Naslov / Title: Corpus Indeterminata 3D
Lokacija / Exhibition space: Hiperfasada; MKC Maribor – Kulturni inkubator
Datum / Date: 26. 4. 2013
Lokacija / Exhibition space: Predstavitev 3D skeniranja in video večerja; MKC Maribor – Kulturni inkubator in Odprta dvorišča
Datum / Date: 20. 7. 2013
Deus benedixitque eis, dicens: Crescite, et multiplicamini, ad imaginem meam
Lokacija / Exhibition space: Škrlovec – Stolp intermedijske umetnosti
Datum / Date: 10. 9. – 13. 10. 2013
ALSO ON FESTIVAL: Ko svetovi trčijo/When worlds collide (Festival MFRU in Kiblix)
Lokacija / Exhibition space: Kibla portal
Datum / Date: 6. – 25. 11. 2013
Produkcija / Production: Zavod za sodobne umetnosti in kulture Gulag
Partner: MKC Maribor – Kulturni inkubator
Koprodukcija / Co-production: Zavod Naključje 7, KUD Kranj, Prešernovo gledališče Kranj, Zavod Carnica, Layerjeva hiša, Lutkovno gledališče Ljubljana
Selektorica projekta hiperFasada / Selector of project hiperFasada: Aleksandra Saška Gruden
Kustosinja projekta / Curator of project: Ida Hiršenfelder
Producent / Producer: Jana Putrle Srdić
3D skeniranje in izdelava modelov / 3D scanning and modeling: Jan Sterniša, pomoč Kristijan Robič
Izdelava 3d tiskanja / 3D printing: Ortotip;
Izdelava kalupov ter odlitkov / Making of moulds and models: Zoran Srdić Janežič, Jernej Mali
Pomoč in svetovanje / Support: Janez Bizjak, Mare Meglič
Foto / Photo: Sunčan Stone
Projekt so podprli / Project was supported by: Ministrstvo za kulturo RS (Ministry of Culture RS), Mestna občina Kranj (Municipality Kranj), Mestna občina Maribor (Municipality Maribor), Ortotip, Restavratorstvo Mali, Oskrba z jedmi – catering: Marko Arvaj s.p.
IDA HIRŠENFELDER: Corpus Indeterminata – Deus benedixitque eis, dicens: Crescite, et multiplicamini,
ad imaginem meam
Whose is the abject / preposterous / missing / objectified body?
The second stage of the project Corpus Indeterminata III D [*Undefined body III D] is a stopover point for the eponymous durational multi-media art project Corpus indeterminata. The first part was launched already at the end of the year 2010 at the Alkatraz Gallery in Ljubljana, where the author, Srdić Janežič, used pork fat to cast a mould of his own body with a pig’s head. His final goal is to produce an inverted image: to cast a mould of a pig’s body with his own head from his own leaf fat, in order to test how this kind of turn discloses the apparent social autonomy of the art system, and at the same time to uncover the categorical apparatus at the basis of the anthropocentric value system and its ideas of the body and its extracts. With these acts Srdić Janežič opens the discussion on valuing the original, the copy and its multiples, on the investment of the body in a performative act, and on the expanded corporeality of a surgical procedure, which hypothetically allows for a multitude of possible uses of the body without yielding to the conventional functions of medicine, science or art. The second phase of the project was an indispensable link enabling a consistent implementation of the process in which Srdić Janežič first scanned his head, and then also scanned the body of a pig, as part of a public event in June 2013 at Kulturni inkubator in Maribor. The 3D scan created a miniaturised mould of a pig with the artist’s head, which was, as a sample, cast in ice and exhibited as a central part of the second stage of Corpus Indeterminata at Layer’s House in Kranj. The motive behind this miniaturisation is key for understanding this conceptual turn, although it is of an entirely practical nature: the artist, who will in the end pour his own body fat into a mould, has at his disposal only a limited quantity of this material, while the pig lard (supposedly) wells forth from seemingly inexhaustible sources.
