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Learn more about the Large Hadron Collider. More FAQs. CERN and the Higgs boson. High-Luminosity LHC. More about our impact. This rehearsed and carefully documented version was repeated once more at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut in fig.
No critical attempt has been made to situate these two artists together, despite the fact that there is an important similarity in the way in which they chose to mediate their bodies in their art. This concept of an abbreviated bodily sign can be seen in a photograph of a work by Mendieta which Spero acquired in the early s, at a time when the artist was creating her series of tributes to her friend. This shadow image — an icon which has become emblematic of the ghostly human imprints left by nuclear genocide — has been adopted by Spero many times as a printed and collaged female figure, and which she imbues with symbolic significance as an archetypal sign of female suffering and endurance fig.
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Are these bloody tracks indicative of something other than the physical form which composed them? Using Mendieta in this comparative sense is not repressive or inaccurate as it also allows for an interesting discussion of her art in the context of a body of work which she is known to have greatly admired. I speak. Or so we think, until we go back to to an earlier piece of writing composed by Spero which describes how her body is mediated by her entourage of iconic female figures.
Expression may be abstracted, but the body is present even if in disguise. The moment of touch and the aura of presence it encapsulates were radically lost in this palimpsest of retracings. Yet this idea of an archival trace of absence conflicts with the sense of positive agency generated in this act of homage. She mediated the trace of another, retelling it in her own story, and each time she repeated the gesture she slightly altered its emphasis.
Mendieta, for example, used her hands and arms in her performance while Spero used only the former, and in the case when Spero used her hands as a brush, the markings signified an older body contorted with the pain of arthritis. The traces of her frail hands — unsteady, uncertain, stunted as the creaky fingers mark their stiff and slow trajectory — retrace and commemorate the marks of a more able body.
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Likewise, Mendieta made subtle variations in the tracks left by her body in , positioning her hands and arms at slightly different points on the paper in order to individualise each marking. Each work therefore had its own distinct identity and the model of generative reproduction implied in this encounter suggests a positive and insistent sense of remembering. Discounting the logic of the archive which she sees as being dominated by the privileging of sight and the value of the object, she promotes a form of remembering that short-circuits the emphasis on disappearance usually associated with performance art and its documentation.
One thinks of the orchestral conductor, divorced from the physical creation of sound yet crucial to its mode of expression. The gesture of Body Tracks becomes a language or a voice that enables Spero to articulate her homage to Mendieta. She is both active mediator and passive receptacle in this complex display of presence and absence. Beginning with her adoption of the voice of the French poet Antonin Artaud in her Artaud Paintings , she has developed a highly mediated form of self-expression that has evolved from a passive ventriloquism into a more empowered sense of speaking through another.
Rejecting the optical and tactile self-portrait, she exerts her presence at a distance from the eye and the hand. Codex Artaud encapsulates this form of abstract communication. Cinematic in its spatial dimensions, the scroll spans twenty-nine panels made in gouache, painting and typewriting collage on paper. Three-headed serpents, hermaphroditic bodies and ambiguous forms with heads and phallic tongues share the white expanse of paper with bulletin-typed letters collaged to the surface.
In panel six, for example fig. At first there appears to be a major difference in the way in which she pays homage to Mendieta and vocalises Artaud. Artaud writes of being profoundly incomprehensible as a body without limits or boundaries and, while Spero can relate to this experience of silence and powerlessness, at the same time her disembodied voice enables her to be comprehensible.
The cultural historian Steven Connor, in his study of ventriloquism published in , describes how the ventriloquial voice can have both an active and passive form in accordance with whether it is viewed as the power to speak through others, or the experience of being spoken through by others. In particular, the artists attempt to avoid the pitfalls that transpire from imaging the self in an essentialist endorsement of the female body. In artistic terms, this is imaged and expressed in a substitute form that resists visual, tactile or spoken mediation.
For Mendieta this is a template of her body which she adopted occasionally in her Silueta Series of — It was made by her lying on a piece of foam core board and having her contours traced and then cut out from the material. In one Silueta from fig. No matter how many times these photographs are reproduced, they will always refer to a body that is already absent.
Even in those instances where her body was traced literally in the earth, this tactile mark operated in the same vein as her Body Tracks — as a stylised re -presentation. Avoiding the narcissistic mirror image, Mendieta adopted various disguises in order to mediate a presence that was in essence oblique and the Siluetas evolve as a single self-portrait composed of constantly changing elements.
This is not a repetition based on a memory of what is absent or lost, and neither is it a chaotic, groundless simulacrum operating in a vacuous mise-en-abyme of difference. This political strategy of distanciation is shared by Spero in her own equivalent of a template form, except here the effigy is based on a ready-made icon rather than the dimensions of her own body.
The printing plate references a source that is often unlocatable, and so there is very little point in trying to determine the origin of her wide-ranging iconography. Her methodology comprises of research in visual source material, and when she finds an image of interest, she traces it or has it copied and directly transferred to a printing plate without her mediation.
Even when her hand is engaged in the initial tracing process, this preliminary stage of drawing is made inaccessible by the process of transplanting as in the case of collage and translating as in the case of the printing plate. While they are not based directly on her body, they mediate her presence via the artistic agency that is reflected in their manipulation by hand and their choreographic positioning on paper. Hand-printing is peculiarly bound to and separate from the hand and it affords the freedom and physical engagement that one finds in painting and drawing.
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While the printing plate cannot relay the physical or conceptual directness of the drawn or painted mark, the hand is in constant contact with the plate, rubbing it, moving it, and pressing down on it. The repetition of the running figure in panel seven, for example, reveals how the handprinting method ensures difference even if the template of the figure remains the same.
Each print registers the changes produced by varying the speed and pressure applied to the plate, and the colour and manner in which the paint is applied.
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There is a humanist element in the way in which Spero and Mendieta see their art as performing their subjectivity, even if this personal reference is veiled and unconnected from the body in a literal sense. But does this mean that they are any less affirmatory or meaningful? Spero does, however, locate her agency and identity as a woman artist through her acts of borrowing and disguise, and it is an agency which is not only realised through her critical mimicry of artistic precedents set by men.
Performance, Poetry and Dance University of London, Download the print version. Joanna S. Tate Papers ISSN is a peer-reviewed research journal that publishes articles on British and modern international art, and on museum practice today. Main menu additional Become a Member Shop.