The body is a location of mixed cultural messages. Through performance, video, text, and more recently, drawing, I address the polemics of such messages and question the body’s ability to surpass them. I consider ways in which specific language informs how we think about the body as a process of perfection, rather than empowerment. By attempting to generate a perfect body, we are also attempting to generate a sense of a perfect nation- one in which there is plenty of room for failure. In my work, I utilize text and image as an index that can showcase an alternative way of thinking about the body as a source for productive opposition and conversation.
I draw from my own position as a Pilates and Movement instructor- the conversations and work I do (and make) with my clients informs how language concerning the “perfect” body is a problem we all face. This process often leads to interesting, and usually humorous, ways in which we can envision alternative interactions with the mainstream fitness, reproductive, and militaristic industries that frequently dictate personal bodily awareness.
Contrology, a video piece juxtaposed with performance, begins with such humor. A recording of myself as an overly zealous and eager fitness instructor plays on loop. For the duration of the video, my pre-recorded self verbalizes a series of exercises to my performing self. The pre-recorded me becomes passive aggressive at times, probing at the “problems” of my physically exhausted body. The performance, lasting 4+ hours, ends with a physically strained performing body while the video body remains fresh and upbeat. This play on the way in which we often argue with our multiple selves in terms of failure and success allows the viewer to consider ways in which they might feel as though they exhaust their expectations of themselves. Often, that voice in our heads functions as that instruction on loop: creating a complicated dialogue between ourselves and the kind of self we “want to be.”
This work calls attention to the ways in which we often converse with ourselves, how we judge our bodies, work ethic, and intelligence on a frequent basis. The use of time in the piece aids in understanding how the physical body becomes exhausted as the virtual body can maintain resilient- suggesting a cycle within ourselves until we gesture to stop.
Pullup/Pushup is a score to be enacted through performance. Using the comedic one-liner style, Pullup/Pushup evokes our complex relationship to our bodies. A potential for catharsis, this piece asks the viewer to reexamine how basic fitness gestures conjure up militaristic celebration and involvement, bodily discrimination, and a false sense of perfection.
Breathing Exercise # 870: Bodily and Imaginatory Thought Through Breath is a five-minute performance with a text video that describes how breathing generates specific corporeal activity. For example, when one breathes deeply hunger, thirst, and an overall tingling occur in the body. In this piece, the performing body stands still. It is the text that invites the viewer to breathe alongside the live model next to the video. Using 1st person, present-tense grammar, the text -video functions as a monologue that becomes embodied in the reader, creating a unique kind of “active audience.” The audience began to breathe deeply and experience some of what the text was describing- the sensation of having to go to the restroom, eat, drink, becoming light headed, etc. In this way, the performance invited the audience to perform as well.
Variations of the Pelvis and Spine is a series of drawings that showcase
medically “different” body parts. Through the drawing series, image becomes an index by which the viewer can understand the variety of ways in which the body can be shaped. Through not including the “original” or “normative” version of these body parts, the index suggests that there is no such thing. Using the anatomic drawing style, these images perform the ways in which we know and learn what is “right” and “wrong” about the body; and perhaps suggest a new way of looking at these highly institutionalized images as the pinnacle of truth.