Srdić Janežič grounded the title of his work in the Western tradition by taking a recourse to Latin and even a direct Bible quote, which is not surprising considering he is critically engaged with the constant exclusion of the Other that is characteristic of his own rigorous tradition. What exactly is this indeterminate corpus which lies before us? Nancy’s use of the term corpus refers both to the body as well as to the corpus in the sense of a collection of documents pertaining to the same discipline, the corpus in the sense of a corps, or also in the sense of a collection of frescoes, paintings or (in our case) a series of multiplied sculptures. Nancy’s corpus is all of this and more, since for him the “body” is fundamentally something plural. The minimal Nancian definition of corpus is thus as follows: the body is corpus. The exhibition’s subtitle can actually be read as a playful jest, as Srdić Janežič turns it into a challenge to the self-centred and anthropocentric understanding of multiplication and dominion over the animal kingdom – a phenomenon no less present in the bioengineering laboratories of today as it was in the medieval monasteries of the Middle Ages. It is for this reason that the project, which calls for a hybrid and pluralistic conception of the animal realm, can be seen as adopting new technologies in order to make them more responsive to the relationship between worth and value, either in the work of art or in science. The apparent nonsense and humour of these sculptures (including multiples of babies with a pig’s mask) expose a tension between different kinds of valuation, whereby the pig assumes, from the human viewpoint, a solely instrumental role. As we have already suggested, the artist does not explicitly dispute this role, but rather brings the human to the same level. If he can freely use the body of the Other, he can also use his own body freely. Is that not so?
I don’t mind exchanging a head for pork cracknels, or a brain for a roasted piglet
Corpus indeterminata is a contemporary composite mythological creature, a chimera of human and pig, composed literally of their bodies. Fat as a sculpting material is used by the artist for reasons similar to those that must have motivated Joseph Beuys or Matthew Barney – i.e. to establish contact with the natural / primeval / animalistic. Fat is usually associated with maternity, fertility, nurturance and nourishment, on the level of material it is dynamic and thus in opposition to solid static materials; it is subject to thermal change and, when exhibited, must be kept in a controlled climate environment, or in a cooler. However, the concept is not fixed to this symbolic abstraction and neither does it become subjugated to moral decisions regarding the role of the body or the pig fat in society; instead it reproduces social relations and contradictions. Since the artist’s body is inseparable from the process in which the work takes shape, the individual phases of the project can be viewed as performative acts, despite the result being manifested in a thoroughly material sculpture. The meaning of the unfolding composite being gets realized through the event.However, the artist takes steps to curtail overly serious thinking and pushes the project into the realms of nonsense and humour, once again organising an absurd and greasy culinary event that features pork. At the opening of the exhibition at the Gallery Alkatraz in the cold December 2010, he served pork cracknels; at Kulturni inkubator in Maribor where they performed the 3D scanning of a pig, they roasted a piglet after they finished work, while at Layer’s House the visitors were offered bread spread with minced lard. Of course there is nothing that the human cardiovascular system hates more than pig fat. It is precisely due to such use of the pig body and the mutual “loving discord” that the artist is willing to go just as far with his own body.
In addition to the elements of artistic and anthropological critique, the project involves a downright cheerful approach that does not fall into moralism, but opens a debate on the roles which are established through the merging of two beings, and with which the difference between the category of human and the category of pig raises doubts about the content and validity of both categories. The artist occupies the gallery in order to turn it into a bloodless slaughterhouse, where we can observe only the results of the body politics and where no death is visible. He takes us into a scene from a Fassbinder’s film , in which the narrator says “And her life is much more valuable than mine,” when the butcher cuts the cow’s throat. Although the idea of using human fat for artistic purposes may seem disgusting, what is truly preposterous is not the human material, but rather the human perception of her or his own (genetic) material when compared to other kingdoms of life – this is what can provoke disgust, at least after some reflection. As the artist himself claims: “What is considered sublime by someone seems horrible to someone else”. Cruelty towards animals is not crude, instead, it is an everyday occurrence.
