D I A L O G U E S W I T H P L A C E S
V. THE PLACE OF THE BODY
This starting point is somewhat misleading, as what is to be considered here is about the body as quite often it isn’t seen to be; and that includes aspects that go beyond its physicality, and therefore, its common place – an expanded notion of the body.
There’s a relational quality in body representations, and that is a subject I wanted to approach from a female gaze standpoint and from the perspective given by interdependence between the self and what goes beyond the self - natural elements (water), other people, other beings.
There’s a long narrative in art history of the representation of the female body as an object of desire, a subject conformed to a power structure from which its place is fixed. Those representations take much space in western art museums and institutions, public spaces and across media; as a female, that is something I inevitably rebel against. Nonetheless, sometimes I still find myself at odds with my own ingrained self-judgment, in the relationship with my own body, and with the body of others. This was the motivation for the body representations in the series ‘Bodies of Water’: the body not as an element defined by a constricted social category, with its proportions and the overall focus with its physicality; instead, I wanted to represent the body as the place where the sensory experience happens, and where affect evolves.
These are moving categories, constantly influx. They are not easily grasped, nor defined. Inevitably, this meant expanding the concept of the body beyond its physical limitations: when I feel the water, the boundary between skin and sea is elusive. When I’m in relation to others, either physically or affectively, in a sense, that dissolving of a fixed limitation happens as well. Deep felt emotions can make us feel like we carry others inside our hearts; a poetic image that even without a physical happening in the literal sense, can be considered a form of reality - in my opinion, as much as what is visible. It simply is a different category of reality, one which science is starting to catch up with.
This relational quality of affect might as well be expanded into other beings: for the last recent years, in the numerous encounters I’ve had with dolphins, fish, birds, horses, I’ve witnessed how closeness and communication make up for the separation of bodies, identities and species. I gained a profound respect for them, in those serendipity meetings; it’s as if they have reminded me of something very important, very simple, a deep knowledge I had as a child and that had been lost by the busy-ness of adult life, with its layers of disappointments, constraints and losses. I found wholeness in dropping the persona we learn to carry amidst the shadows of the cave, to use Plato’s conceptualisation in a paradoxical way, and to actually relate to the body and the senses in an informative way - considering it as data about my values, beliefs, motivations and limitations. Discarding this precious information given by the body and devaluing its exploration reduces the access to self-knowledge, and to characteristics commonly shared by others. In those relational experiences with surroundings and beings, it’s possible to gain insight into needs, joy, delight; justice, wellbeing, and into different ways of doing. A multitude of perspectives that expands the conceptualisation of the self and the possibilities of decision-making about life – insights particularly relevant in the climate change scenario we’re dealing with.
In a dance with friends, fish, dolphins and birds, this is what ‘Bodies of Water’ represent: a cape of remembrance and gratitude for their embrace, remembering and marking those lessons forward.