Emma Corbett Ashby on “Angel”
Back in 2011 I was given a roll of super 8 film and a camera, with the brief to produce a 3 min haptic movie. My understanding of ‘haptic’ in this context was a visual piece that communicates a strong physical/somatic sensation in the viewer. Something that would literally ‘touch’ the viewer (the origin of ‘haptic’ is ‘to touch’ in Greek). I immediately thought of collaborating with Fionn Batchelor, as I’ve always admired her work and how she combines rawness and physicality with some very appealing and visually intelligent aesthetics. In the movie, I am the disembodied piercer and Fionn is the piercee. We both have our own relationships to piercing which added a personal element to the process.
In my understanding, Fionn’s intentions as an artist are about transcending the physical body and creating a kind of liminal space, however tenuous, where there is an overlap between embodied and disembodied, and between subject and subjective. This was something that interested me a lot.
Addiction and recovery is a recurring theme in a lot of my own work, so I was very drawn to the concept of transcending the physical body and playing with its borders.
I like the romanticized imagery in the film, with the sunset and the ‘angelic’ visual themes. I also like how its somehow hedonistic and escapist, although also very rooted in the physical world (in my opinion) due to the piercing and the tethering of the elastic. I like that there is a glimpse of the methodical process at the beginning, and the ‘double jump’ at the end, which was a sort of nod to the viewer to indicate our awareness of the theatricality and the request that they suspend disbelief.
Unsurprisingly, the film is often read as being an exercise in sensationalism or provocation. At the first screening, the typical reaction of the audience was either to want to tell me that it made them feel sick or faint, or to want to tell me that it was ‘nothing’, and ‘could have been a lot more shocking, why didn’t I make it more shocking?’ It interests me that people seemed to want to consume the film in the manner of a rollercoaster ride, why it triggered that sense of bravado or abjectness. Needless to say, attempting to shock the viewer was not part of our intentions. Rather, I would say we wanted to invite the viewer to take part in a transcendental private moment, all 3 minutes of it!
It’s difficult to articulate the true essence of my work as it is centered in visceral understanding and knowledge. I’ve always had a preoccupation with the unspoken, how and what we communicate between, in and around words, and I try to transcribe that in my work.
Super 8 Film (2011)
Temporary piercings are the perfect conduit to communicate the corporality of flesh. For me, it translates the over exaggerated and underestimated bodily experience: Over-exaggerated with the beauty myth, media and the socialized idea of perfection; underestimated as to its capability to communicate intuitively and the mind’s ability to shape its perceptions and experience.
My art has always centered around the body; I’ve tried to shift the focus, but it inevitably always comes back to the body: the internal and external factors that influence it, how it dictates experience because of our/others’ perceptions based on socially-prescribed notions of what it should/shouldn’t be, and what it is and isn’t.
The desire to be free of the body is a really misunderstood place to be and the language around it is secreted in so much stigmatization and misconception, which is why I choose to communicate through performance art rather than through words– to create a new visceral language to communicate a desire that gestates in varying degree, at some point, in most people.