In the project’s second stage, which can be said to have the most prototypical character of all and which didn’t directly include fat as a sculpting material, Srdić Janežič cast a temporary sculpture out of ice, one of the most perishable materials one can use, on the basis of a do-it-yourself 3D scanning so that the multiple made of plaster would absorb it, which only added to the effect of blurring the distinction between the artist and the anonymous pig. By reproducing six multiples of a dismembered body (abdomen) in wax, he also announced the realization of the conceived image, because, just as an individual’s identity is actualised through events , the body is a corpus of images that extends from one body to another. With a multiplication of the body, the artist questions the notion of individuality, which is not something uniform that can be depicted in the visual representation of corporeality – individuality is in fact always disembodied and inconsistent. Beheaded bodies and dissected heads are a sublimate of individuality, which is brought to completion with animality or humanity, impulsivity or prudence. A similar fusion can be noticed in rosettes with the artist’s head, or in two video projections in which the head screams its animal »yawp« . The process of making a minimised piglet with the program Maya, which is used for preparing a do-it-yourself home scanning of 3D objects, also led to the creation of two animated video pieces featuring a virtual pig which sublimates the artist’s animal nature, as it silently utters a “yawp” – stuck between the body and the incorporeal sound, beyond the realms of the verbal, semantic or comprehensible. Both in the case of the sculpture of a human artist with a pig head made of pig fat, as well as the sculpture of a pig with the human artist’s head made of the human artist’s fat, we confront the absurd in the same way; however, neither the first nor the second can be wholly grasped as acephalic (headless), but must be seen as comple(men)ted in a discordant manner.
In contrast to many body art gestures, with which artists stimulated emotional responses to facing pain, human bodily fluids and excrements, Srdić Janežič eliminates the imbalance in the human (discriminatory) relationship to the bodies of others (non-human animals), at the level of concrete objects. At first glance, we can understand his questions as a direct provocation to the civilisational taboos, while a more in-depth view reveals a metaphor for social relationships in class struggle, as well as an unreflected relationship to the values of contemporary culture; in times when everything is subjected to multiplication, the artist is intrigued by the finitude of materials. It seems that the artist suggests we should check the limits of the multiplication or mass use of any material. Fat is a material that collides with its own finity when it is the human fat that we want to have at our disposal. Although the work is not a straightforward plea for environmental engagement, we cannot but note the history of civilizations similar to our own which blindly believed in the unlimited abundance of resources and failed to foresee their accelerated downfall.
Recognising the difference between oneself and a pig is at the same time a wholly epistemological issue, which brings me to the consideration of a possible sameness of the artist and the pig, a notion that is left out of social conventions. In 1997, the contemporary Chinese artist Xu Tan (徐坦) set up an installation which took up one of the problems of ancient philosophy. It is inspired by the story of the Zhuangzi’s dream of dreaming that he is a butterfly, in which he, upon waking, cannot assure himself of not being a butterfly dreaming that he is Zhuangzi. Xu Tan added the following note to the installation, which was made of one hundred styrofoam takeaway boxes and a pig in natural size: »Knowledge is power. Is power power? In my dreams I become a pig with human brains and organs and I possess enormous power.«
Whose is the body?
The pig’s body is in our culture allowed to be seen as a piece of meat, a food product or supplement to meals – a dismembered object (Islam and Judaism forbid such a view). Cultural conventions dictate that the human body must not be regarded as a piece of flesh and should not be disintegrated, taken apart, scattered. The use of human tissues, the possible alienation of human tissues from supervisory bodies, and any handling of the human genetic material are regulated by numerous specified rules, which are covered by individual cases also by The Commission of the Republic of Slovenia for Medical Ethics for the Assessment of the Ethics of a Research Proposal on the basis of the Act regulating the Quality and Security of Human Tissues and Cells Indicated for Treatment and the Act regulating the Removal and Transplantation of Human Body Parts for Treatment. The artist’s decision regarding the use of his own material is determined by numerous regulations on: the method of keeping records of the performed removals and transplantations of human body parts; conditions for issuing a permit for the services of supplying human tissues and cells; a regulation concerning the reception, processing, storage, release and distribution of human tissues and cells; traceability of human tissues and cells as well as products and materials that come into contact with tissues and cells; conditions and procedure for exportation, importation, entry and exit of human tissues