Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 19, 2008

Presentation for 2/19: Embodiment – Pipolotti Rist’s ‘blood-fueled cameras’

Filed under: Discussion,New media art — dfratini @ 12:02 am

The video installation work of artist Pipilotti Rist foregrounds not only representations of the human (female) body but also the viewer’s experience of her art (and by extension any art, or any communication, or life itself) as an essentially, emphatically embodied experience. In her art the boundary between subject and object is fluid. Bodies are seen on the screen (frequently the artist’s own), the screen itself is acknowledge as a body, and the body of the viewer(s) is an integral part of the work.

I realize it’s ridiculous to talk about “the embodied experience of her art” and ask you to look at low-grade surreptitious video of the installations, but as I cannot afford to take us all Zurich, it will have to do.

Here are two earlier works emphasizing representation of the body:

Her most recent works de-emphasize or exclude representations of bodies, emphasizing the installation space, and thus bodies of the viewers/spectators.

In trying to articulate how I believe Rist exemplifies many of the concepts in the Hansen reading, in a most intriguing way, I turned to Amanda Jones’s recent Self / Image: Technology, Representation and the Contemporary Subject (Routledge 2006). Some key excerpts:

  • [Rist] has identified human eyes with “blood-fueled cameras.” …. if the eye is a blood-fueled camera then… vision can no longer be instrumentalized — understood as mechanically securing the viewer in his position of knowing, per Renaissance perspectival models (such as Alberti’s) and apparatuses.
  • Rist’s works are profoundly interdependent….he binary logic of the ‘gaze’ itself has dissolved.
  • While masculine scientific understanding and techno-discourses have celebrated joining of the human body to the machine (as epitomized by the robotic pieces by Stelarc, the rationalizing force of which is exacerbated by his verbal claims for transcending the body through such technological extensions), or alternatively as lamented this joining as a threat to the humanist subject…. [Rist] simply narrates — in verbal as well as visual form — the fluid remaking of the human body as itself a visualizing ‘tool,’ but one that is profounding irrational and incapable of being fully instrumentalized — one that is itself immersed in (as) the image.

In my presentation, I will explain further what Jones is getting at and how I equate this with the Hansen reading. I also want to discuss the experience of the embodied viewer / spectator (which Jones merely glosses), in light of the chapter from Kate’s work (“Virtual Bodies and Flickering Signifiers”).


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