I spent this morning working with Roberta Lima, another of the Red Gate residents, whose work focuses on her own body, and in the past has included live and video-mediated performances that involve piercing, costume and feminist iconography. She is moving away from that kind of extreme engagement with her body (suspended by hooks in her knees, pierced by needles in her hips) but was still curious to see what might come from a brief collaboration between us. Roberta is Brazilian but is currently resident in Dublin where she is Associate Researcher at GradCam. The serendipity of finding our Irish connection made the idea of collaboration all the more necessary.
Roberta came to the performance of Dialogue in Beijing and was struck by the power of Xiao Ke on stage and by the abandon with which she could allow herself to be carried by me. I sensed that I might be able to give Roberta a taste of that experience in our working together. I could do something for her, with her, in the aesthetic frame she has established here in Beijing.
Her frame is to use a spy camera attached to her breast bone that sends images to an old analog TV that is then filmed by a digital camera. The layering of recording creates patterns of interference that are further enhanced by the very low fi reflections on the TV screen that the digital camera captures. The result is a physical experience observed at a distance, mediated in shadows, reflections, and the energy of a camera moving. Knowing about her experiments with suspension and her interest in how Xiao Ke and I worked together, I decided that I wanted to allow Roberta to experience her studio space from the different perspective of one being carried. Her initial rigidity gave way to an indulgence in the process and the resulting video material is intriguing and connects with her other work on many levels.
We then taped the camera to my chest and, while Roberta read an article she’d written on her work, I allowed the energy and content of her speech to suggest movement to me.
In fact the movement was restricted by the camera cables attached to my body – umbilical chord and fetters.
But I’m intrigued by some of the photos that came from the experiment and the relationship that exists between the woman who sits reading from a laptop on the stairs and the man wrapped in wire that writhes in below her. The camera quickly detached itself from my chest so I ended up holding it there in a gesture that had a strong emotional colour I found difficult to circumvent. What stands out in the photos are the inadvertent resonances between Roberta’s gestures and mine, so that some unchoreographed physical communication passes between us, even as her words dominate the space.
Of course, Roberta trained as an architect and later became and artist, so her sense of space and its meanings is acute. Serendipity! -which reminds me that Stefan Lewandowski is doing some research on serendipity or happenstance for his Clore Leadership Fellowship. His notes from an interview with Charles Hunter were stimulating, particularly the observation that
Openness to serendipity enables serendipity