Wednesday, October 17, 2007


BLOOD ARTISTS

The following are artists who use blood as a medium in the expression of their work:

FRANKO B
Franko B expresses a strong relationship between the body and power. A London-based, multi-media and performance artist, his work focuses on an extreme and powerful expression in his art. He utilizes his own body as a canvas, and his blood as paint to express strong feelings he calls: "the pain, the love, the hate, the loss, the power and the fears of the human condition". Michel Foucault, French philosopher, was also interested in the human body, its history, and how the body is manipulated by the various types of power and social control - that the human body is connected to personal, social and political conflict. He writes: "The relationships of power operate an immediate grasp upon it, they attack it, they mark it, they train it, they torture it, they force it to perform certain tasks, they oblige it to participate in ceremonies, and they demand signs from it". ("Extreme Bodies", p. 30)

For Franko B, the representation of "wounds" upon his body arouses negative reactions and rejection for the viewer to want to flee the spectacle. He states: "A wound obliges us to an almost primitive confrontation and relationship in an era in which we often claim that the image has lost all power". (Extreme Bodies, p. 35) In an image-saturated world, where society is numbed to violence that confronts us in the media and on other levels, everyday, Franko B has found a forceful way to penetrate the human psyche and extracts strong responses to the reality of his work and his message.

I will discuss one of his performance works he called: "I Miss You" held at the Art Live Festival in Turin, 2000. This is an excerpt from Jennifer Doyle in her "Critical Tears: Melodrama and Museums", Nicolas Baume, editor.

"In this piece, naked, covered in white body paint, Franko B walks a length of canvas. He is lit up on either side from the floor by fluorescent tubes, and bleeds from catheters in his arms that hold his veins open as he slowly and ceremoniously walks the length of the canvas toward a bank of photographers at its base. Blood pools at his feet at each end of the "catwalk", where he stands before turning around and beginning his march again. The performance is structured to resemble a fashion show, and the blood-splattered canvas Franko leaves in his wake is used to make unwearable or at least unmarketable haute couture, to mummify household objects, and to make pocket-sized souvenir paintings".

Franko B expresses a great deal of his own personal meaning in his performance as a way to communicate his concepts and meanings. In this particular work, he seems lonely, and the theme of powerlessness comes through.


STELARC

Stelarc is an Australian performance and multi-media artist who elicits a powerful depiction of hybrid and machine. To quote Donna Haraway (in class notes Senft, Theresa M. "Reading Notes on Donna Haraway's "Cyborg Manifesto"), a cyborg is defined in four ways: "The first is a "cybernetic organism"(communication, internet). The second is a "hybrid of machine and organism". The third is a "creature of lived social reality", and the fourth is a "creature of fiction" (virtual reality).

Stelarc has explored the idea of body that interfaces with machine/technology to become a hybrid of both - a cyborg. He considers the body as an ideal host for "insertive technology" - using his body to insert a range of mediums that include systems such as the internet, robotics, medical prosthetics, etc. He filmed the interior of his body (the Seen/Unseen theme). He performned with a robotic arm that operated through nerve impulses from his own body. He suspended himself above a street in New York, suspended by skin hooks. Like Franko B, Stelarc uses his body as a host, in this case, to insert technological devices in his performances to express the idea of "cyborg". His work is an exploration of the technological possibilities of the body plus machine. Stelarc's explorations probe themes about how humans may be able to alter, repair or redesign their bodies in the future. He also suggests that we need to think of the future of technology and design, and which directions and controls we should take - at the very least, to begin the discourse that explores those ideas.

Stelarc has this to say: (taken from his website)

"Bodies are both Zombies and Cyborgs. We have never had a mind of our own and we often perform involuntarily - conditioned and externally prompted. Ever since we evolved as hominids and developed bipedal locomotion, two limbs became manipulators and we constructed artifacts, instruments, and machines. In other words we have always been coupled with technology. We have always been prosthetic bodies. We fear the involuntary and we are becoming increasingly automated and extended. But we fear what we have always been and what we have already become - Zombies and Cyborgs".


ISTVAN KANTOR

Istvan Kantor is a Canadian performance artist (live art), and multi-media artist. He also uses blood as a medium for paint, like Franko B, although Kantor improvises and also uses "pig blood". His performances, called "The Blood Campaign", were a series of performance and art works displayed and accompanied by electronic music (sometimes ear-piercing and unbearable). The whole of this "subcultural network" was youth-oriented and began in the 1980's. He referred to it as "Neoism". Like the word itself (neoism), his art is "packed with contradiction and abstraction, but Kantor presents it in a way that bypasses the intellect and appeals directly to the body." (Self repreenting Artists Magazine, April 2005)

Kantor's work expresses a dystopian reality of technology. Like Stelarc, Kantor also explores ideas around "cyborg", but in a more dark way suggesting that technology is a double edged sword - it can free us, and it can imprison us. Like both Franko B and Stelarc, Kantor's work has elicited negative reactions (he was arrested several times for his blood art). As an art of a subculture, Kantor's themes have radically challenged the mainstream culture and symbols of authority - institutions of law, education and politics.


PAUL McCARTHY

Paul McCarthy, a multi-media artist, was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1945.

Review of Video: "Destruction of the Body", (Films for the Humanitieis and Sciences, 2004)
Paul McCarthy's video was provocative to say the least. He is interested in film because it can depict action, and he likes representation. McCarthy speaks about the mediums he uses in his performances, and in this film they are liquids such as motor oil, and packaged foods like flour, milk, chocolate, mayonaise (represents sperm/mucous), ketchup (represents blood). He says he chooses these products because they are commodities of the consumer culture he grew up in. He uses his body in conjunction with these products, both as a canvas and as a paintbrush. In her featured performance, "Painting Face Down White Line", he crawls along a surface using his face and body as a paintbrush to paint a long, white line.
One theme McCarthy explores are the icons and myths of "utopian idealism", for example portrayed in Disneyland, and its subsequent "negative conditioning" to children who grow up idolizing the characters. This video features his performance as "Pinocchio" - the liar. Much of his work is shocking and he pushes the limit to express the dark side of American culture.
McCarthy uses the idea of blood in a represented form - "ketchup". He differs from the other "blood artists" by representing blood, and he differs from my project, that examines my blood at a cellular level.

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