REVIEW: The Artist Relieving Herself: Response to Katherine Bauer’s “Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye” at Microscope Gallery

The Artist Relieving Herself: Response to Katherine Bauer’s
“Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye” at Microscope Gallery
written by Conor O’Brien, The Living Gallery

“At the bottom of their hearts, they are quite aware that this is urine.”

“At the bottom of their hearts, they are quite aware that this is urine.” (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

Story of the Eye begins with an awakening. The unnamed narrator of Georges Bataille’s little 1928 novel confides in the first line that he grew up “alone” and that he was “frightened of anything sexual.” [1] He soon meets a girl named Simone, whose sexual proclivities are described in this way: “She so bluntly craved any upheaval that the faintest call from the senses gave her a look directly suggestive of all things linked to sexuality, such as blood, suffocation, sudden terror, crime; things indefinitely destroying human bliss and honesty.” [2] It would be a mistake to think that the narrator’s fear of sex is opposed to Simone’s desire for upheaval; the fear is the whole point. The narrator does not awaken out of the fear associated with sex; his awakening is a coming to consciousness of this fear, and constant desire to meet it. Fear is at the heart of upheaval, is what distinguishes it. Fear is the sense used to identify the point where upheaval is possible. And fear is felt most keenly at the moment before a coming out of unconsciousness, before fear is brought to an awareness of itself, before the transgression of what Bataille calls the “discontinuous existence,” the realm of that private and sacred individuality and self-compartmentalization we are conditioned to desire; the realm of routine, ritual, and all things safe and solid, which, for Simone, becomes necessary only at the moment it is dissolved and profaned.

Katherine Bauer and associates mid-performance (screenshot from Microscope Gallery’s Vimeo)

Katherine Bauer and associates mid-performance (screenshot from Microscope Gallery’s Vimeo)

Katherine Bauer’s performance at the Microscope Gallery is an interpretation of Bataille’s novel. It is the third in a series of works entitled “Teenage Dream Sequence,” which according to Microscope’s press release explores the “coming of age rites of the American female teenager,” in this case “dirty novels.” For those who discovered it at a young age, reading Bataille’s story becomes a performance of transgression, and the effect mirrors the narrator’s awakening with which the novel begins, the sudden and shocking awareness of the unconscious in the process of submitting to Bataille’s extreme fantasy. Bauer’s piece can be seen as representing the performance of reading Story of the Eye, this act of personal and intimate transgression, the reader’s submission to the author’s work transmuted from private to the public, the inner experience becoming a shared experience between performer and viewer, and an enactment Bataille’s philosophy. Bauer’s work can also be thought of as a translation of the novel (and translation is always necessarily an act of interpretation) using film, photography, performance, and those physical materials important to Bataille’s text: eggs, milk, wine, and even urine. A short video excerpt of the performance can be viewed on the Microscope Gallery’s Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/82072713

Remnants of the performance

Remnants of the performance (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

The objects displayed in the Microscope Gallery are the remnants of Baeur’s performance/“translation”: three large, abstract “Eye-O-Grams” made by applying the aforementioned materials on fiber paper, four excerpts from the novel written on fiber paper from which the performers read (the ink now smeared and the text distorted), film reels of the artist’s eyes which were projected during the performance, a sound recording, and a wine glass filled with a mixture of champagne and the artist’s urine. The latter object is one of the more literal translations of the text, inspired by a segment in which a character named Sir Edmund explains Catholic symbolism: “And as for the wine they put in the chalice, the ecclesiastics say it is the blood of Christ, but they are obviously mistaken. If they really thought it was blood, they would use red wine, but since they employ only white wine, they are showing that at the bottom of their hearts, they are quite aware that it is urine.” [3] Bataille mocks the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but also uses this doctrine to elucidate one of his techniques. The imagery in the Bataille’s work slides between forms: eyes become eggs become breasts become testicles; urine becomes sunlight becomes yolk becomes milk becomes semen becomes tears. The novel dwells in this world of shifting forms, and the elements of the “continuous existence” (which opposes the “discontinuous existence”) revealed by the association and transubstantiation of distinct yet similar forms.

