Bath's Annual Fringe Visual Arts Festival
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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.


Informational Bodies


Aerial Shot Ticker-Tape: Waterscape 2014 Installation by Eloise Govier, AT-Bristol, Millennium Square, Bristol.

Author: Eloise Govier. 

I've recently been reading the work of anthropologist Carlo Caduff (Kings College London). He works on health, disease, security, knowledge, and expertise. He carried out fieldwork in the USA and Europe where he explored the exchange of information and the circulation of 'biological matter' amongst influenza researchers.

Good academic practice entails publishing results, however, the results of experiments conducted within this particular field can be problematic. The microbiological sphere of research is a place where 'uncertain microbial entit[ies]' are formed, and the publication of these data often resides on the boundary between publishing information and publishing 'sensitive' information. Why? Because these entities and the processes involved in their creation could be used as blueprints to create 'contagious agents'. 

In truth, I am not doing justice to the depth of his discussion, but should his anthropological interpretation of reverse genetics research be of interest to you, then I recommend reading his article: 'The Semiotics of Security': Infectious Disease Research and the Biopolitics of Informational Bodies in the United States'. 

For the Fringe Arts Bath Cartesian Cut? exhibition I am particularly intrigued by his notion of  'microbial entities' as 'informational bodies' and 'contagious agents'. To quote Jane Bennett, I am (in essence) interested in "the its" (2010: 112). How do we imagine and present the body when we have a keen awareness of the other entities that we host or 'collaborate' with? 

Are you interested in these entities too? Have you drawn or built artworks that explore these things? If so, please submit your work to the FAB Cartesian Cut? exhibition.

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


Caduff, Carlo. "The Semiotics of Security: Infectious Disease Research and the Biopolitics of Informational Bodies in the United States." Cultural Anthropology 27, no. 2 (2012): 333–357. (accessed 11.2.16)




What is the 'Cartesian Cut'? 

Author: Eloise Govier.  

Title: The Cartesian Cut? (Performance sculpture) Medium: Frozen Energy Drink and Household Dirt Year: 2015 Artist:Eloise Govier Happy New Year! This blog entry explores the title of the #FaB2016 exhibition The Cartesian Cut? The aforementioned title refers to the work of René Descartes (1596—1650), the philosopher who famously stated 'I think, therefore I am'. Descartes argued that there is a clear distinction between mind and body; this exhibition challenges his conception of a clear division or 'cut' between the subject and the object.

We ask: how relevant, accurate or useful is the 'cut' when trying to understand the human body and what it is to be human? Does the cut become blurred when we begin to think of body in action - such as the relationships formed between body and virus or body and smart phone? How does the cut change when we catch a lost hair on the sleeve of a jumper? Where is the cut when we think of a carbon molecule entering and leaving our body as we breathe or the impact a shot of caffeine has on our ability to wake-up?

It is the search for the 'cut' - that place where I end and you begin - that will inspire the forthcoming development and realisation of the exhibition. The ideas that emerge from the exploration will bring together people and ideas, and will be shared over the next few months here in the Cartesian Cut? blog. 


Cartesian Cut? Exhibition Call-Out

The human body sheds ‘stuff’. Skin, hair, 'dirt' it collects on itself... the body sheds stuff! Some of these bits are ‘microartifactual’ and can only be seen at the end of a microscope. And yet, despite its invisibility, our most vital information is caught inside and amongst it in the form of DNA. This exhibition searches for artworks created by ‘forensic artists’ who are interested in exploring the boundaries of the body.

The exhibition will challenge the ‘Cartesian Cut’ (the division between the subject and the object) by blurring the boundary between the two and showing the processes of the body as intra-actions or 'phenomena' (Barad 2003). The exhibition wishes to interrogate the body as it emerges by presenting artworks that address the following themes:

•What is the body? Bennett in her seminal piece 'Vibrant Matter' reminds us of the colonies of bacteria that inhabit the crook of our elbow and how they function to moisturise the skin and help with the movement of the arm (2010: 112); Bennett remarks “the its outnumber the mes [!]”. The ‘Cartesian Cut?’ shares contemporary thought on the ontological re-framing of the body as an “array of bodies” (Bennett 2010: 112) and wishes to play with ideas about the ‘porosity’ of the body.

• What are ethical implications of sharing dirt? Are these social rather than legal issues? Part of being human means we leave a trail as we go through life... What issues are associated with using, naming, and dispensing dirt?

•What things are closest to us? And how do we draw those things in close to us? How are these things made ‘intimate’ by human interaction; the things that consume and go through (and sometimes become a part of) us with the things that are dispensed and shed from us.

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

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