and cells, in addition to numerous other provisions. Recent research in the field of genetic material processing has shown that extraction of stem cells, which are supposed to be used in the future for the treatment of genetic and other systemic diseases and disorders, is not limited solely to the umbilical cord blood, but can also be obtained from a sufficient quantity of fat tissue. The handling of fat tissue is thus a fairly topical subject. The ethical debates in this field are moving into the arena of the ownership of the genetic material, where the bodies of donors (the proletariat) are cut and available for public use, while the chosen bodies (the bourgeoisie) are privatised and preserved in biobanks for private use. The artist poses a utopian question Whose is the body?, and tackles it in a decidedly existentialist manner, only then is he faced with the regulations which, »for one’s own good«, prohibit the use of one’s own body insofar as that specific use does not accord with the socially and scientifically validated ways of manipulating the body. He could have beautified himself or made use of the stem cells to prolong his life, but the artist chooses his own ethical code, which is, to top it all, totally nonsensical from the medical point of view. He does not submit himself to the generic images of personal appearance, but instead introduces his own values, which express the supremacy of his personal value system that prevails over the designer beauty in the late capitalist factory of images. It could also seem absurd that the realisation of the later phase of the project will be enabled by a beauty surgery, which does not have any health advantages or therapeutic effects by itself. Maybe it also bears mentioning that the surgeon, an indispensable collaborator in the project, will do something that could potentially endanger his or her professional reputation, although Srdić Janežič by no means seeks to be shocking, as was, for example, in the 1990s the practice of the Serbian body artist Zoran Todorović, who used the human leaf fat to make snacks (gelatine) for the visitors of the gallery. Body art practices always have to do with a contextualised injury that is supported by a reason. However, again I want to emphasize that Srdić Janežič erases the differences between Todorović’s gelatine and his sculpture with a good measure of humour, seriousness and doubt. For anyone wondering about the reasons for his procedure, it should be telling enough, or even shocking and sobering enough, to encounter a whole range of social problems, taboos and regulations as soon as we start discussing the alienation of human tissues. The body in the work Corpus indeterminata is abject because it »disturbs social reason – the communal consensus that underpins a social order. The “abject” exists accordingly somewhere between the concept of an object and the concept of the subject, representing taboo elements of the self barely separated off in a liminal space.« In this context, Corpus indeterminata is bringing a tripartite change based on the ritual dramaturgy of the becoming of a new identity. The course of the liminoid ritual in the present day world is still committed to the passage from the separation ritual into the liminal stage of becoming, which is conditioned also by the experience of pain, and finally into the postliminal stage and reintegration.
Srdić Janežič “uses” natural science experts in keeping with the multidisciplinary trends. The surgeon thus does not work only in the function of health or beauty, but also in the function of art. In this process, a significant role is played by the various intermediaries who helped the artist obtain the sculpting material. First, there was an anonymous butcheress who slaughtered the pig and prepared its fat; second, the artist received the assistance of the programmer Jan Sterniša and the team from the MKC Maribor Youth Culture Centre – Kulturni inkubator, who are skilled in do it youself 3D scanning and printing and the 3D data processing with the program Maya (they provided a module for the final transfer of scale from the pig to the human scale); third, in the last stage of the project, a plastic surgeon will suck out and supply human fat so that the artist will finally be able to make himself equal to the pig as well as to other animal species.
How should I then translate the idea of an experimental art act from the field of art into the field of medical science? The artist, who conceived the project to a large extent for ethical reasons, cannot possibly not touch upon the codes of ethics that were formulated by the international community in the second half of the 20th century, after the science and medicine had already become deeply implicated in the mass killings of the age of eugenics. In her brief overview of body art practices, Jane Goodall speculated that »perhaps the culture of scientific experiment is intrinsically untrustworthy and needs the constant accompaniment of ethics in order to advance without tipping over into pathological tendencies.« Ethical examination is not primarily the domain of art, although, historically speaking, art treated personal responsibility much better than medicine, for example. From the standpoint of art, I have no doubts that the artist will handle his genetic material extremely cautiously, in the same manner as he in general, as a sculptor and puppet-maker, handles rare woods and metals. But you will have to give me the benefit of the doubt.
