Audrey Baldwin Week 2 Blog
Apologies in advance - I’ve been sick this week, so this post may be a tad scattered. I don’t often get taken down with coughs, colds or sniffles, so when I do I am magnificently pathetic. On Wednesday, I shuffled to the studio, after stopping off to spend a lot of money on pain killers, Lemsip, Coldrex tablets and a litre of orange juice. After my musings last week about props, I also brought along some balloons and tinsel to play with in the studio.
Exploring further ideas from my on-going thoughts on failure, gravity and tragi-comedy, I spent some time reading aloud from a text while attempting to keep a green balloon airborne. At first it was easy, but my movements became increasingly frantic and laboured as time went on.
I’d like to push this further, whether it’s by complicating it and adding another balloon to keep off the ground or reading a longer/more involved text - the task oriented approach and the genuine unpredictable nature of the movement interests and satisfies me.
I have a link to a great text on burn out and being busy in the arts that I thought could be a bit on the nose to read while trying to juggle balloons.
I love the parallels that many artists share in their practices - Julia Harvie too is a tad obsessed with balloons. It was great to see some of her works involving them as playful and grotesque materials.
There is something so poetic and bodily about balloons - they are like a camp metaphor for the human condition.
- Their stretchy outer casing is sensitive to light/heat/cold
- They are able to withstand more pressure than you might expect
-They are unpredictable and easily influenced by everything around them
-They change nature depending on what matter they‘re filled with
- They’re also fleeting and have no definite purpose for their existence, but still manage to make people happy or at least entertained.
I spent some time blowing balloons up until they popped and then trying to hunt down the exploded shreds to reassemble them into drawings.
I also freaked out some visiting CPIT students, having stuck tinsel over one eye and jogging in circles in the space with the door open…
This odd looking activity spawned from my love of cats and whisker envy. I’ve always been interested in extending the body beyond it’s normal limits. Influenced by my one of my old favourite artists - Rebecca Horn as well as building on works I did with Julia Croucher as part of To and Fro at Artspace, I re-visited the idea of creating whisker-like eyebrow extensions. Covering my eyes yet expanding my spatial awareness like tendrils and encouraging me to move differently.
The mirrored tinsel had a great sense of push-pull - both blinding me and hiding my eyes but offering the viewer multiple reflections, including that of their own gaze.
I ventured outside into the wind and had a really enjoyable time trying to move with my extensions as the wind whipped them around my body unpredictably. The sinuous, reflective nature of them was really satisfying. The way it translated the air currents into something visual had me quite enchanted.
I was also thinking about my upcoming movement lab and some exercises that I wanted to explore while I have the opportunity.
Flying Solo vs. Working together
I had a really great (if somewhat fuzzy and sniffly) conversation with Julia in the studio in the afternoon. She highlighted the fact that a movement lab could be a method of me viewing movement and performance from a different, slightly removed point of view.
I have always used my own body to enact things, so I forget that there are like-minded people who may be willing to put their forms to use!
There are a couple of reasons that I use my own body, as opposed to hiring or choreographing other people. The main reason is that many of my works I feel driven to enact; the physicality of them, the embodying of the experience for me is like the exorcism of an idea. I can only understand and feel relieved of it if I explore it tangibly - the idea is like electricity - I need it to go right through me; whether it’s a pleasant experience or not.
Which brings me to the second reason - a lot of the works I do are not necessarily pleasant to endure. I started off my performance art …journey… by tying myself up with pigs intestines in year 13. This was the only project that my amazing teacher supported but wanted no part of the process. This action was followed by tying my hair to a rail and essentially hanging my body weight off it in art school. For the Dunedin Fringe Festival, I licked panes of toffee for 3 hours or so at the Blue Oyster Gallery. A couple of years later, I staged a ‘pubic gorging’ and ate a bucket and a half of KFC in 25 minutes (which may sound satisfying, but after the 8th piece of chicken, you really begin to wonder about your life decisions). I’ve also had 6 hooks put into the flesh of my back and been attached to the wall of a gallery.
I would never expect anyone to put their body through these sorts of experiences unless it was for their own work or something they felt very passionate about. However, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to have an outside view of some movements/actions that I come up with! And don’t worry; there won’t be any chicken, hooks or guts involved.
Looking back on my early works, and after a conversation with Hana Aoake, I also realise how it’s almost stereotypical female performance artists suffer physically and/or emotionally for their work. Many performance artists explore limits of pain, endurance and vulnerability. I wonder if, for them as it has been for me, it’s a method of taking charge of our frustrations at (patriarchal) society and the ills enacted upon so many women that make us choose to do it - is it a way of enabling us to look at it objectively and regain some semblance of power and control over our bodies? I wonder if they also share a sense of catharsis once they have embodied something brutal and painful by their own choice.
Someone once asked me if my intended audience was ‘damaged women’. I was quite taken aback; it had never been something I thought about - I just make the work that I feel needs to be made. However, since 1 in 4 women (probably more; my statistics are likely out of date) could be considered ‘damaged’ by sexual assault, emotional or physical abuse, then yes, I guess that is my audience - people who may share my frustration at a society which is nigh impossible to navigate without being ‘damaged’ in some way.
Some key works in relation to these musings:
Lips of St Thomas and Rhythm 0
‘Rape Scene’ *trigger warning*
Meat Dress for an Albino Anorectic, 1987
(Lady Gaga eat your heart out)
Loving Care 1993
I find this work especially relevant to a movement practice - the repetition, the visceral nature of it, the absurdity and the way that it incorporates the whole body and forces the audience to move their own bodies in response to the work.
Woah. That got heavy. However, it’s something that I think it’s important to address in regards to my practice and something that I suspect many people wonder about but are hesitant to ask me.
Never fear though, the Lab won’t be causing any damage to anyone and will be far more playful than this philosophical/melancholic post - in my state I would’ve expected it to be more… phlegmatic in nature *ba dum dum tish*
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