SORCERER’S CLOTH, BOLIVIA

Region/Concept: South America, Body (Costume)
Sub-concepts: Poverty, Healing, Excitation
Description: The popular and the religious collide in the diverse fashion of local healers.

Some days, when the circumstance calls for it, the human being stops being just a human being. The marvelous takes over. Invoking the marvelous simply means being able to astonish (but astonishing the other is not a simple matter). In the hills of Altiplano, colorful figures appear: the color of their garments differentiates them from the surrounding world of nature. For example: the bright red against the light grey of the fog. We see the opulence of masks and dresses in juxtaposition against the bleakness of rooms, the everyday poverty. But it is only here that the word luxury attains proper value, of excess in austerity, a distinctive splendor, and thus brightness, or light. Do not forget: the witch-doctors that wear them and transform into zoomorphic beings are still “doctors”. They heal by opening up the borders, physical and moral, taking one by the hand into the underground tunnels (the mines carved inside the hills). The world becomes paradoxically less differentiated (even though the garments and masks are over-pronounced) and thus horror and excitement ensue. The forbidden is formidable; the deceivers seductive. These basic formulas are so powerful that even after the objects and the garments are fully removed their humming presence remains.

Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/23/waska-tatay_n_5611515.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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LIVE SOUNDTRACK, CANADIAN ARCTIC

Region/Concept: North America, Body (Dubbing)
Sub-concepts: Exhaustion, Resonance, History
Description: Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq creates a live soundtrack for the 1922 silent film Nanook of the North.

A famous scene in Nanook stages an encounter with a phonograph—a scene deliberately rehearsed to make the protagonist seem naïve when faced with the stored sounds on the disk. Funny, since that was the same technology that Edison had failed to fully integrate with moving pictures. We watch the phonograph instead of hearing it, while the man on screen feigns wonder as he listens. Until another sort of stored sound emerges, this time Tagaq’s live soundtrack, which both dramatizes the physical heroism of this early documentary and reveals the singer’s own effort and extenuation. The film ends up being dubbed in some way–not just by the voice and other instruments, but also by the physicality of the singer on stage.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV-YQSQ1_FE

Posted by: Craig Epplin

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PACKAGED LIFE, ARGENTINA

Region/Concept: Latin America, Body
Sub-concepts: Compression, Growth, Limit, Suffocation, Commodity
Description: Argentine artist Nicola Costantino creates sculptures of animal bodies grotesquely contorted within the confines of visible and invisible limits.

Theory: At first they appear to be misshapen spheres of some raw ore extracted from the earth, pressed together by an unknown force of gravity. But then more definite features begin to emerge on the surface from among the strangely familiar geography of fissures and cracks. Immediately one is struck by a horrifying recognition: these are not raw elements but somehow bodies. The horror is not that they are dead but that they are possibly still alive. Through some perversion of the vital tendency to grow, these bodies were forbidden the spatial conditions to expand, grotesquely contorting them within immovable limits. Contained inside a form that coincides with their identity (as a resource for consumption or exchange, a commodity) these bodies were cultivated to fill the package that would inevitably realize their calculated finality. In this way the body’s capacity for life becomes the very condition for its exploitation by capitalism. Even in an apparently open field the bodies remain bound up as if inside a hostile womb, where their dependency is materialized as an inability to breathe. This world of suffocation, of life without an atmosphere, in which any possibility of movement is merely apparent, is the common condition of all bodies in capitalism, the shared pathology of our compressed vitality and our stifled screams. Indeed, a packaging surrounds each of us at an indeterminate distance outside our bodies to make us circulate only within its enclosed economy and to suffocate us when we expand too much within its invisible bounds. Perhaps then the greatest affirmation of life is written in the grotesque lines and cracks of our suffering, in those folds of contorted flesh which inscribe the impossibility of total homogenization, and maximum growth at the limit.

Link: http://hifructose.com/2014/07/14/nicola-costantinos-sculptures-confront-animal-cruelty/

Posted by: Will Scarlett

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STONE MASK – GAS MASK, JERUSALEM-PALESTINE

Region/Concept: Middle East, Body
Sub-Concepts: Paradox, Simulation, Dissimulation, Trickery, Shamelessness
Description: Exhibition of the world’s oldest masks opens in Jerusalem museum; meanwhile, gas masks line the streets of Syria, Turkey, and Palestine.