Some artists whose work offers important aspects of interpreting the project Corpus indeterminata both from the perspective of the history of contemporary art (providing it with context and verification) as well as from the view of content, have been engaged specifically with problems in law and science, in order to reveal some of the morbid elements in our society as disgustingly and shockingly as possible. The contemporary Chinese artist Zhu Yu (朱昱) found a loophole in the law, which did not explicitly prohibit the consumption of human meat, and subsequently decided to eat embryos of aborted babies in his performance Eating People (2000). Not because he would have enjoyed the taste or due to any cannibalistic tendencies, but in order to indicate the value of human life in his homeland. In the same year, he used his own body as a canvas. He stitched a patch of his body to a fourth of a dead pig. As I have already mentioned in the beginning, in relation to the nutritional value of fat, the Chinese tradition also regards the pig as a creature that bestows life, beside its connotations of home and comfort. At the end of the procedure for the work Skin Graf, the gallery put on display a photograph of the pig, while the artist stood beside it holding up his shirt to show the missing part of his body as evidence of the performed surgery. One of the arguments that allows artists to make such drastic experiments and which can be also applied to the work of Srdić Janežič, is the assertion that the artist owns his body in no truer sense than the pig owns its. The artist’s ethical judgment is based on mediating activities that engender conflicting claims and paradoxical conditions in view of the disproportion and inequality characteristic of the relationship of power over one’s own body.
Why exactly did the artist choose the pig as his bestial reflection? The answer is suggested already in his series Lost & Found (2007): he was collecting hairs in public urinals to exhibit them under the protective glass or as documentary photographs of »found hairs«. A few years later, in June 2010, while residing at the Ministry of Culture’s art studio in Berlin, he was plucking his hairs with tweezers for 24 hours. These hairs were later on, through the procedure of felting, sewn into a shirt which he was performatively wearing at an opening of the first part of Corpus indeterminata at the Alkatraz Gallery. This preoccupation with hairs is closely linked to making sense of one’s own humanity in relation to non-human animals. The inclusion of animals in art work has lately taken place especially in bioart, a new art genre that uses live organisms (at a cellular and microbiological level) as the basic building blocks of artwork; nevertheless, Srdić Janežič seems primarily interested in the tactile, symbolic and psychological levels of confronting the animal. As we can read in William lan Miller’s The Anatomy of Disgust, we humans tend to dread that we may be assimilable to animals and even inferior to them, since “[t]heir bodies do anything ours can do better and they do it ‘clothed’. We have patches of hair; they have fur and feathers; if they aren’t so clothed we are more likely to find them disgusting, they are more likely to remind us of us. Thus it is often easier to compare ourselves to worms, mole rats, pigs, and plucked chickens than to tigers. Human bodies are doubly damned. We disgust as (bad) animal bodies and as human bodies.”
The virtual body
In times of the physical reproduction of virtuality (when objects are taken from the physical into the virtual and converted back into the physical with 3D scanning), such art practices, which are in snyc with the changing cultural landscapes, do not merely denounce the idea of the world as a Creation as well as the associated idea of artistic genius – or activate the idea of the world as a process, which encourages participation and communication –, but also blur the boundaries between the virtual and the physical, as two equal constituents of the whole of reality. Multiple casts of the artist’s body are rough materials which treat the sculpture merely as a sketch, an idea for the illustration of the concept. Multiples are the method of mediating the meanings that I have described above, but they are also an absolutely necessary technical solution. The original art object is not some kind of a genius sculpture – the sculpture / multiple is only a means to displacing the notion of the significance of an individual genius. Life, which is at a symbolic level exuberantly »fueled« by fat as a sculpting material, is experienced and lived in our own bodies in a phenomenological sense, in harmony with the media, modes of representation and manifestation of an individual’s identity, which all work to extend the body. What happens to the real corporeal body made of fat and blood, when it is transposed into a virtual representation of a human or pig, or when it becomes an avatar? Its virtual mode of existence is no less real or dependent on the body than the idea of the physical body itself. Video, which enables an accurate minituarisation of the body and which is one of the visual derivatives of transferring the physical body back into the virtual realm by using 3D scanning, is no less bound to the body as the physical cast of a body in space. Srdić Janežič believes it essential to not produce an approximation of the body, but to make a multiple, without any authorial “creative” invasions, since every particular thing is significant just the way it is. A head is, for example, one and only and itself, though it can be classified into the category of heads. With the multiplication of bodies, Srdić Janežič demonstrates that we misunderstand the body as the universal body, not only at the level of language, but also in material terms. By multiplying the same cast, the artist points out the opposite: the definitive singularity. His work turns the question of originality and uniqueness thrice around its own axis. If the media serve as the extension of our senses (Marshal McLuhan), what is then Srdić’s medium? An extension of the virtual body?