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1 Trying to Trust You Mor e By Rachael Kerley SUPERVISORY COMMITTEE: CHAIR: Jack Stenner PHD MEMBER: Craig Smith, PHD A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF FINE ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2013
2 2013 RACHAEL KERLEY
3 To each interaction infused with risk. May it only help us understand our own pulse and for whom it beats.
4 Table of Contents Abstract 5 Chapter One : Introduction: Staging Devices of Existence 6 Chapter Two : Storytelling and Machines of Subjectivity 9 Chapter Three : Exchanges 15 Chapter Four: What is in Control? 17 Chapter Five: Conclusion 21 Bibliography 2 4
5 Summary of Project Option in Lieu of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Fine Arts by Rachael Kerley In Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis, Achille Mbembe and Janet Roitman describe life, imaginaries which have a material basis and systems of intel ligibility to which people refer in order to construct a more or less clear idea of the causes of phenomena and their effects, to determine the domain of what is possible and feasible, as well as the logics of efficacious action. More generally, a regime o f subjectivity is an ensemble of ways of living, representing and experiencing contemporaneousness, while at the same time inscribing this experience in the mentality, understanding and language of historical structured space? As public and private spheres blur together confusing us as citizens, what actions can help make sense of that blurring? I am interested in looking to the gallery as a monument to its own form and a domain to highlight these questions. Using form and structure as allies in constructing a common ensemble made of physical space, time and imagination, the work will test if the monument can be performed. What will be the configuration of mutual knowledge found in this setting? I am interest ed in using participation and engagement as forms of access, able to produce public readers, public writers and public knowledge. I am also interested in highlighting vulnerabilities and responsibilities within these spheres, as it is apparent that I am tr ansversely vulnerable to the environment, as much as to my own mental landscape of thoughts and emotions, as to my revolving social relationships. As Felix Guattari states in Three Ecologies social and indivi dual practices which I shall classify under three complementary headings, all of which come under the ethico aesthetic aegis of an ecosophy: social The exhibition form will strive to produce new models of subjectivity and work by composing a collage of reality from the fragments of collapsing space by constructing a monument of scaffold This one large interactive installation highlights cross relationships of individual and social body awareness and the structural environment itself through the form of implied action and storytelling The work culminates in a continual process of reinvention as bodies merge in and out of the allotted sphere wi th the space between as the changing dynamic
6 Chapter One: Staging Devices of Existence thing and movements over categories. The production of gestures wins out over the production of material things. Beholders are prompted to cross the thresholds of a catalyst like modules. The artist goes as far as to come across uin of his/her own subjectivity. Nicolas Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics Trying to Trust You More a project incorporating individual exchanges and stor ies shared within a common ensemble, uses participation and engagement as forms of access, able to provoke public readers, public writers and public knowledge. A series of notebooks filled with stories from participants were left within the gallery sp ace to be read and written in throughout the duration of the exhibit ion The installation consisted of sets of tiered scaffolding, demarcating the space with domestic items including my bed, chair and sofa From the domestic sphere to the institutional, o ur relationships and encounters with others and the structure such relationships are housed within, shape our space, nurturing or controlling certain interactions to take place Relationships are housed within different spheres, such as organizational sys tems to interpersonal connections. In larger systems from churches, to universities, to governments our individual actions are diluted in service of a larger structure of control and in turn we are placed in a position of feeling out of control, without
7 k nowing who or what is regulating, allowing or disallowing actions, with a machinic tendency to follow. Within a one on one relationship, however, it appears evident that we do have influence and the ability to alter both physical and emotional landscapes Co subjective relationships show us that our actions do matter and in turn we are vulnerable to the actions of others. What actions can promote this sense of co subjectivity within a setting like the gallery? Within the installation of scaffolding, was climbing allowed? No. Was and her skirt flew upwards and everyone laughed at her, the mental abuse she ve practice of overprotection and concern for mental safety? Projects exist as social experiments, trying to understand to whom are we bound to and why. Interactions ask at what times and places are we thought of us as companions or as subjects? As we cro ss paths, entering and exiting different passages with different individuals, there is a sharing of experiences that can bring us closer together or cause us to disconnect. We can and do affect each other. This simple idea is the catalyst to my research a nd work. Through a series of restrictions placed on the project by the administration the day before exhibition, the project was forced to shift functions from an interactive exterior structure constructed of multiple sets of scaffolding and various pla tforms open for climbing, rearranging, walking and balancing, to an interactive interior
