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Latex & Dribble: Pushing the ambiguity

Latex Head self-portrait experiment
Latex Head self-portrait experiment

To start this week off, I reflected more upon a recent discussion with a tutor about using my own body to connect with my contexts, and also looking back upon last week's crit comments. From this, I decided to continue experimenting with changing the appearance of the body, as I was previously doing with the sellotape self-portraits. Using a sewn latex sack, I covered my head, distorting my face by flatening and pushing my features in different directions. Due to the material being extremely tight and having no ho

Portrait from 'Closed Contact' series by Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford
Portrait from 'Closed Contact' series by Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford

les in, it meant my breathing was also completely cut off, which became an unexpected but happy accident, as I feel that it played with the idea of mortality more closely by literally stopping the function that keeps me alive. The squashing and discolouration in the face reminded me of the 'Closed Contact' series by Jenny Saville and Glen Luchford, where the depictions of female forms pressed against glass appear mutant, almost unrecognisable and abject. The stitching up the centre of the face conjures imagery of deceased sailors being sewn into their nation's flags before being dropped into the sea, with a stitch through the nose to confirm the crew member was actually dead, and the stillness of the image is almost corpse-like. The sewn middle feeling surgical and uncomfortable, like a body bag in a morge and makes me think of Doris Salcedo's cocooned shoe piece. The distortion of facial features also reminds me of bank-robbers with stockings over their heads, or sausage meat squeezed into its casing.

Work by Doris Salcedo (taken from my research folder)
Work by Doris Salcedo (taken from my research folder)

To push the idea of us only being meat and removing the sentimentalism over our bodies, maybe I could push this imagery further, squeeze my whole body into a transparent tube, like a sausage person, which could take the form of a live performance, or photography/video work. However, health and safety issues could arrive with this as I would be unable to breathe, and with my limbs trapped I would be trapped! Maybe I could create a breathing hole in the mask to reduce this risk. This idea reminds me of Fabio Magalhaes, who paints hyper-realistic images of bodies in plastic wrapping. I also thought about playing with the image alone, printing/drawing/painting into it with crosses over the eyes, like cartoon dead. However, I feel that this is a bit too comic book, without actually adding much to the imagery, and leaving less to the imagination, although I do like the light-heartedness of the idea.

Continuing this week's theme of all things lifeless, I also dabbled in some object making,

aiming to create something limp and with the appearence of having once being alive, mutant, alien, synthetic and bodily, all things that were qualities of the favourite flesh slap from last week's crit installation.

"[T]he boundary of the body [is] indistinct and ambiguous" - Julia Kristeva.

The bodily, lifeless, mutant and dripping object (shown above), was partly inspired by reading into writings about the abject by Julia Kristeva and commentary on her work, and artwork from artists like Ivana Basic, Louis Bourgeois and Francesco Albano (as shown in order from left to right below). All these artist's work is heavily abject, discussing the human body and condition through mutant forms.

"The viewer is threatened by these mutations [...] because they are at once recognizable and foreign, attractive and repulsive." - from a commentary on Bourgeois and Kristeva.

I am particularly drawn to the lifelessness of Basic's and Albano's work, which "drip, melt, hang, and often appear to be boneless [...] distorted and lumpy" (from commentary on Albano's work), all qualities that are bodily without being directly and completely human.

Although my sculpture was only an experimental mock-up for a potential, larger outcome, I feel that it really only dabbled in these ideas rather than fully taking them on. Although the dripping qualities suggest bodily fluids, it could have been more realistic and more exaggerated, with heavily varnishing to make it appear wet and droplets down the sides of the structure. The weightiness of the limp structure also wasn't quite shown as the wire I used was so thin that it didn't appear like the object was reliant on the wire's support. If I do a larger sculpture it would be better to have a thick, industrial, metal support structure, similar to Basic's use of metal in her work. I feel that if I were to do this, the idea of the mutant object being completely dead may come across better. Although I am fairly happy with the shape of the sculpture, following on with my themes of tubes/sacks, maybe is could have more human qualities to it somehow, maybe being more boney. As the clay object is covered in a thin layer of liquid latex, it will be interesting to see how the latex ages and darkens over time, potentially making the work appear as though it is decaying, which would signify death more completely. Going forward, I feel this object should be made so much bigger to completely dominate a space, like a dead body that we shouldn't look at but we just can't help it.


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