Radiant Bodies is a collection of moving image works that explores the intersections between the human body and the radiant properties of cinema. Through hand-made techniques that focus on the materiality of moving images, each of these works underscore the invisible ways in which the world imprints upon human, and other, bodies. Photographic images are dependent on light, and could not exist without the ability to receive and transmit energy that then forms realistic images. However, radiant energy can be simultaneously damaging. Unprotected negatives and photo-paper become blackened and useless, magnetic waves warp video images, and incorrect exposure in camera similarly destroys photographic information in film, analogue or digital formats.
Featuring works by: Emily Pelstring, Gariné Torossian, Daniel McIntyre, Louise Borque and Kyle Armstrong. Curated by Melanie Wilmink
These radiant properties of the world similarly affect the human body, imprinting, altering, healing and damaging through durational exposure. In this shared experience of radiant affect, the human and photograph forge a powerful bond. French semiotician Roland Barthes eloquently connects the photographic object and the body of the spectator in the book Camera Lucida where he writes that the photograph acts as an “…emanation of the referent. From a real body, which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me… like the delayed rays of a star. A sort of umbilical cord links the body of the photographed thing to my gaze: light, though impalpable, is here a carnal medium, a skin I share with anyone who has been photographed” (Camera Lucida 80-81). This sensual skin-to-skin contact through the medium of light enables empathy between image and being, drawing to the forefront issues around the ephemerality of memory (and light), the supposed permanence of photography as a witness to life lived, questions of mortality, and the ambivalence of our place in the universe as small and fragile beings within an environment which is often destructively sublime.
The films are structured around Daniel McIntyre’s film series Lion, which deals with the psychological and physical ramifications of radioactivity, and the metaphoric connections between radioactivity and the chemical compositions of celluloid filmmaking, through an exploration of the history and present of Chernobyl. McIntyre connects his grandmother’s stories about the nuclear disaster in 1986, with his family’s struggle with cancer, and the documentation of his own visit to Chernobyl. The film underscores the uncontrolled mutation of bodies created by radiation poisoning, the blurred lines of memory and documentation, as well as the connections between the light-sensitive chemical photography and radiation as something that generates seemingly invisible marks, develops over time, and creates new versions of old bodies and forms. Bookending this film are works by Emily Pelstring (Doing My Rounds, Checking Some Rounds), Gariné Torossian (Babies on the Sun), and Louise Borque (Self Portrait Post Mortem), who all enact change on the image of the human body through a process of hand-working. Pelstring’s video-manipulation creates a performative body, both within the work—where the dancer’s body is pushed and pulled by magnetic waves—and in the spectatorial body that is buffeted by the driving soundtrack and oscillating images. In contrast to Pelstring’s embodied approach, Torossian and Borque both focus on the memory-image, where physically distressed photographic footage resonates with issues around ephemerality, memory, and cinematic dream-states. The final film in the program consolidates all of these interests through a study of the northern lights in relation to history, memory, human habitation and transcendent environments. In Magnetic Reconnection, Kyle Armstrong contrasts the desolate landscapes of the arctic and the beauty of the aurora borealis to examine the ways in which humans embody a similar ambivalence of great brilliance that is balanced by extreme destructiveness. Armstrong questions what we know and the ephemerality of our presence when we exists as mere moments in an environment that remembers eons.
- Doing My Rounds, Checking Some Rounds (Emily Pelstring, 5:55 mins, 2013. analogue video on digital video.)
- Babies on the Sun (Gariné Torossian, 4:30 mins, 2001. 16mm.)
- Lion (Daniel McIntyre, 50:59, 2014. 16mm on digital video.)
- Self Portrait Post Mortem (Louise Borque. 2:30 min, 2002. 35mm.)
- Magnetic Reconnection (Kyle Armstrong, 12:31, 2012. 16mm and HD on digital video.)