An “Eye-O-Gram”

An “Eye-O-Gram” (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

Bauer’s “Eye-O-Grams” are adaptations of this technique: like Bataille, Bauer forces associations between eggs, milk, wine, and urine within the confined space of the page. The difference is, with Bauer’s work, these objects are translated from the linguistic to the material. A major example of linguistic association in Bataille is his comparison of the French words oeil and oeuf (eye and egg), brought into association with each other because of their similar spelling and sound (it is not coincidental that the objects they refer are also similar in shape and color). The linguistic association (metaphor, pun, etc.) is meant to contain both words equally, without giving either component dominance. With Bauer’s material association, the effect is similar: the substance in the glass is both wine and urine, not one thing or another and not one thing standing in for another thing; the two substances are indistinguishably combined. The result is like the unconscious association surfacing on the level of material reality, transgressing the realm of the psychologically/symbolically resonant to that of the physically blunt: an upheaval akin to Simone’s fantasies.

Four excerpts from the novel read during performance

Four excerpts from the novel read during performance (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

This upheaval, one which renders the symbolic object material, is significant in Bataille’s philosophy as a means for people to tap into the “continuous existence.” The “eye” is the supreme object of Bataille’s philosophy because the eye is a symbol of sight and is the organ associated most directly with illusion, and thus it is also most susceptible to disillusionment. When the eye is removed from its socket, rendered sightless and thus useless as a symbol, the remaining object becomes strange to us, those so accustomed to understanding it through the lense of its symbolic function, ridiculous and egglike in its naked materiality. Such is the reason for the eye/egg metaphor, and the purpose of the novel’s climactic scene wherein Simone removes a priest’s eye and uses it for stimulation.

Film reel projected during performance

Film reel projected during performance (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

Bataille, in his 1943 preface to Story of the Eye, explains the penname under which the novel was originally published: “‘Lord Auch’ refers to the habit of a friend of mine; when vexed, instead of saying ‘aux chiottes!’ [to the shithouse], he would shorten it to ‘aux ch-.’ Lord is English for God: Lord Auch is God relieving himself…Every creature transfigured by such a place: God sinking into it rejuvenates the heavens.” [4] Katherine Bauer enacts this process. It is the process of the symbol profaning itself: a disrobing of all pretense of symbolic self necessary to understanding what Bataille termed the “continuous existence,” the most heightened manifestation of which is death. Bauer’s act of immersing her art and herself in “base” materials has behind it these ideas: the artist relieving herself, self-debasement as self-sacrifice, and self-sacrifice as a means to rejuvenation. Bataille was obsessed with the idea of sacrifice, and sex (being linked with death) was for him a form of sacrificial roleplay. Because it requires a relinquishing of self and a submission to foreign fantasies, the act of reading is also related to the sexual/sacrificial ritual. One encounters the novel the same way the narrator encounters Simone, a purely subversive figure who is at once exciting and frightening to him. Bauer performs this “coming age rite,” during which the reading of dirty or subversive novels becomes an act of transgression.

“The faintest call from the senses gave her a look directly suggestive of all things linked to sexuality”

“The faintest call from the senses gave her a look directly suggestive of all things linked to sexuality” (Photo: Conor O’Brien)

[1] Bataille, Georges. Story of the Eye (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1987.) p. 3
[2] Ibid., p. 6
[3] Ibid., p. 76
[4] Ibid., p. 98

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AROUND TOWN: Exhibition at Microscope Gallery, “Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye”

Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye

KATHERINE BAUER

Exhibition Dates: December 15, 2013 through January 5 January 13, 2014 (extended!)
Gallery Hours: Thursday to Monday from 1:00pm to 6:00pm, or by appointment
Gallery Location: Microscope Gallery, 4 Charles Place, Brooklyn, NY 11221
Contact: 347-925-1433 / info@microscopegallery.com

Photos Below:  Courtesy of the artist and Microscope Gallery © 2013
Text Below: From Microscope Gallery (http://www.microscopegallery.com/?page_id=12312)

Katherine Bauer, "Sizzle", 2013, b/w photographic print on fiber paper, 5 x 5"

Katherine Bauer, “Sizzle”, 2013, b/w photographic print on fiber paper, 5 x 5″

Microscope is pleased to present KATHERINE BAUER, Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye, the third in a series of live film performance events and exhibitions, following the 2010 Black Sabbath Black Mass and this year’s Invocation of Joan of Arc, which took place at Cité Internationale des Arts, in Paris. With Seduction…, the New York-based artist continues her series inspired by coming of age rites of the American female teenager – rock & roll rebellion, teen idolization, “dirty” novels, etc. – addressing that time of transition in an interpretation of Georges Bataille’s 1928 “The Story of the Eye”.

