The Body In Crisis

With the exhibition The Body in Crisis (Distance, Repetition and Representation), on view at Ellen de Bruijne Projects in September 2011, I started my second cycle of works under one general title, after Figures of Speech (2006-2010).

The Body in Crisis primarily and with emphasis, addresses an issue that is much more concrete and overtly political then Figures of Speech, namely the continuous repetitive occurrence of moments where bodies are thrown in a state of crisis through violent shifts in the conditions of life.

Still from The Body in Crisis (notes on Distance, Repetition and Representation), 2011
video, 18:37 min

The main organizing principle of the works, which are brought together under the title The Body in Crisis, is the act of naming six events or occurrences. Six events that together form a repetition, a repetition of the moment that a body is thrown into a state of crisis. Each event refers to a historical moment in which the body finds itself in a state of crisis through a change of living conditions (be these institutional, hegemonic, administrative and/or physical).

I chose events and occurrences that would allow me to consider the definition of the subject, the perception of the body (along with the division between body and mind), the forces at work on the body and what happens when living conditions change. But also to reflect on what happens within the body, considering the body as a site of de- and reterritorialization, and as the site where said conditions are actualized again and again. I have defined each event by a year, a place, a change in concrete conditions, a sentence along the lines of ‘body X becoming body Y’ (or ‘X body becoming Y body’) and one or two images. Bearing in mind the maxim that crisis now constitute the rule, I examine historical reiterations of the human body in moments of crisis, as well as formal possibilities to represent the body in crisis in the realm of art.

Still from The Body in Crisis (notes on Distance, Repetition and Representation), 2011
video, 18:37 min

Two key concepts in the context of this research are distance and repetition.
Distance, both in the sense of an event taking place at a historical or geographical distance and of an obstruction within the triangle of object-representation-subject.
Repetition as a method or strategy to make this obstruction productive – certain forms of representation produce sensation and affect in the form of an indefinite, destabilizing, transformative repetition. The repetition in question is not a repetition of the same, but that of singular moments establishing sameness.

The six events that constitute the repetition are:
• Pergamon, 199 / Closed Body becoming Open Body
• Amsterdam, Europe and the Colonies, 1571 / Magic Body becoming Work-machine
• Paris, 1793 / Body becoming Clinicopathological Body
• Mons, 1915 / Work-machine becoming Dysfunctional War-machine
• Paris, 1974 / Becoming Body in Exile
• Houston, 1984 / Incarcerated Body becoming Outsourced Body

The backbone of The Body in Crisis consists of three structures that exist as sculptural installations, but also as graphic signs. These three structures facilitate in different ways the process, the making public and the archiving of the research into the six historical moments related to “the body in crisis”. Formally they are the basis for a more abstract layer of inquiry related to notions like distance, repetition and representation.

Each of these structural works bears qualities ascribed to display. I would describe the first work as a carrier, as a surface for notations depicting specific events. The second as something of a diagram, a line of thought revolving around notions 
as distance, obstruction, repetition and representation. The third work makes the most straightforward use of a system of display, to actually display images, but has to be seen in relation to a performance, or a video translating a performance.