Leaking Into Ourselves

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Leaking Into Ourselves (2014). Still image from video.

Leaking Into Ourselves is one of a series of Studio interrogations aimed at exposing the digital within sculptural practice. (See PhD abstract.)

Excerpt from catch/bounce: Stack Overflows and Digital Actions.
This essay contextualises Leaking Into Ourselves within the context developing notions of digital movement.

The manner in which the body reaches beyond itself to engage in inter-subjective acts is not just an externalization of self – a leakage of the body into the world – but a constant state of analogue being. To be in the world means to be beyond oneself but it also means that the world is in us. Inter-subjective actions reach back into the interior of the body as readily as they reach out beyond the body. While Harman reminds us that the body is in constant excess of itself in this way, he also warns us that it is dangerous to think of the body being privileged when this is in fact the state of all objects (Harman, 2013). As we see in 32-Bit Catch, the inter-subjective agency of the ball extends itself beyond its own spherical confines. It, too, reaches out to intersect the body in a non-reductive respiration that is articulated in Leaking Into Ourselves (2014). The intersection of one object with another doesn’t necessitate reduction or loss on the part of either object. An object is in excess of itself but never exceeds its potential.

In Leaking Into Ourselves with only my head and feet resting on them, my rigid body is suspended horizontally between two cylinders that are positioned parallel to each other across the screen. Unlike 32-Bit Catch there is no disruptive interrupt. No punctuating sound or cinematic cut for the body to bridge. Rather the static body occupies the vector space between two points designated by the cylinders. Like the motionless-moving-images in 32-Bit Catch, the video, playing in real time, has a sense of suspended time. Nothing seems to happen. If not for the twitch of a foot this might be a static image and we might even doubt the authenticity of the action as performative.

As the video plays, we become attuned to even smaller movements of the body until, straining to maintain its rigid form, the body appears to blur and then vibrate with each breath. The head and feet remain sharply focused, pinned to the points that define the vector space in which the torso is suspended.

This ghosting of the body appears to extend the torso outside itself in time while remaining grounded through its immobile points of contact. It is as if each breath diffuses the body into the world – extending it beyond itself. This is quite literally what happens in the act of breathing, which breaks down the normal binary ways we think about our body and quite literally extends us beyond ourselves. While we readily speak of things as being inside or outside our body, breath dissolves this binary formulae, making it impossible to detect the point at which the air we breathe in has become part of us. Similarly it becomes hard to differentiate the air immediately outside our mouth from the air inside our mouth. Through the inter-subjective act of breathing we leak into the world, extending our bodies beyond themselves.

Although strikingly similar to Bruce Nauman’s Failing to Levitate in My Studio (1966) a double exposure, still image in which Nauman is shown both lying between two chairs and slumped in failure on the floor, Leaking Into Ourselves does not propose the object as an anxious object as suggested by Parveen Adams (1998). While for Adams, Nauman’s failure is like an inter-subjective gesture in that the body is outside itself, it is also seen as lacking shared subjectivity. The inter-subjective act is generative and has no such anxiety. Embedded in an economy of excess, the body, like other SR objects, is inexhaustible in this way.

James Charlton – Creative Practice