8 with the emphasis on storytelling An administrator said the initial project was to o risky to allow stu dents, faculty and visitors to put their bodies in a position o f harm, despite the sound ness of structure. Robert M orris said in a letter to t ate curator Michael C ompton in 1971 that, break my arm by falling off a platform than spend an hour in detached become blind from s o much seeing. e to press up against things, squeeze around, crawl over not so much out of a childish naivete to return to the playground, but more to acknowledge that the world begins to exist at the limits of our skin and wha t goes on at that interface between the physical self and external conditions doesn't detach u Bodyspacemotionthings opened theTate Modern to an interactive experience between body and form, exploring and experience of object and space
9 Chapter Two: Storytelling and Machine s of Subjectivity The question hat would the form govern to This change from an ext erior to interior focus shifted the scaffold, which was my primary component to work with inside the gallery, as a structure that experimented with a type of kinesthetic intelligence and actio n to a structure that invited an emotionally based set of in te ll igence The form became a frame that had to be activated from within instead of from without. The frame was thought to be an experimental book in which multiple stories could be shared simultaneously, all supporting each other in idea and feeling. The w illingness to share individual, personal stories and experiences, which ranged in diversity, was the action now assigned to activate the new space. Individuals were asked to write or tell a story relating to the topic of trust and ended up telling many st ories of love, relationships, travels and home. The platform was also assigned then as a place to tell my own story of a phys ical form, the scaffolding, which transformed from active to inert due to administrative restraints These performative platform s are what Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics describes as staging devices of existence He states that these w orking methods of time and ways of being, instead of concrete objects, are the material for artists (Bourriaud, 2002) Walter Benjamin speak s of storytelling as a way to retrieve our collective humanness in an age of information. Storytelling, he says, does not try and
10 communicate the essence of a thing, ye t sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him aga in. Thus traces of the storyteller are forever connected to the story itself (Benjamin, 1936). Four portable DVD players were strapped throughout the scaffolding installation playing videos of actions where risk is being performed in different locati ons within interpersonal relations With a focus on the mobility of form and the transference of relationships locations were set in a burned home, a moving car, a bike and the gallery. Each o f the videos depicts two bodies in conversation through mutual and co affective action. The same impulse to assign risk through movement and vulnerability is taken on throughout the changing settings. Two audio tracks play throughout the installation, Trying t o Trust You
11 More allowing distant conve rsations, songs and environmental sounds to be heard simultaneously from the multiple platforms of the scaffold. One video depicts m y partner Matt riding on the top of the scaffolding strapped to the roo f of my moving car. Saying yes to my invitation, t he video shows the ride atop the roof from the construction rental site where we attached the metal frames to t he gallery at speeds reaching 50 mph. This yes on his part transferred the responsibility to myself as the driver and placed him in a vulnera ble place of trusting me behind the wheel. I understood with clarity the aff ects of not seeing a speed bump, stopping too fast or making other reckless errors. My awareness to the accen tuated due to the precarious placement of bodies in a moving space This simple action al lowed us to feel something real, an actualized experience of connection and trust The car became our machine of subjectivity and tested the limits of what we woul d allow the other to do. He described this experience in one of several notebooks placed with the gallery. The event of moving the scaffold became a performance with the scaffold as the stage. A woman ve hemently yelled at us about the dangers involved, while horns honked, fingers
12 were pointed and laughter ensued by children whose neighborhoods we passed through Our intimate relationship was symbolically experimented with as the action displayed an active position of being able to hurt or nurture the ot her. Another video playing within Trying to Trust You More is of a burned house being of multiple colors This substance is used in construction to mark a cut and in turn highlights what needs to be removed. A shamanistic hand is seen throughout the video colorin g th e burnt frame of the house adding a layer of colored chalk to the ash and debris that lay around. An empty and abandoned house exists in its mo st destructed form while still hinting at the lives that once occupied the space. One picture remains. One shirt is thrown on the floor. The color of the chalk spreads through the air and rests on each of these items along with the walls that remain, cr eating an abstract site specific painting. A police officer interrupted the action defensive of any vandalism that was occurring on the abandoned property. Q uestioning my artistic motivations a conversation was born which changed his position from one of protecting a space to protecting myself, the intruder. He spoke with concern for my well being and safety due to the d angerous location of the house and history of the house post residential space.
