be interested in exploring the casting process with my own body as I think it would be interesting to see how the folds and fat on my body translate into a sculpture. I feel that there are not a lot of ‘bigger’ women showcased in these sculptural forms in current art. Would this method work with more contours in the body? Will I need to use a different material with more flexibility such as alginate? This is something I am keen to consider in the future.

Inside Pussy Riot: Les Enfants Terribles: Saatchi Gallery

The experience begins with an actor giving you a vague brief but is very melodramatic in the theatrical sense. We are told to write something down that we care about and are given a placard expressing the said thing. Mine was about “uniting against racism”.

Then the experience begins. You enter a mock up chapel that is meant to represent the Moscow Orthodox cathedral. You are told to stand and hold your placard, ‘egged’ on by another actor. It was painfully awkward to begin with as we were a very small group of three. I imagine with more people it would be invigorating and full of chaos. Then we got arrested.

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In the police set, you are told not to speak- which is very difficult as you are being interrogated. Someone was told to remove all their clothing. It was difficult at first to tell if this was genuinely happening. The woman then broke character to explain that she was an actor in the performance, however in reality, this happens every day there.

Now, just the three of us, we are bought into a room and made to do very mundane and almost impossible tasks- one that stood out was threading needles from a pile of pins (in very dimmed light). We were shouted at and the awkwardness and tension makes you forget that this is in fact a performance. One of the girls rebelled and refused to do anything. It was amazing how we had instant solidarity with each other, as when we were told to make an example of her, we did not- even when our own ‘safety’ was at risk.

The experience continued, but ended with a powerful monologue in a small confined ‘cell’. Nadya Tolokonnikova (member of Pussy Riot) talked about censorship and uniting against the corruption. It was very moving at overall pulled the performance together to highlight what they were trying to do as Pussy Riot.

INSIDE PUSSY RIOT / kickstart an immersive riot theatre!

Bolero- Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, Marina Abramović

Bolero is a collaborative piece of performance from choreographers; Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Damien Jalet, and artist, Marina Abramović. This is piece of work uses dance as its main form and has used well known opera from Maurice Ravel. Looking at a collaboration from artists in different professions brings something else to the work as it covers all elements- not just the movement- in depth. The scenography designed by Marina Abramović is dark and has been described as “unsettling”, with dry ice creating a continuous fog and projections on the stage.

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“The idea of outdoing yourself, of a physical exploit is at the heart of the choreography, which probably also echoes the work of Marina Abramović and the states of trance that she manages to reach when she performs. I remember her at the premiere encouraging us to pursue our “imaginary double” in order to liberate ourselves more fully and achieve total abandonment.” – Vincent Chaillet (Dancer in Bolero)

“Boléro” – Ravel

Marina Abramović Freeing the Body, 1975

This piece of film was exhibited in the “Everything at Once” exhibition at the Store Studios on 180 The Strand. It was placed in a dark room with loud bongo drumming playing. Abromavić was naked dancing in time wearing a balaclava. The piece lasted 6 hours and at times I had wondered whether it had looped or ended. You can see the energy levels in her movements change as she becomes more exhausted over the time. Many people who experienced this piece stayed there for a long period, despite it being repetitive. I think the anticipation and unknowingness to the end of the piece caused this, that and it was very hypnotic with the repetitive sound and movement.

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Looking at her and the way she uses her body in her work has been a very encouraging thing for me as I have never used my own body within my work in this way. The exposure and the nudity is something I have never been comfortable with, yet have admired. Part of my own personal development during this project is looking at female artists who are taking this control of their bodies and utilising them as a tool for their work. I think viewing my body as a tool as opposed to something personal has helped me to overcome the anxiety around exposing myself.

Marina Abramović Freeing the Body, 1975

Fat and Art

The plan for my work to continue was to recreate the shoot with Emily, but using my body. I have found it difficult to find artists that use their body in work that are not considered ‘thin’. I originally did not want my work to be about standards in society, however I think that because I am not small, this will happen regardless of my intention, so it makes sense to address it.

Women of bigger sizes are seen in abundance in renaissance art and paintings. Even currently, artists such as Jenny Saville use ‘fat’ figures in her work. Despite this being a popular artist, I feel that these paintings do not hold them in a place of beauty, as the stomachs are seen to be pressed upon glass in a ‘squished’ and confined way.

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Even here, the grasping and grabbing of the flesh is aggressive and forced, and I feel does not portray the body as ‘beautiful’ and ‘natural’.

Searching for “plus size performance artist” on the Internet does not have many leads. One issue I have is the term “plus size”. Why must these bodies be “plus” or larger than ‘average’? Why is there a need to segregate them from the rest of society because of an extra layer of fat? This leads onto the issue of “fat= unhealthy”, and “skinny= healthy”, when this simply isn’t the case. So many people with this mentality lead to having eating disorders and this is simply unhealthy to the extreme of not being able to function.

Photographer and artist, Toby Burrows did a series called “Nothing to Lose” in which ‘plus sized’ models were used. These images involve movement and dance. The have elegance and beauty within them, however seem very theatrical in their style.

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Looking at his other works, he uses typically ‘thin’ figures that you would expect to see. Something that I have an issue with is ‘plus sized’ people being used solely because of their size. Using ‘larger’ people should not be seen as using bigger figures, but should just be normalised to the point where the art they are featured in does not become about their size, but becomes about the work.

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I have been taught to hate my body all my life. I addressed these things in my work previously, from the colour of my skin to the hair that covers it.

One thing I am still struggling with is, is the size of it. The contours and the folds. The way it does not skim flat and smoothly.

I have said that I do not want the use of my body to be about the size of it, or representation or any of these big big issues.

I want to use my body as a tool. I want to stop using thin people because it’s easier and because it means I don’t have to get undressed. I want to connect with my work intensely and allow it to fully come from me.

Even if this is a jump in my practice,  because of all these political issues, it is not about my work. It’s just about bodies.