The Distance Between – MA Exhibition 

 

I am showing my final project “The Distance Between – Body Suspension on New York City” for my MA in Photography at the art school Kunsthochschule Burg Giebichenstein Halle at Künstlerhaus 188 in Halle/Saale, Germany.

 

Künstlerhaus 188 
Böllberger Weg 188
Halle/Saale

Presentation 28 January 2014, 9 am


The project:

 

My conceptual documentary photo project The Distance Between is a piece on the subcultural ritual of body suspension. In the broadest sense it deals with overcoming bodily restrictions, undergoing pain and reaching states of transcendence.

 

Body suspensions – the act of lifting a person up in the air by utilising temporarily body piercings or hooks through the skin – have a long tradition in the history of humankind: They are a religious ritual in Hinduism until today; the Native American Mandan tribe used them as an initiation rite; the Australian performance artist Stellarc introduced suspensions to the art world in the 1970′s and 1980′s. The different techniques were adopted by a subcultural movement in the US and in Europe which is active in promoting suspensions as a form of artistic expression by organising performance shows.

 

Over the course of three years I have traveled to the US a couple of times to document body suspensions there. During this time I tried to figure out a photographic strategy that deals with this difficult subject in a way that handles two objectives:

a) It allows a broad audience to look at the photographs and to make up their mind about the topic without being repelled by a visually explicit photographic language.

b) It refers to photography as a voyeuristic medium and the beholder as a voyeur (as argued by Susan Sontag and Abigail Solomon-Godeau) by defying voyeurism and not satisfying the desire to see more of the body suspension process, i.e. the blood or the actual hanging.

 

These two objectives led me to develop a very rigid conceptual realisation that consciously employs a mode of distanciation by focussing on facial expressions on the one hand and equipment that is necessary to perform body suspensions on the other hand. Between the still life photographs and the portraits lies a gap that needs to be filled by the imagination and projections of the beholder. Hence, my photographic series poses more questions than it answers, deliberately so. With this Brechtian gestus I want the viewer to actively engage in the process of gaining knowledge about the subject instead of being passive recipients (maybe even start their own investigation in the digital sphere to see what body suspensions actually look like or to satisfy their appetite to understand the reasons why people do perform body suspensions).