“[Seduction…] is about the seduction of the eye, of seeing and the desires that it creates. Or of not seeing… about what we do not see… what is not there, what is imagined, in the way that [Bataille’s] novel is not about sex but desire and fantasy of discovering unknown secrets of life and death of birth and excess, death and denial.” KB

Seduction… opens with a 16mm film performance event (on 12/15) that doubles as an apparatus for the live production of photograms, which along with the film loops, projectors and ephemera from the event – the only evidence of the event that took place – will be mounted in an exhibition (opening on 12/19). The experiential, mysterious, and uncertain nature of Bauer’s work draws influence from 1960s expanded cinema, the ritualism and black magic of Kenneth Anger, Viennese Actionism, and body art among others. Seduction… may also be seen as a “literal cinema”, or a work in which content is further considered as an exploration of the material and technological nature of celluloid film and its projection.

Katherine Bauer, "Eye-O-Gram #1", 2013, egg, milk, urine, champagne on b/w photosensitive fiber paper, 42 x 100"

Katherine Bauer, “Eye-O-Gram #1″, 2013, egg, milk, urine, champagne on b/w photosensitive fiber paper, 42 x 100”

During the performance, light from 16mm film loops, projecting images of the eyes of the female performers onto their actual eyes, exposes photosensitive paper, positioned as both stage and backdrop, to capture impressions of the bodies and objects in the room. Bataille’s concepts of vision and liquids surface in the performance culminating as an erotic presence, summoned and transferred through milk, urine, and raw egg. Sound is an important and purposeful coalescence of the voices of the performers reading excerpts from Bataille’s “Story…”, analog synth compositions, and the hum of the rotating film strips.

The artworks in Seduction… are conceived not as remnants or residues, but as temporal crystallizations – the filmic surface itself composed of crystals – of the forces at play during the performance. Bauer states, “…the images are not representations, just as the performance is not an adaptation of The Story of the Eye – instead they are presentations, making its content present…”

Katherine Bauer CV

"Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye" - Installation View

“Teenage Dream Sequence: Seduction of the Eye” – Installation View

Katherine Bauer, "Wide Eyes/White Eggs", 2013, 16mm film strip installation, dimensions variable

Katherine Bauer, “Wide Eyes/White Eggs”, 2013, 16mm film strip installation, dimensions variable

KATHERINE BAUER works primarily with 16mm film and its material potential for sculpture, photography and installation. Much of her work involves mythologies, folklores, and narratives. Her work has previously exhibited at Participant Inc., NY; Shoot the Lobster, Dusseldorf, Germany; Place Gallery, Portland, Oregon; and Immanence Gallery, Paris, France among others. Bauer was awarded a 2012-13 Cité Internationale des Arts Paris Residency and was a recipient of a Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Foundation Fellowship (2012-13). Bauer holds a BA in film and electronic arts from Bard College and a MFA from NYU Steinhardt (2013). Bauer was born in Houston, Texas and currently lives and works in New York.

For additional information please contact Microscope Gallery at 347.925.1433 or info@microscopegallery.com

Katherine Bauer, "Wide Eyes/White Eggs", 2013, 16mm film strip installation, dimensions variable

Katherine Bauer, “Wide Eyes/White Eggs”, 2013, 16mm film strip installation, dimensions variable

Still from "Wide Eyes/White Eggs", 2013, b&w hand-processed 16mm film, 6 minutes 49 seconds, sound

Still from “Wide Eyes/White Eggs”, 2013, b&w hand-processed 16mm film, 6 minutes 49 seconds, sound

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REVIEW: Code and Language in DataSpaceTime’s “Thresholds”

Review: Code and Language in DataSpaceTime’s “Thresholds”
written by Conor O’Brien, The Living Gallery

Video of a crosswalk as it is offset by video of a taxi

Video of a crosswalk as it is offset by video of a taxi

Microscope Gallery co-founder Elle Burchill said of the people who’ve seen the gallery’s current exhibition, “Thresholds” by DataSpaceTime duo Ray Sweeten and Lisa Gwilliam, those who seemed to respond most enthusiastically to the work were the poets who read at the gallery’s recent poetry event.