13 Another video within the installation was strapped t o an accessible ceiling compartment that my bed sat in within the scaffold inserted into the gallery. P eople while on the bed, could look up to view the video of my friend Alex, riding on the back of an old racing cart pulled by my bike. We rode this up dated rig from my house to the studio and back again while performing a series of movements testing our balance or lack of balance that occurred throughout this ride. While the element of play is heavy throughout each action the element of risk is also present. As movements change, ones attention is drawn to these tw o seemingly contrasted states as they co exist between the road and each other. His movements are sexually explicit while at the same time over the top and often humorous. Holding each pos e on the apparatus resembled an experimental yoga practice in motion. The bike moves at a fraction of the speed of the surrounding env ironment of cars, allowing us a brief audience before they whirled past us. The last video recorded within the series shows a s et of actions within the gallery of swinging, pulling and passing ropes back and forth between my partner and me while climbing the floor to ceiling scaffold. We could only show the video of
14 the action of us on the scaffolding within the gallery opposed to a live performance due to and in response to gallery liability which allowed no access to the physical form itself. The cited university rule for no physical interaction with the scaffolding read, Appendix M: Rules Governing the Use of Huma n Subjects, which states that in all research, developmental and related activities involving the use of human subjects (INCLUDING oneself) the university seeks assurance that those persons who participate as subjects or volunteers does not get exposed to unreasonable risks to their health, general well being or privacy. All Projects involving human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the University s Institutional Review Board before the planned research may begin. The IRB is a
15 committee of appoint ed volunteers who review and approve the use of human s Th e scaffold turned stage within the gallery allowed for past actions of the videos and cur rent actions of the storytelling to play out toget her, contemporaneously. The video depicts the surrounding gallery environment and the other artist s work which circled my installation, giving an ari a l viewpoint, as this rope was passed back and forth in a weaving pattern through the scaffold. These ot her artworks within the exhibition became a stable point of reference for our movements. Chapter Three: Exchanges Artists such as Jenny Marketou influence d Trying to Trust You More with project s like T he Limits of the Social Within the Wild, Translocal Camp in my T ent Here she asks wh at does it mean to be a nomad and experiments with places she may or may not have the right to spend the night in During this twelve year endeavor the artist camps out in different locations then streams video s to the gallery. The project documents the form of a pseudo public action within places from parks to boats. Her intent is in part to explore private and public spheres and test the allowances of each and the intera ctions of the people that police each sphere.
16 The Commons directs a similar openness and authorship that my work is interested in. B y inviting viewers to reframe the notion of traditional monuments as a repository for collective meaning and as a place for exchange a conversation is born from the debris of text left behind on the form A riderless horse sculpture fashioned after the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius is placed within a gallery opening the encount er to audience participation, performed with words and stories, growing with each action. In Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis Achille Mbembe and Janet Roitman descri be a regime of subjectivity as a way of living representing and experiencing tog etherness while at the same time inscribing this experience in the mentality, understanding an d language of historical time. (Mbembe, Roitman, 1995). Fundred negotiates ideas of risk and responsibility, as the project draws awareness to extreme levels of lead present throughout parts of New Orleans. The project asks participants to draw on fake money that will be collected and delivered to the steps of the capital in Washington D.C. asking for an even ex change. Chin spoke this
17 These projects extend parts of the people and their gestures out towards the environment, intertwining action and place with a physical outcome. Actions transmute mere symbols or ideas and are infused with life as they are tested and experimented in different spheres. Chapter Four: What is in Control? Slovaj ZIzkek spoke in Z uccotti Park during the NYC Occupy movement, saying however that we needed to assert that we are always allowed to think alternatively. The red monument inside Zuccotti Park ch anged functions during the time of the movement in which this public park became home to the campers and supporters. The once stagnant red structure became not only the central marker of a meeting ground, it became a chalkboard to leave notes, stories, af firmations and a platform to ask questions. The form was performed and purpose and placement of this constructed community. cathedral was covered from top to bottom in scaffolding due to renovations. This
