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Cartesian Cut?

Curated by Eloise Govier
Submission deadline has now passed.

What is the body? Looking to showcase contemporary artworks exploring the porous boundaries of the body in provocative, evocative, original ways.


'The Cartesian Cut?' Exhibition at Fringe Arts Bath 2016

An exhibition that explored the boundary of the body.

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.


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.



TEA BLOG marathon this weekend at the 'Cartesian Cut?' Exhibition @fringeartsbath 11am-3pm Today! Come join us for a cup of tea as we attempt to read the 1650 thoughts artist Ellie Harrison wrote down every time she had a hot drink between 1st January 2006 and 31st December 2008. 

We will be brewing-up on the hour should you wish to join us for a free cuppa and a chat about the artwork and what it means for the Cartesian cut. Come and debate with us about how this cyber-based, open-access, spatio-temporal nexus of tea and ideas impacts upon our understanding of the body. #FaB16 #art #Bath #event #tea #cartesiancut

Please note: In-keeping with the Ellie Harrison's Environmental Policy we will adhere to the following statement found under the 'Energy' section of the policy which outlines her practice when making tea: "turn[...] appliances off at the plug sockets when not in use and us[e] a cup to measure out the exact amount of hot water necessary to boil for hot drinks". Hence we will boiling the kettle only on the hour, arrive then to get your brew order in!


Announcing the Cartesian Cut? Artists

Exhibition 27th May - 12th June 2016

FAB 1, 146 Walcot Street, Bath.


Suze Adams (performance)

Nikki Allford (installation)

Louise Baker (sculpture)

Rowan Evans and Maisie Newman (installation)

Eloise Govier (performance sculpture)

Ellie Harrison (online archive)

John de Mearns (painting)

Laura Waite (sculpture)

Daniel Witnicki (drawing)


Curated by Eloise Govier


"Beautiful murmurs"

Author: Eloise Govier.

Sound ethnographer Tom Rice (University of Exeter) spent a year as an Honorary Observer at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. The anthropologist has written extensively about the sounds he found in the hospital ward, and how these soundscapes impacted upon those inhabiting the space.   

The hospital, the body, the sounds... 

Some of the sounds that he talks about are the "beautiful murmurs" heard at the end of a stethoscope. 

Rice explains: "Normally, when blood flows across the valves as the heart pumps it does so smoothly, meaning that the only sounds that can be heard are the two closing snaps of the valves which create the heart beat. Damage to the valves, or valve dysfunction, however, can cause the blood flow to become turbulent, and this turbulence produces a sound known as a 'murmur'." (2008: 298).

Listening to the heart is an evocative reminder of the internal 'busyness' of the body; the ongoing rhythms of activity that allow the body, as an event, to transpire/emerge/become.

The Cartesian Cut? exhibition will showcase artists who are engaging sensitively with the body and exploring multi-sensorial formats and mediums in their creative practice.    

Free submission: email, deadline 14/03/16



Rice, T. 2013. Hearing the hospital: sound, listening, knowledge and experience. Canon Pyon: Sean Kingston Press.

Rice, T. 2013. ‘Broadcasting the Body: the public made private in hospital soundscapes’ in G. Born (ed.) Music, Sound and Space: transformations of public and private experience, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rice, T. 2012. ‘Sounding Bodies: medical students and the acquisition of stethoscopic perspectives’’ in T. Pinch and K. Bijsterveld (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, USA.

Rice, T. 2010. ‘Learning to listen: auscultation and the transmission of auditory knowledge’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Special Issue 2010: S41-S61.

Rice, T. 2010. ‘The hallmark of a doctor’: the stethoscope and the making of medical identity. Journal of Material Culture 15(3): 287-301.

Rice, Tom. 2008. “Beautiful Murmurs”: Stethoscopic Listening and Acoustic Objectification, Senses and Society, Volume 3, Issue 3: 293–306

Rice, Tom. 2003. Soundselves: An acoustemology of sound and self in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Soundselves: An acoustemology of sound and self in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Anthropology TodayVolume 19, Issue 4, pages 4–9.



Absent Bodies


Janet Cardiff, 2001, The Forty Part Motet.

Author: Eloise Govier.

Do you explore the physicality of the body through sound and technology? Are you excited about new relationships between the body and technology? Do you address ideas about physical absence/presence in your work?

I ask because these are some of the themes we are tackling in the FAB16 Cartesian Cut? exhibition and the types of work we would not only like to exhibit, but also write about and share. 

The title of this entry, 'Absent Bodies', emerges from a sound sculpture I visited at the BALTIC Centre for Contermporary Art in the late summer of 2012. It was The Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff (see above image). 

The piece consists of 40 electronic loud speakers arranged in an oval shape and these are positioned in a spacious (and in this case pure white) room. It begins with the gentle murmurs of humans getting ready to sing. Each speaker represents an individual voice, and the piece develops into a grand, powerful, choral work of merged (aka 'harmonious') sound that envelops the visitor. 

The hybridisation of the electronic form (speaker) and human sound (voice) creates a phenomenal dynamic in the space. Despite the physical absence of the choir, their presence is keenly felt.

In amongst the tension between the vocally present and visually absent body, is an artwork that zones in on the power of the voice. By reducing sensory stimulus within the space, the audience are afforded an opportunity to simply listen and, for some, it is an experience that stays with them. 

The FAB16 Cartesian Cut? exhibition are looking for works that address the exhibition theme made from any medium.

Free submission: email, deadline 14/03/16.

Installation details:

The Forty Part Motet

2001 - A Solo work by Janet Cardiff 
Dimensions: 5.1m x 11m x 3m high
Duration: 14 min. loop with 11 min. of music and 3 min. of intermission 
Materials: 40 loud speakers mounted on stands, placed in an oval, amplifiers, playback computer

mission Materials: 40 loud speakers mounted on stands, placed in an oval, amplifiers, playback computer

website: accessed 16.2.16