Theory: The mask is a paradoxical device; within its structural logic rests the potential for simulation and dissimulation, transformation and deception, concealment and revelation, alienation and seduction, sadism and innocence, terror and pleasure. That it requires the almost total surrender of identity to the façade (one is allowed to keep only their eyes), that it seals the world of appearances in a state of eternal frozenness and trickery, that it lies in brazen form, that it transparently announces its own will to mislead and thus turns duplicity and fraud into a visual apparatus, and yet still remains a force of attraction and fixation, makes it something for us not to underestimate. For these reasons and beyond, the mask has facilitated many axes of human action over centuries, including those of: criminal concealment (the bandit, the ninja, the robber): anarchistic play (the carnival, the masquerade, the orgy); and militant violence (the gladiator, the knight, the Bedouin, the samurai, the face-painted warrior). There are even images of various gods wearing masks. What is more, these first gods were invented in the same region where ancient stone masks are now placed on display in galleries at the same moment that postmodern gas masks signal an ongoing flux of protest, upheaval, and war right outside the museum. Thus we are compelled to ask: Is there a conspiratorial link between the coverings of nine thousand years ago and the visors of the present state of emergency? Are these new masks descended somehow from their elder counterparts, and hence partake of the same matrix of power, distortion, disguise, frivolity, secrecy, and reckless bloodshed that has always been harbored by this one accessory. Accessory to what, then? To celebration and murder, to the simultaneity of celebration of murder, to the hour of shamelessness and the opening of an irresponsible universe, with its light and dark absurdities, such that it is this very same mask which at once allows us to dance (without judgment) and allows us to kill (without judgment).

Link 1: http://asianjournal.com/arts-and-culture/ancient-masks-go-on-display-in-jerusalem/
Link 2: http://www.dawn.com/news/710200/pro-palestinian-activists-dismiss-israeli-warnings
Link 3: http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/middle-east/140416-syria-blames-israel-turkey-us-for-chemical-attacks
Link 4: http://boingboing.net/2013/06/03/gas-mask-dervish-occupygezi.html

Posted by: Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh

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WAX AND FLESH, BELGIUM

Region/Concept: Europe, Body (Fleshness)
Sub-concepts: Mutation, Transformation, Vulnerability
Description: Staggering installations by artist Berlinde De Bruyckere.

Theory: Without doubt, a confrontation occurs when one lays eyes on these installations: a form of a horse carefully crafted yet frozen in development before it is fully actualized; a human body that extends into heavy branches pulling its back toward the ground; a body with missing parts; or else isolated parts (antlers of a deer) piled together. This is the work of a new butcher, one that has certainly learned from the old masters, but then in silent solitude went to invent her own counter-procedure: the flesh (which looks alive) is rendered with wax, a material that does not rot; the bodies are not open through the the wounds that announce its death, but rather, each is closed in on itself. Sometimes we do not even see the transition or a surgical scar (there are no seams); all is smooth, curled, curved, coiled. There is no specific wound because the entire body is a wound, closed but not healing, suspended in what it exactly is: a constant mutation of forces that inhabit the flesh and thus form the body. The act of twisting as a gesture of cruelty already. She is a rare and original butcher that does not open up but instead twists, smooths, and transmogrifies so that it is hard to see fleshy deformations. Yet the more one looks the more one sees the beauty: the tactile seduction of the wax, the horse hair and skin, the pillows and the hooks, the marvelous wooden tables and cabinets which surround the bodies simultaneously exposing and protecting them. In the end, nothing but beauty extracted (slowly and brutally) from its own infinity.

Link: http://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/6/berlinde-de-bruyckere/images-clips/

Posted by: Dejan Lukic

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STRANGULATION AESTHETICS, IRAN

Region/Concept: Middle East, Body
Sub-Concepts: Silence, Voice, Suffocation, The Utterance
Description: Video Installation of Shirin Neshat’s “Turbulent” (male and female vocal performers in sonic contestation).

Theory: This episode illustrates the contrast of the normalized body (in states of composure, pronunciation, and exhibition) and the deviant body (in states of gagging, writhing, and forbidden articulation). It thereby raises the following questions: What is the acoustic register of the unspoken? How does the existential category of the banished, the accursed, or the minorized individual enable some visionary breakthrough towards an aesthetics of jaggedness? What is the bond between art and vengeance, and also between eroticism, agony, and the creative instinct?

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2DNMG2s_O0

Posted by: Jason Bahbak Mohaghegh

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