1 8 metal frame bracing t he outside of the cathedral for renovation resembled an exoskeleton for this collective body entering in the doorways on that Ash Wednesday. As I entered the arched doorways, I realized that both the inside and outside of the cathedral was covered floor t o ceiling in scaffolding. By la yering both the exterior and interior space with a set of vertical and horizontal planes the form was changed from a stable environment to one in a process of transformation. This insertion of functional, construction equ ipment acted as a sign to me of a form that was in flux. I have always been encouraged through such street assemblages to enter these spaces that were delineated through the construction equipment, signaling that the space was perhaps no longer in full use, perhaps abandoned for reconstruction and renovation all together. This structure only made me want to physically climb, swing and walk through these new, temporal passages of a space I have been in many tim es to observe a Catholicism of ritual. The explorative movement, which I imagined inserting, was governed by this
19 new structure This space of symbolic action, initiated the gathering of a community. This frail building was nothing more than a contai ner for people to act out their own desires and personal narratives. My initial desires to disrupt this methodic horizontal action of the congregation passing one by one in front of the priest, with a vertical climb upwards towards the highest plateau o f a symbolic heaven space was intended only for my imagination W ith security guards and policeman at every corner no movement beyond that of observation and compliance would be allowed or supported by either the guards or the members of the congregation. The understood behavior in such a governed space is nurtured again on each side of the altar. described in Discipline and Punish is thought of as another mechanism that automatizes and dis individuali zes power. The Panopticon was also a laboratory, which could be used as a machine to ca rry out experiments, change behaviors, observe performances and to train or correct individuals. (Foucault, 1975). A woman sat behind me nd how perplexed must any womb born
20 A recent visit to Washing ton D.C. gave me the chance to o bserve the Washington monument with scaffolding all around it, extending more than half way throughout the erect form. Three children were next to me as I viewed this monument discussing why the construction was underway, with the conclusion that bricks were falling out and the people in charge would be fixing it. The brokenness changed to one of being in the process of becoming and developing. In Bubbles Peter Sloterdijk nature of matter that the phenomenology of imperial roundness must turn into a critical gynecology of the state and the large chur ches and above all modern nation states are not least space political attempts to recreate fantastic wombs for infantilized mass populations by imaginary and institutional means in attempts to find their bear ings in this unstable super 2011, 545).
21 Chapter Five: Conclusion My work and research focuses on how structures can hold and direct a body and how we in turn can hold and direct each other. Elements of risk and vulnerability are highlighted throughout projects as it seems only when we are literally affected in a singular way are we in a state of awareness. In a series entitled, Schizochaosmosis different platforms were used to experiment with these ideas. In one part of the installatio n my body as the performer merged with the form of the tire and was governed by the shape, texture, size and precarious placement of the heavy form I crawled, laid and rubbed on top and in between these re cycled forms to understand my body in differing cars. To feel it on my skin changed that per ception of its object ness. The residue left on different parts of my body from the tar intertwined our physicality and merged the debris of this shared action.
22 Another installation entitled, An Affective Series allows for a play on balance to occur. The project asks who or what is in control, the structure, the other person or yourself? Within relating to any other body from environments to lovers it seems to always be a question of merging. I loose part of myself to the person I am with and in pa rt am left responsible for now parts of myself but also parts of the other. We affect each other. When one is thrown off balance, the other in turn feels it. These projects along with Trying to Trust You More look at the gallery as a frame for experimentation and a monu ment to its own form. Using for m s and structure s as allies, the process of each project test s what the space can hold and what configuration of relational and mutual knowledge can be found within the setting.
23 Trying to Trust You More composes a collage where the space resides in a continual process of reinvent ion through each add ed contribution and interaction. E ach participant, reader and writer exists as the changing dynamic a nd their stories and thei r bodies, become the material supporting a singularity of our social experience. As individuals share their stories very specific unto themselves difference merges yet is united through their humanness.
24 Bibliography Benjamin Walter. The Storyteller (e xcerpt), from Orient und Okzident 1936. Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter Duke University Press. 2010. Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics Les Presses Du Reel. 2002. Guattari, Felix. The Three Ecologies The Athlone Press. 1989. Foucoult, Michel. Punish and Discipline Penguin Books, Ltd. 1975. Mbembe Lee, Pamela. Objects to be Destroyed, the Work of Gordon Matta Clark MIT Press. 2000. Mbembe, Achille and Roitman Janet Figures of the Subject in Times of Crisis The University of Chicago Press. 1995. Sloterdijk, Peter. Spheres, Volume I: Bubbles, Microshperology Semiotext(e). 2011.