Category Archives: Embodiment or Mind Body Connection

Hiwa K, Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) (2017)

Single channel HD video, 17:40 mins

“Work Description

Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) re-traces a journey undertaken on foot by Hiwa when he fled Iraqi Kurdistan in the mid-1990s. This long and often dangerous journey — lasting five months and two days and passing through Iran, Turkey, Greece, France and Italy — was an “experience of space and time” and a “fracturing of spatial and cultural experiences.” Each point along the way, whether a city or town, was experienced fractally, and always from below — with no overview.

In this work, the artist uses an adapted balancing device, equipped with motorcycle mirrors, to re-create the disorienting experience of space and time experienced by so many making similar journeys. One mirror reflects what is ahead, another behind, while the others reflect the artist and his immediate surroundings. To walk forward he must balance and control the device, alluding to the effort needed to keep moving and recalibrate oneself to new contexts.

Artist Biography

Hiwa K (b. 1975) Lives and works between Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Berlin, Germany.Working across video, performance and installation, Hiwa’s work draws from personal experiences, including family anecdotes, his path through arts education, and daily encounters and occurrences.

Hiwa K’s works have been included in group exhibitions including Documenta 14, Kassel (2017); 56th Venice Biennial curated by Okwui Enwezor (2015); Asian Art Biennial, Taipei (2019); 21st Contemporary Art Biennial Sesc Videobrasil, Sao Paulo (2019); Anren Biennale, Sichuan (2019); Yinchuan Biennale (2018); and MOMA Ps1, New York (2019).

Recent solo exhibitions include: Kunsthalle Mannheim (2019); S.M.A.K. Museum, Ghent (2018); KW Institute of Contemporary Art (2017) and KOW Gallery, Berlin (2016). His work has been awarded the 2019 Hector Preis and in 2016, both the Arnold Bode Prize and the Schering Stiftung Art Award.” (credit)

Bruce Nauman, Walk with Cantrapposto (1968)

man walking

Walk with Contrapposto (credit)

Bruce Nauman, Walk with Contrapposto, 1968, 60 minutes, black & white, sound, Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Bruce Nauman’s films and videotapes hold a prominent place in the history of media art. In Walk with Contrapposto, the camera’s perspective is fixed at the end of a narrowly constructed corridor. Nauman moves through the space, striking poses with each step. His manner and figurative gestures come to define the space through the body of the artist. ” (credit)

Marina Abromović, Shoes for Departure (1991)

“Shoes for Departure”, an art piece by Marina Abramovic (1991). In her artist statement she says, “Then I have crystal shoes. I have instructions for the public to take off your shoes and, with naked feet, put on the two crystal shoes, close your eyes, don’t move, and make your departure. I’m talking about a mental, not physical, departure. So the public can enter certain states of mind helped by the material itself. Material is very important for me. I use crystals, human hair, copper, iron. The materials already have a certain energy. ” (credit)

Alana Bartol, Sight Unseen: An Un-camouflaging for Guildwood (2014)

“The ghillie suit is traditionally used by military snipers and hunters to camouflage the human body, allowing the wearer to blend into various natural landscapes. Sight Unseen: An Un-camouflaging at Guildwood was part of a series that repositioned the ghillie suit in the open air of suburban space and areas slated for development.

For Restless Precinct, I created a series of “un-camouflagings” in Guildwood Park in partnership with the Community Arts Guild Youth Theatre Troupe, an offshoot of Jumblies Theatre. The project evolved over six weeks, exploring concepts of visibility and belonging through our relationship and engagements with nature and each other. Participants learned how to create their ghillie suits, and together we developed movements in response to the site. Guildwood Park (now Guild Park and Gardens) contains over seventy architectural fragments and edifices. The research revealed that the park was once the location of Bytown II, a military training base for radio operators in the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service during World War II. A custom camouflage headpiece was created for a sculpture entitled Musidora (artist unknown) and installed for the duration of the exhibition. This work was a gesture toward acknowledging the invisibility of bodies, histories and contributions at Guildwood Park, including a site specific
work created by Ana Mendieta. The culminating performance took place as part of Restless Precinct’s opening events.”

Diane Borsato, Your Temper, My Weather (2013)

“One hundred amateur and professional beekeepers performed periods of guided meditation and slow walking together in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Walker Court. While exploring the tangible effect of collective stillness, the work created a platform upon which to
reflect on the health and temper of bees and their keepers, and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our shared future. The work was performed for five hours for Nuit Blanche at the Art Gallery of Ontario.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 134.

Amish Morrell, Henri Fabergé, Christine Atkinson, Epic Ravine Marathon (2015)

ravine

ravine

“On November 15, 2015, more than thirty people, including artists, adventure racers, casual joggers, track champions, walkers and other members of the general public, ran from Old Mill subway station in Toronto to Sherbourne subway station, following four major urban watersheds. The route followed the Humber River from Bloor Street to the Black Creek, crossed the North York hydro corridor north of Finch Avenue, joined the West Don River and followed the main artery of the Don River to the finish at Bloor Street, passing under Highway 401 twice. Covering fifty-five km in total, the route took more than 9 hours and almost entirely followed riverbanks and ravine trails. Two people finished the entire distance.”

