The ‘Cartesian Cut?’ launched at Fringe Arts Bath (FAB) 2016. The show was one of over thirty pop-up free exhibitions that sprung up across Bath City from the 27th May - 12th June. Regulars to the festival will know that the Fringe celebrates the visual arts, and actively promotes and celebrates contemporary art and practitioners who like to exhibit beyond the gallery-based art scene.
The ‘Cartesian Cut?’ revealed and unraveled 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). Inspired by her argument, artworks in the exhibition explored the porous and fluctuating boundary of the body.
Artist Eloise Govier curated the exhibition, she explains “the exhibition offered unique imaginings and interpretations of the workings of bodies. We were open to all mediums but particularly wanted to showcase artworks that offered sensitive and innovative commentaries on the body.”
Suze Adams conducted a performed artist residency at the exhibition. Her piece ‘At One Remove’ spoke about bodily assimilation and absorption. Suze spent the first week in the exhibition working from the window space, her daily practices included conversing with the audience, drawing olive stones and reading. The residues of her presence accumulated and the traces of her lived actions were then displayed as an installation for the second week. The artist explains: "I'm quite a private person, the performances I do, I keep quite private, having a presence and gradually removing myself". She describes this as a "processual approach" - a process-driven exploration.
View from outside. Walk along Walcot Street and you may chance upon artist Suze Adams occupying the window space. We are documenting her physical and material presence during the exhibition. Suze Adams is the artist in residence (performed) at the 'Cartesian Cut?' Exhibition Fringe Arts Bath 2016 #FaB16 Venue: FAB1, 146 Walcot Street, Bath (Upstairs) 27th May - 12th June 2016. Open daily 10 am - 6pm. #cartesiancut #FaB16 #installation #Bath #performance #SuzeAdams #art #visitbath @suzeadams1st
Bristol based maker and installation artist Nikki Allford exhibited her piece ‘Red Pools Absence/Presence’. The installation is made from red electric tape and responds to the residues of the red-paint on the floor of the Bath Regency Town House that hosted the exhibition. 'Red Pools' captured rhythms of red tape folded to make flower like forms, that stretched out to the walls. The piece captured the vibrant red of oxygenated blood and reminded visitors of capillaries, lengths of veins, placenta, pools of blood, coral, bone cross-sections, and chrysanthemums. Abstract but beautiful, temporary too, the tape slowly picked-up the dust of living as the exhibition progressed.
Daniel Witnicki’s ‘Red Triptych’ digital drawings were also shown at the exhibition. During making the pieces Witnicki was inspired by the work of Gunther von Hagens, and drew from youtube videos of the ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibition. The sinews of the body, as seen in Witnicki’s drawings, capture the body somewhere between the living and dead. The artist works in his sketchbook and obsessionally spends hours drawing fantastical worlds of humans, things, and unique forms.
Artist Lou Baker (Embroiderers’ Guild Scholar 15-16) exhibited her two soft sculptures ‘All the babies I might have had II’ (2015) and ‘Nobody I’ (2014). In the pieces cloth and stitch is used to evoke the abject feelings that remark on the emotional boundary and feelings of loss that emerge when there is distance between bodies. Through the sculptures, Baker explores the separation between ‘me’ and (m)other, from a mother’s perspective. Sculpted using a selection of skin-like materials and her son’s old clothes, these body-like forms communicate the depth and range of emotions which are an integral part of the transitions of motherhood.
Master Print Maker John de Mearns works from his studio at Spike Island. At the exhibition he displayed ‘The Monks’ and ‘I only want to change the world’ which are made from fired glass. ‘The Monks’ utilises gold and silver in the firing process and captures a dental X-Ray. Whilst de Mearns was painting the work he was reading old medical books and reflecting on his own childhood dental trauma. The artist explains that the reflective quality of the painting “focuses on the medium of glass as a surface through which to offer up and explore corporeality”.
Laura Waite exhibited 'Viscera', a collection of organ-like sculptures that explore the way wax turns from liquid to solid to capture moments of rupture or deflation. The wax sculptures spill out over low plinths, cleaved apart wherever they meet an edge, forever trapped in their own spaces. Waite's practice focuses on exploring the relationship between looking, touching and feeling that occurs in the gallery space. She uses materials that have emotive and haptic qualities: paper, fabric, hair, plaster, wax. These turn into sculptures and photographs that are unplaceable yet evoke memories of a familiar sensation, or else entice the viewer to explore via their sense of ocular touch.
Ellie Harrison kindly allowed the exhibition to show her free online artwork the ‘Tea Blog’, which was displayed on digital days at the exhibition. The archive captures 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.
'Cartesian Cut?' also hosted Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman’s film ‘15:44’ a cyberpunk liturgy to disembodiment and digital apparition. The film is a collaboration between digital artist Newman and poet and musician Evans, and combines poetry, 3D animation and original music and was first commissioned by Mercy (Liverpool) and Penned in the Margins as a live performance for the EVP Sessions (November 2015).
Eloise Govier exhibited her durational performance sculpture ‘The Cartesian Cut?’ made from frozen energy drinks and household residues. Govier is interested in working with materials that shift and change during the exhibition, to this end she brought in and filmed a new ice sculpture over the course of 10 days whilst the exhibition took place. The sculpture is temperature sensitive and reacts to the environment like a body, at times only the residues of the sculpture were visible. Govier remarks: “the piece sustains the idea that there are ongoing and emergent processes, continually unfolding in and around us”.
The exhibition took place at 146 Walcot Street, Bath. Details can be found on Instagram: @cartesiancut
Digital catalogue: Link
Lou Baker, 'Nobody 1', imitation leather, used clothes, hair; hanging in the Exhibition at 146 Walcot Street, Bath.
Daniel Witnicki, ‘Red Triptych’, digital drawing giclee print.
Nikki Allford, ‘Red Pools (Absence/ Presence)’, red electric tape installation.
Laura Waite, ‘Viscera’, Detail, wax, pigment and wood sculptures.
Eloise Govier, ‘Cartesian Cut? F.1’, fish tank, energy/fruit flavoured drinks, household residues.