With a promise to explore ‘the body as object, as landscape, and as commodity’, the artists behind Matter of Bodies | Bodies that Matter had a lot to fit into the confines of LS6’s intimate events space.
On entry, you are confronted with a video montage considerately entitled ‘If you’re squeamish look away’. Footage of real surgical procedures, prosthetic gore from a film, and digitally generated images of the heart and eye are spliced together in an attempt to explore ‘the ability digital images have to conceal and augment reality’. Not seeing myself as a squeamish person, I was both surprised and pleased to find there was something distinctly uncomfortable about the piece. Alongside the cool and unmoving digital imagery, the real surgical footage feels exaggerated, theatrical and bizarrely artificial, with the one clip of fabricated gore remaining the most disturbing.
The exhibition continues with a pair of abstract yet unquestionably fleshy wax sculptures, a parody of Malevich’s abstract and highly simplistic painting style, and a series of photographs exploring how the body inhabits and identifies with urban spaces.
For me, however, the digitally rendered photography series ‘Page 3’ proved to be most captivating. Slightly transparent fabric is used to ‘simultaneously reveal and conceal the naked body’, while any exposed flesh is edited out of the images, ‘removing its identity’. The artist expresses their intent to ‘disassemble the construct of the male gaze’, and I would argue the work more than achieves this. The body is transformed into an ambiguous object, requiring the viewer to pay close attention in order to distinguish it as human. The work exemplifies the aspirations of the exhibition, both confronting us with and separating us from the associations we hold with parts of the body and the body as whole.
Image courtesy of Gabriella Davis