The Cartesian Cut? exhibition reveals and unravels the boundary of the body. The title of the exhibition relates to the philosopher René Descartes (1596―1650) who made a clear distinction between the mind and body. Contemporary philosopher Karen Barad problematises his boundary, calling it the ‘Cartesian cut’ (2003: 815). Contra-Descartes she offers an understanding of entities not as unique beings but ‘phenomena’ in constant ‘intra-action’ (2003: 815).
It is the search for the 'cut', the place where I end and you begin, that has inspired the works in this exhibition. The pieces present unique imaginings and interpretations of the workings of bodies. The findings of these investigations are simultaneously familiar and yet unknown. The artworks act as vignettes about bodies becoming.
John de Mearns executes paintings on glass that utilise skin and paint to create unique residues of the body mid-action. Daniel Witnicki draws complex fantastical worlds of intertwined humans and things. Lou Baker exhibits her soft-sculptural forms to acknowledge the transition between (m)other. Laura Waite contributes finely modelled sculptures that imaginatively capture the organs that form in the cavities and voids of the body.
In our search for the cut the body is abstracted and metaphysically explored. Nikki Allford’s site-specific Body Mapping traces the rhythms of the body by revealing complex layers, forms and patterns. The piece simultaneously calls to mind the fat of the body and charts the artist’s movement in and through the exhibition space. Eloise Govier’s melting sculpture physically captures the daily shedding of skin and hair in a piece that holds and transforms unique body information.
The exploration extends to the digital body. Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman create a digital apparition, a new morphing body that slips between embodiment and disembodiment. The piece juxtaposes the alive and the digital body to explore the anxiety of occupying digital space. The exhibition also hosts Ellie Harrison’s Tea Blog, an online digital artwork that archives a fragment of what Harrison was thinking about every time she had a hot drink between 2006 and 2008. A total of 1650 thoughts were recorded on the microblog, formed in the days before Twitter. The work archives a spatiotemporal nexus of tea and ideas: a body or body part caught in cyberspace.
The living body is on site too. Not only in Evans’ and Newman’s spoken poetry but also through Suze Adams’ performed artist residency that presents the artist at work. Her material trails will grow and accumulate during the exhibition as she commences her piece At One Remove.
The exhibition invites you to think through and with bodies.
Welcome to the Cartesian Cut? exhibition.
Original Concept: What is the body? Jane Bennett in her seminal piece 'Vibrant Matter' reminds us of the colonies of bacteria that inhabit the crook of the human elbow and how they moisturise the skin and help with the movement of the arm (2010: 112); Bennett remarks: “the its outnumber the mes [!]”. This exhibition will interrogate the 'Cartesian Cut' - the division between the subject and the object - by blurring the boundary between the two (Barad 2003). The exhibition will contribute to this discussion by bringing together works by artists who are playing with ideas about the 'porosity' of the body and who are exploring the possibility that we are an “array of bodies” (Bennett 2010: 112). The exhibition is curated by Eloise Govier for the Fringe Arts Bath Festival 2016, Bath (27th of May - 12th June) and will include her ice and dirt performance sculpture 'The Cartesian Cut?'.