Credit: Morrell, Amish and Diane Borsato. Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art. Douglas and McINtyre, 2021. Page 62.

“Toronto’s ravine system provides city-dwellers with an urban oasis that’s not often explored. But on Sunday, a small group of Torontonians will run a day-long marathon through these expansive green spaces.

Organizer Amish Morrell, who’s the editor of C Magazine, says these runs aren’t competitive. “It’s not a race at all, it’s really an adventure.”

Morrell notes that his friend and performance artist Henri FabergĂŠ started doing conceptual running routes a few years ago. Together, along with artist Jon McCurley, they ran from Kipling to Kennedy (35 kilometres above ground).

About a year ago, Morrell mapped out a marathon route through Toronto ravines – areas that he regularly explores and runs through. He even cross-country skies the ravines in the wintertime. “A lot of this kind of evolved out of finding different ways of moving through the city,” he says.

For Sunday, he’s planned a 55 kilometre trek between the Black Creek, Finch Hydro Corridor and Don River sections of the ravine. “I would say 90 per cent of it is trail in the ravines and about 50 per cent of that is totally kind of secret, clandestine paths,” though Morrell stresses that the event may not be for everyone.

“It’s a pretty DIY, kind of punk event,” he says. Anyone who decides to join needs to be well-prepared with proper equipment and supplies – a detailed list can be found on the Epic Ravine Marathon Facebook page.

And, don’t expect a timed race. “Our motivations are more about exploration, curiosity, discovering places and learning things about them,” says Morrell. He knows the distance may be daunting and expects many of those who join his small group will tag along for the first 10 to 15 kilometres.

Morrell says that while most of the route is accessible via the TTC, being the in the ravines provides an alternate way to view Toronto. “It totally shifts and transforms your experience of the city.”

Photo by Kevin McBride in the blogTO Flickr pool.” (credit)

Aislinn Thomas, The Slow Walkers of Whycocomaugh (2012)

Slow Walkers of Whycocomagh and Fast Walkers of Whycocomagh came about to address
what seems like an age-old problem: how to spend time walking with other people who
have an ideal pace different from your own. Negotiating precisely what “slow” and “fast”
looked like on any given day was an interesting part of the experience, as was noticing the different relationships to each other and the landscape facilitated by the different speeds. This piece was originally part of a larger project, the Whycocomagh Skillshare, which was conceived of in response to living in a rural context, in an intentional community that centres people labelled with intellectual disabilities. The skillshare took form as an ongoing series of free workshops, presentations and activities and was an attempt to actively seek out connection, engagement and exchange while challenging normative ideas of expertise and value. Since then, the slow walking groups have taken place in a mall in Mississauga, along rivers and downtown streets in Cambridge and on a mountain trail in Banff.

Credit: Outdoor School: Contemporary Environmental Art edited by Amish Morrell and Diane Borsato. Page 120.

Hélio Oiticica, Paranglolés (1964-1980)

“Oiticica’s most iconic artworks: parangolés, or wearable, experiential garments that he initiated in 1964 and continued working with for the rest of his career. Parangolés are capes, or cloak-like layers of different materials that were intended to be worn by moving and dancing participants. They were made of colored and painted fabrics, as well as nylon, burlap, and gauze. Some contained political or poetic texts, photographs, or painted images, along with bags of pebbles, sand, straw, or shells. They also sometimes took the form of flags, banners, or tents.

It was through learning to dance the samba that Oiticica developed the parangolé. He said that dancing freed him from art’s “excessive intellectualization.”[1] He learned about samba through his contact with the community of Mangueira, a favela (Brazilian slum) located on the outskirts of his hometown of Rio de Janeiro. He began visiting the favela in an attempt to escape what he perceived as the constraints of Rio de Janeiro’s art scene. Oiticica was white, middle class, and educated, while the favela’s inhabitants were mainly Black, poor, and uneducated. Despite the significance of this disparity, Oiticica developed friendships with a number of residents and was eventually accepted by the community. He learned to samba and even became a passista (a highly skilled dancer who performs in Brazilian Carnival) in the Mangueira samba school (a club for dancing and playing samba in the annual Carnival parade).

