THE WORD BECOMES FLESH
NAN GIESIE GALLERY//CDU//07.07.18
THE//WORD//BECOMES//FLESH is the culmination of the last eighteen months of research as part of my Masters by Research in Visual Arts at Charles Darwin University. Let me start by saying that this opportunity, this time, to be in my studio, thinking through the materiality of my practice has been unequivocally the most fruitful and creative space I have inhabited to date. It is the space of anything good I have made with my body. I’m so grateful for all of it.
I have made a deliberate point in my life to study formally only that which seemed incongruous to any notion of employability. Philosophy, Theology, Art! I have refused to study with a job in mind. I feel like this approach allows for a kind of becoming that, being deliberately undetermined, concedes creative possibilities that otherwise would have been foreclosed; I live for those possibilities. In saying that, I have desired nothing more for most of my life than to be an artist, whatever that is, however dubiously it’s labour is to be renumerated for us members of the working/drinking classes; although there are powerful and persuasive forces at work to steer that drive toward delimited and stifling ruts of thought and of action. It’s a dynamic I struggle with every day: once led by fanatic ideology, now by the power of capital; constraints against the creative thrust are ever present dead ends.
I, however, am learning how to veer.
I have always been a child of ‘The Text’, and, for me as an artist there is no creative force without a text in mind and in action. So my practice is very much a discursive one. Although it relies on that which is seen, it must ultimately be read. Also, if by some miracle the force of it is sufficiently imbued, to cause a re-reading of one’s own self; it’s suspicions and possibilities; yourself as a text? Lordy aspirations I know, but a girl can dream.
THE//WORD//BECOMES//FLESH brings together all of my material pleasures: wax, text and flesh. I see their trinitarian interrelation much the same as the holy Godhead of the Bible; three in one, one in three. I feel they all speak in differing ways to notions of embodiment. It’s these qualities that I am exploring in this work.
The specific text I refer too in this exhibition is found in the Gospel of St. John, where it is said that ‘The Word became flesh… and dwelt among us.” (John 1: 1-14ish)I have always been fascinated by this passage of scripture. It defines, or at least creates the ground for theologising the incarnation of the Christ; a concept accepted as gospel truth for a huge swathe of the global population.
I am interested in the way that texts, specifically Biblical texts are read as non-texts as if the things they say are somehow true before or outside of themselves. Of course, no one ever said that the Christ was the Word made flesh outside the publishing of the gospel of St. John and those through whom it came into being; nonetheless, it is taken as truth with a capital ’T’; asserting it has always been.
I take the peculiarity of this text, this singular triumphant statement, and apply its miracle, creatively to other possibilities. What happens when words become flesh? What kinds of flesh can be created? And what, that I can identify as fleshly in myself came from which texts? Can this process be reversed? What texts can be created from my flesh? Though it seems obvious that all texts are created at least in some pragmatic way by flesh covered subjects, which came first?
Wax is so important to this triangular approach for its visible flesh like qualities and its loaded history of ‘standing in for’ as human simulacrum. In this work, I have created an encaustic (wax) flesh field. It contains words stencilled in scar-like wax, “THE WORD BECOMES FLESH, THE FLESH BECOMES TEXT”. This visceral, flesh-like, ‘porky’ screen gives way to the stilted, shifting, forming, fleshy and exposed movement of my naked body. An installation blurring the analogue and the digital; the painterly and the performative; the sculptural and the unscrupulous.
Of course, conceptually it is nothing original, informed entirely by those mummies and daddies of queer theory that have nursed me at their collective milky appendages.
Finally, though I love the myriad of pleasures and opportunities a city like Darwin affords. Its queer offerings are meagre. Much of LGBTIQ life here is driven by respectability politics; ‘gay’ life by depressingly homogenous and toxic notions of masculinity. And while it has its place, of course, it bores me shitless! I guess I have tried to create something upon which I can feed myself. I hope if you are queer, you might find a home amongst the folds of this work, I hope if you are gay you will find a space to smile. I hope that anyone else will find a feast for the eyes and for the ears, and perhaps leave with a suspicion of the possible.