NO-ONE KNOWS WHAT A BODY CAN DO?

Text by Curators

 

3rd Edithion Eau&Gaz at Lanserhaus, Eppan. Artists: Susan Kooi & Lukas Hoffmann, Samet Yilamz (formerly known as k.i.Beyoncé), Eugenia Lapteva & Erik Gustafsson, Arnaud Lajeunie, Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield, Michell VVolta, Christian Fogarolli, Masatoshi Noguchi, Stefano Bernardi

The doctrine of affects by Baruch de Spinoza (1632–1677) follows a widespread trend in philosophical rationalism of the 17th Century: passion, feelings and moods – briefly, affects – were naturalised and stripped of their moral implications. For Spinoza, nature and its laws were ubiquitous, resulting in his aim to “consider human actions and desires in exactly the same manner in which lines, planes or bodies are considered.” 

The question “No-one knows what a body can do?” originates from Spinoza’s main body of work Ethics. Its importance lies in its ability to broaden perspectives of bodily foundation and mental activity. In this sense, Spinoza turned his back on Descarte’s thinking and attempted to abolish the duality of mind and body. Spinoza assumed that “the body exceeds our knowledge of it” and that “we do not yet know what the body is capable of”. The question surfaces whether it is the body which determines our actions; before we act as subjects, it is the body which acts through us. This assumption calls for a “material thinking” which encompasses hidden, contingent actions of the body. 

The body endures perpetual negation by the subject, which is itself generated through repeated, performative acts of speech. Due to its implementation through perpetual repetition, its constituting process can never be completed, leading to the possibility of shifts or lapses in meaning. The subject’s attempts to replace the body make it appear as the “origin of agency”. However, the idea of the body as a vacant shell, a tabula rasa into which discourse writes itself forgets that the materiality of the body is not merely a mould, but its very precondition, moving in a prediscursive reality evading semantic comprehension. Affects can thus never be understood solely through language, but only through a grammar of the body. 

The exhibition examines the notion of interpolation in its various senses of application and usage. In literature, interpolation describes the insertion of words, phrases or paragraphs in a reproduced text, altering the original version. Philosophical text analysis attempts to distinguish such interpolations from the templates. Can this method be applied to the operative constitution process of the subject? Is there such a thing as bodily materiality unaffected by semantic order? Or can interpolation, perhaps, be clarifying in understanding the reciprocal relation between material and linguistic performativity? 

The two-part video-installation “rn nw prt m hrw. My name is not to say my name” by Susan Kooi and Lukas Hoffmann addresses the idea of transformation by introducing the ancient Egyptians’ Book of the Dead, a loose collection of magic spells and liturgical instructions meant as a guide through the realm of the dead. This reincarnation, however, is not reduced to life after death, but also alludes to specific passages of the book suggesting magic spells for transforming the dead into different beings, with the ability to travel back to the realm of the living by day. By uttering the words of the spells, the ontological substance of the signified is transferred to the word. Most chapters of the Book of the Dead begin with the word “ro”, meaning mouth, speech, chapter or spell. This realm of meanings offers insight into the ancient Egyptian belief in the magic powers of words.

Samet Yilamz (formerly known as k.i.Beyoncé) consists of the members S. Kooi, L. Hoffmann, L. Meijers, E. Baggen and N. Oosterveen. They started out in an artspace consisting in a flooded basement in Amsterdam. In the meantime, after dismissing their previous name, they have undergone a radical image change. Regardless of the name, they see themselves as “a group that developed a way of being in the art world”. In their work “The Crusade”, the members, including our residency artists, are woven into a carpet showing them in their preferred love pose. 

The visual essay “The New Infinity: A State of Being or Becoming” by Eugenia Lapteva and Erik Gustafsson deals with the both psychoanalytical and philosophical examinations of human relationships during a time when our existence reaches far beyond our bodily world of experience into the realm of social networks and online portals. For the video-essay, a succession of still and moving images, collected from personal archives, was formed in response to a written theoretical piece. Text and visual background enter into dialogue with each other, intersect and collide.

Arnaud Lajeunie works in fashion photography as well as being co-editor and photo-editor of the alternative erotic magazine L’imparfaite. Constantly confronted with conventional expectations regarding the idealisation and eroticisation of the body in this context, Arnaud Lajeunie answers by drawing attention to the unexpectedly beautiful or the bizarre. By offering forms of representation that go beyond the normative, the bodies are given back their spaces of movement and expression. The use of lighting and colour pigments allow for them to merge with their surroundings. 

“Not the word after practice but the word as practice, not theory before practice but theory as practice.” Jonathan Lahey Dronsfield considers theory to be artistic practice. What art says and what can be said about art is what constitutes his research. “Reading out loud Spinoza” is an ongoing project. During the performative lecture, Spinoza’s Ethik is read aloud over the course of twenty-four hours, taking the transcription of the previous performance as its starting point, including its repetitions, mistakes and comments. Each participant is invited to read aloud and thus become part of the bodily effect influencing the text. These arduous performances aim to transform text into practice and thus adequately appreciate the quote “no-one knows what a body can do” by Spinoza.

Michell VVolta sings in different languages and tells many stories. She is a resonating body, a collective, an idea. She draws on citations, reverses meanings and bears on the affective empathy incited by songs of battle, questioning notions of authorship and authenticity. During her latest performance “Aber jetzt…denn Lieder bewirken viel” in Munich, she sang of the shortcomings of capitalist societies. MichellVVolta was specially invited to perform at the exhibition opening. For this occasion, she will bring new songs to delight our audience – this much may be said. 

Two contradicting forces recur in Christian Fogarolli’s works: the will to destroy as well as a striving for restoration. Archives and practices of reconstructing the past play an important role in his work, as do themes of loss and regeneration of physical bodies as well as identities. Shifting the question from “what can a body do?” to “what can a disabled body do?” extends our knowledge of agency as well as our realms of experience. 

Masatoshi Noguchi investigates the gap between experience and mediation. In his contribution for the catalogue he compares the artistic practice of Hamish Fulton to that of On Kawara. Both artists use the aesthetic of reduction as a means of representation in order to reinforce the singularity of individual experience. The information visible in the artworks is largely limited to times and dates, their form pointing to the pure existence of experience, becoming objects of experience.

In collaboration with SaltoTalk, the artist residency invites to an evening walk during which the South Tyrolean artist Stefano Bernardi will make the woods of the Gleifwald resound. In his installations, he develops unusual instruments with which he performs his own compositions.