Oiticica asserted that the favela made him more aware of social inequities. As a result, the concept of “marginalization” became fundamental to him, especially as a gay man. He began to associate the marginalized position of the artist in society with the marginalization of favela communities. This was thrown into sharp relief when Oiticica invited some friends from Mangueira to help him inaugurate the parangolés by dancing in them in their first public presentation at the Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro for the opening of the exhibition Opinião 65 (Opinion 65). The dancers were refused entry into the building, revealing the institutionalized racism and classism pervading Rio de Janeiro at the time. Even the word “parangolé” (meaning a sudden agitation, an unexpected situation, or a dance party) was rooted in marginalization: he adopted the term when he saw a piece of cloth with the word on it hung by a beggar on the street. Oiticica’s experience of the marginality of Rio de Janeiro’s most impoverished inhabitants awakened him to the social and ethical implications of art.

From participatory art to political resistance

The same year that Oiticica developed the parangolé, the Brazilian military (with U.S. support) launched a  coup d’etat, initiating a twenty-one year military dictatorship. It was against the backdrop of increasing political repression that Oiticica began engaging the spectator as a participant in his works, an approach known today as participatory art. This approach to art engages the audience in the creative process so that they become collaborators in the work. A common interpretation of the parangolés is that they were intended to liberate their wearers from the repressive military regime by enabling them to become aware of their capacity to rebel.

Some parangolés even included political statements such as “Of Adversity We Live” (1965) or “I Embody Revolt” (1967). Such statements went unobserved by authorities because state-sponsored censorship initially focused more on the press and pop music than on visual art. More widespread censorship gained momentum only after 1968, when the dictatorship enacted the Institutional Act Number 5, leading to the imprisonment and torture of dissidents. Many artists, including Oiticica, left Brazil due to the increasing oppression. He travelled to London to mount his solo exhibition The Whitechapel Experiment at Whitechapel Gallery in 1969.

Parangolés in New York and beyond

Oiticica came to New York in 1970 to participate in Information, a group exhibition of conceptual art at The Museum of Modern Art. After winning a Guggenheim Fellowship the same year, he stayed in exile in the city for the next eight years. In 1973, he organized an excursion with some friends into the subway system in order to invite riders to try out the parangolés.[3] The interactive encounter represented a continuation of his exploration of the intersections of art and life and his interest in engaging non-art audiences. Much like the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in the 1970s New York’s heavily-graffitied subway had the reputation of being a site of criminal activity, its denizens thought to be beggars, drug addicts, and gang members. Bringing the parangolé into that space attested to Oiticica’s continued socio-political commitment to engaging marginalized people through liberating experiences. He would continue to play and experiment with his parangolés until his untimely death in Rio de Janeiro in 1980 at the age of forty-two.

Parangolés demand to be worn and moved in, not observed as lifeless objects hung on a wall for display. Today, they are usually only seen in documentary photographs and films, rather than worn by the spectator. When samples are available to try on in exhibitions, they rarely match the lively energy they once inspired. Even so, they continue to have a lasting impact on participatory and socially engaged art practices.

Notes:

[1] Hélio Oiticica, “A Dança na minha experiência,” November 12, 1965, in Renato Rodrigues da Silva, “Hélio Oiticica’s Parangolé or the Art of Transgression,” Third Text vol. 19, no. 3 (2005): p. 214.

[3] Despite image captions that indicate the subway excursion occurred in 1972, the Projeto Hélio Oiticica affirms it took place in February 1973. See “Biography,” Projeto Hélio Oiticica.” (credit)

Lygia Pape, Divisor (Divider) (1968)

Lygia Pape, Divisor from Para Site on Vimeo.

Lygia Pape (1927-2004, Brazil)

Lygia Pape was part of the generation of artists who founded the Neoconcrete movement in Brazil, an experimental moment of constructivism and geometric abstract art, which manifested in South America in the late 1950s. Neoconcretist artists like Pape sought to explore ideas of colour and form in relation to the sensorial cartography of the individual and the collective.

The work Divisor was originally performed on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 1968. It is composed of an immense white fabric, which can be seen as a large scale white monochrome and is activated by a participative audience. The only visible part of each participant is their head, piercing through the fabric, whilst their hidden bodies jointly move along public space. The amorphous mutant forms created throughout the piece reflect the subjectivity of the participants who struggle between individualism and solidarity with the collective experience.” (credit)

Mowry Baden, Seat Belt, Three Points (1970)

“Baden’s pieces forced viewers into awkward situations that expressed his interest in kinesthetics — physical perceptions and the changes that took place in neuromuscular memory as the body moved through the work. In Seat Belts (1969-71) Baden explored the difference between what it felt like to walk around a modified circle while tied with a strap from the waist to the floor and what it looked like it would feel like. He wanted to manipulate the “body prints” of the viewers to alter their perceptions of balance, and creating a new “sensory imprint” was his sculptural aspiration. … Baden’s experiments with sculptural-psychological, body-oriented works in the late 1960s and early 1970s would prove to be highly influential on artists such as Charles Ray and Chris Burden, both of whom were his students.” (Schimmel, Paul. “Leap into the Void: Performance and the Object,” Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949-1979. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1998. Page 94.)

Image and video credits