The small fraction of a human that is human

It was a true pleasure to write a short essay for multimedia artist Liz Rodda’s exhibition of Total Body at the Lawndale Art Center in Houston, Texas. You can see the dual-channel piece in LAC’s project space until June 13, 2015 and watch an excerpt of it on her website. My thoughts on her excellent work below.

Where is the human body in the twenty-first century? At the gym, in traffic, outdoors, or home alone? Wherever the emblematic sites of embodiment for the present day might be, they are always also online. We pass bodies and their parts to one another via smartphones, we post them on websites, and we find them—absurd, touching, sexy, troubling—when streaming digital video from all sorts of online caches. We can ignore our bodies and those of others, choosing to withdraw into the abstract thoughts that our bodies house. Even so, we can never empty those thoughts entirely of the sensations our bodies produce.
Despite its wry title, Liz Rodda’s dual-channel video piece doesn’t explain
what it means to be flesh and blood. It doesn’t identify the mishmash of
existential musings that make up its soundtrack, or distinguish humanistic, virtual actions from those that are virtually human.
Total Body shows us the extreme irreconcilability of each “small fraction of a human that is human” mentioned in its voiceover. This is no tragedy. Paradoxically enough, Total Body suggests it may be a primary source of life’s pleasure. Rodda is one of the most distinctive artists working in expanded media today. Her aesthetic is cerebral—and rousingly funny. Her work in digital formats as well as her installation practice avoids obvious moral questions of consumer culture and identity, zeroing in on the uncanny forces that drive our media and object-based interactions.

Elizabeth Price wins the Turner

Still from “The Woolworths Choir of 1979,” Elizabeth Price, 2012. Image accessed at http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/944×531/p012dcm7.jpg

Great to see that a video artist has been awarded the Turner Prize: Elizabeth Price. This small snippet of her piece, The Woolworths Choir of 1979 (2012) intrigues me. I’d love to see it in its entirety as an installation.

It’s difficult to know anything about the composition from what little can be seen online, but it speaks well of the piece that I’m immediately inspired to start piecing together and thinking over a couple recurring thematic motifs: the legibility/illegibility of emotive gesture and the commodification of femininity (in terms of news reportage of the tragedy, but also the erotics of girl groups). I imagine the snaps and clicks that seem to regulate the images as the sounds of these concepts locking and interlocking.

I’m also happy to see an artist who has been given this kind of platform valorize public art funding and stress the importance of keeping complex visual experience open to as wide an audience as possible.