curated screening presented at Chalton Gallery, London, 23.03.2016
A lifeless cloth doll and a wire frame body with a head. Two mothers, one bottle, and one unsuspecting non-human primate. The wire frame body with a head has the bottle… just to see, to prove. The test subject clings monkey-body to motionless cloth doll for comfort, visits the wire frame mother only to eat. And it goes on.
Harry Harlow’s ethically contestable experiment with infant rhesus macaques in the 1950s set out to examine mother-infant bonds; the non-human body standing in for the human. Linking development with consoling touch, close contact becomes theorized as crucial nourishment parallel to what’s in the bottle. Of course, as many looking back on this have no doubt pointed out, the experiment also demonstrates the latent cruelty of human-primates. The kind of cruelty that doesn’t recognize itself. It simply perpetuates.
Like it is with the care-givers of cloth and wire, we perform ourselves to get what we need, investing the appropriate amounts of time in each case. We hope there is a unified response to this investment, unlike the experiment. To be held in return. Nourished. Action receiving reaction. Sometimes this isn’t the case with living care-givers, sometimes it gets complicated. Sometimes signals aren’t received, and sometimes they aren’t even sent; care-giver and care-seeker are sometimes on level ground, sometimes not.
This program considers, with intricate variance, selves conveying and not conveying their needs, frustrations, and defiance. At times raw and direct, at other times with the subtlety of non-verbal language. Hints at inner lives puncture through, selves searching for a face to put forward, to question, to name, to confound. Anxious, depressed, on the spectrum, all of the above, none of the above. Self defined. Terms float, are interrogated, or ignored. Selves shake their heads, up and down, left and right, simultaneously, to answer the same question. All this, and it becomes clear: it’s all of us. It’s closer to home than you could’ve ever imagined.
Being Fucked Up, Emily Vey Duke & Cooper Battersby, 2001, 10:16
gains + losses, Leslie Supnet, 2011, 3:26
Sight, Thirza Cuthand, 2012, 3:33
Flares for the Melodic Forest, John Forget, 2009, 8:00
Scrapbook, Mike Hoolboom, 2015, 18:49
Per Se, Deirdre Logue, 2005, 4:00
Love and Numbers, Thirza Cuthand, 2004, 9:00
Assplay, Steve Reinke, 1995, 1:37
Amethyst Visions, Leslie Supnet, 2012, 3:41
*Programme notes available here.