St i ll
Exhibition by Maria K Steinsson
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Aug 27 – Sept 28, 2015
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t A d is pleased to present this exhibition entitled St i ll , featuring the work by artist Maria K Steinsson, who lives and works in Reykjavik, Iceland. The exhibit consists of three major bodies of work by the artist: Flat 5, Flat 301, and 3:05 – 3:06 pm Reading Newspaper.
Steinsson photographs the everyday places, people, and activities using long exposures to capture the entire happening of event in one shot. Steinsson describes her images as containing “the performed activity rather than simply displaying a split second of it. Each moment fades and what remains is the ambience of overlapping moments.”
St i ll opens the first exhibition for the project Outskirts: Bodies, Places, and Identities organized by t A d. It is a multi-exhibition project for and about women.
selected images from Flat 5 (2012).
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What The Body Is; What The Body Do
by araya vivorakij, curator
St i ll opens the first exhibition for Outskirts: Bodies, Places, and Identities — a project for and about women. This curatorial alignment wouldn’t have been realized without the concerted effort and genial help of the artist, Maria K Steinsson. Her work elicits a sense of ethereal wonder, offering boundless possibility to be discovered. It moves me to trace the shadowy body in her photographs, and to bring forth the two concerns that have been in the heart of feminist writings and theories over decades — the body and the domestic sphere.
“It moves. It feels.” Brian Massumi
Steinsson presents three bodies of work in this exhibit. They all portray the idea of one’s private life. Flat 5, for example, is a series of 15 photographs that record the artist’s daily activities at home and alone. It resembles a kind of picture diary. Her log begins with the titles 8:15-8:19 Waking Up, 8:19-8:21 Getting Out of Bed, … and continues onto 18:45-19:00 Cooking Dinner, … 00:05-00:15 Falling Asleep. Using long exposures, Steinsson is able to photograph these activities precisely as what they should be: happenings or events. More important in this discussion is the way Steinsson captures herself (her body) in the photographs, exposing what the body is. Feminist theorist Elizabeth Grosz asserts that any understanding of the body requires a spatial and temporal framework. The spatiality and temporality embodied in Steinsson’s photographs reveal the body as that blur, the indistinct shape created by her long exposures. The body is clearly the movement, the happening, the event.
Social theorist, writer, and philosopher Brian Massumi puts it this way: “[w]hen I think of my body and as what it does to earn that name, two things stand out. It moves. It feels. In fact, it does both at the same time. It moves as it feels, and it feels itself moving.” This quote resonates with Steinsson’s images of her lived body as it breathes, sleeps, eats, acts and interacts in time and space. Movement and sensation intrinsically constitute her body as event —malleable, fluid, transposable, and alive.
“I’m not inside anything. I’m not outside it, either.” Denise Riley
In some photographs, the body appears as if it has a ghost-like double, or doppelgänger. Doppelgänger is a fictional phenomenon, often portrayed in psychological thrillers. This phenomenon, in fact, bears a resemblance to the real-life experience of the phantom limb or the body phantom. Seeing and sensing the phantom, from the neuropsychiatric perspective, is not pathological but a normal bodily experience. It occurs because we experience the body through movement and sensation not in itself, but in tandem with a series of mediated body images in the mind. Visually akin to the phantom-like images of Steinsson’s, the lived experience of the body is virtual, abstract, and multiple.Read more
Witnessed in the phantom experience is the body’s capacity to integrate with external objects. It enables people to drive a car, see with contact lenses, or run with artificial limbs. The body blends in with the objects. In Steinsson’s video, entitled Flat 301, some images see the body visually merged into the surroundings. The body is neither inside nor outside, but one with the space. This bodily capacity also points to the inherent openness of the body to and in social context, making it pliable to the various symbolic sociocultural meanings that encompass everyday spaces and objects.
The domestic sphere is a culturally gendered, feminized, and heterosexualized space. The body that inhabits this space, as Steinnson’s body does, inevitably internalizes the social dynamics of subjectivity and power. It is a bounded body. Spatiality, more so than temporality, sets the limits of what the body do or can do. The question here is: what does the bounded body do? According to Elizabeth Grosz, the body perpetually negotiates a passage or a transformation between its biological and social existence, and between its “inner” being and its “external” identity. From this viewpoint, the body is a passage while its every movement is a potential for transformative change.
“A Politics of Imperceptibility” Elizabeth Grosz
Many feminist writings have stressed the uneven, wavering, mutable quality of the boundaries between the private sphere and the public sphere. This exhibition can be seen, in practice, as a site where the two spheres overlap. Through her work, Steinsson transposes the intimate moments from the confines of the domestic sphere to the gallery space, exposing them to the audience. The supposed intimacy therefore takes on a form of impersonal intimacy, which is neither private nor public. The home life and the corporeal — the place of emotion, passion, and confusion — become the subject matter in the intellectual, collective field of contemporary art.
Too often, the permeability of the spheres slips out of view as the binary opposition of domestic to public is repeatedly locked back in its structural position. Thinking in terms of structural, positioning, and binary framework has a drawback. It leaves movement out of the picture, out of the body. Therefore, as Brian Massumi points out, “the very notion of movement as qualitative transformation is lacking.”
Steinsson’s work brings movement back to the picture, to the body. It is a departure from identity politics, the kind of performative-based identity politics inspired by Judith Bulter’s theoretical writings and notable in Cindy Sherman’s artwork. Embodied in her work is the imperceptible forces of affect. Affect is, in a nutshell, the impersonal forces of intensity that embodies the realm of potential, emergency, transformation, and becoming. The affective body, as Brian Massumi describes, “is immediately abstract as it is concrete; its activity and expressivity extend … into an incorporeal, yet perfectly real, dimension of pressing potential.” I see this idea of the affective body revealed and represented in Steinsson’s images. Its transformative potential lies not only in the indeterminacy of what the body can do, but also in the simple notion that what the body is is what the body do.
Grosz, E. (2001). Lived Spatiality (The Spaces of Corporeal Desire). In Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space (pp. 31-48), MIT Press.
Grosz, E. (2002). A Politics of Imperceptibility: A Response To ‘Anti-racism, Multiculturalism and the Ethics of Identification.’ Philosophy & Social Criticism, 28 (4), 463-472.
Halligan, P. W. (2002). Phantom Limbs: The Body In Mind. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, 7(3), 251-269.
Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Riley, D (2005). The Right To Be Lonely. In Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect (pp. 49-58), Duke University Press.
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