Distorted text of code

Distorted text of code

Poetry uses language in a particular way. It is about association more than point-making. A word does not only signify: it has a sound, a shape, and a web of connotations and image-inducing capabilities aside from whatever its standardized definition may be. Language, of course, is not limited to words. Language informs how we think and, by extension, what we think.  If we only “read” a certain way then we will only think a certain way, and will only think certain things. Poets often play with language in order to elucidate language’s relationship with thought, and how people’s ways of thinking can be manipulated by language.

View of the space

View of the space

DataSpaceTime’s installation consists of four screens that operate on four different browsers which send information to each other, and respond accordingly, using “web-chat technology.”

The two center screens

The two center screens

Two of the screens are separated into grids that play a series of image gifs. At times the gifs work together to form a larger, coherent moving image (aerial view of a street, the top of an escalator, panning view of a graffitied wall at night), at other times the gifs off-set the larger image into abstraction. These screens sometimes resemble a digital tapestry, the motion of the gifs often suggest weaving.

The smaller screen, detail of two gifs

The smaller screen, detail of two gifs

The two other screens, a smaller one to the left of the center screens on the same wall and another screen on the opposite wall, show a visual decomposition of the information being sent to the center screens. The smaller screen breaks down the image gifs being fed to the center screens. The other screen is similar in size and grid-structure to the two center screens, but instead of images of urban scenery, this screen displays a page of distorted text under the image of a magnifying glass. The press release reveals this text to be the code the artists wrote to run the piece.

Fourth screen: Image of magnifying glass offset by image of text

Fourth screen: Image of magnifying glass offset by image of text

The code is not hidden; it is aestheticized and incorporated into the piece. This can be framed in a poetry context, as a poetic use of this language. The language of computer programming is both ubiquitous and invisible in the internet age, and only a relative minority of people can “read” it or understand its rules. The piece reveals how text informs image informs text: the language of computer code influences the images as they appear on screen, manipulating and distorting them, while the text of the code itself also becomes an image that is manipulated.

At the Listening Party, sketch #2

At the Listening Party, sketch #2

DataSpaceTime’s Ray Sweeten performed during the Microscope Gallery’s “Listening Party.” During the event he premiered what he described as two unfinished “sketches,” using the same technology as the “Thresholds” to allow the browsers send and respond not only to gifs, but also different sounds, creating audio compositions that correspond to the visual ones.

Ray Sweetey, ½ of DataSpaceTime

Ray Sweetey, ½ of DataSpaceTime

Before beginning the second sketch, Sweetey opened up a computer file in order to put finishing touches on the program’s code, explaining to the audience that he needed to “pull back the curtain for a second.” The effect is that of making the audience aware of the language behind the experience of the piece. It is a comment on language, a breaking down of text, image, and sound, and the relationship of language to experience. There is a sense that our experience, the sounds we hear and images we see, can be manipulated not only by the languages we can “read,” but perhaps even more so by those we can not, such as the language of computer code. Our everyday experience is similarly manipulated by the ways we can or cannot “read” it. DataSpaceTime is interested not only in creating the experience, but allowing the mechanics that inform the experience to be unveiled and incorporated into it.

“Pulling back the curtain”

“Pulling back the curtain”

For more information about this show visit the gallery’s page
or check out their Facebook Event. The show runs through December 1st.

“Thresholds” Opening Reception TONIGHT at Microscope Gallery

Opening Reception for

“Thresholds”

TONIGHT

at Microscope Gallery

Thresholds

Still from “the _______ of strings and objects”, 2013,
browser-based moving image installation, 15-minute loop
© Ray Sweeten & Lisa Gwilliam

“Thresholds”
New Works by Ray Sweeten & Lisa Gwilliam (aka DataSpaceTime)
Show Runs: October 19, 2013 through December 1, 2013
Opening Reception: October 19, 2013 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm
Gallery Hours: Thursday to Monday from 1:00pm to 6:00pm, or by appointment
Gallery Location: 4 Charles Place, Brooklyn, NY 11221
Gallery Phone: 347-925-1433
Gallery Email: info@microscopegallery.com

Source/Click here for more information.

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