Body Traces: Space & Place Performance Work

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My last InterArts Space & Place post focused on the structure of this important class and the process of creating group dynamic in collaborative installations. Now, the S&P students have ventured off into their own lines of inquiry, crafting their spaces for performance and environmental works. For their installations, second-years Alexa Rittichier and Juliana Piscitiello have focused on the remnants left from the body after performance. How the artists leave themselves behind in their own spaces is compelling, both as individual works and as cohabitants of 916 South Wabash.[flickr id=”6346469804″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

Rittichier’s accumulation of self takes the form of red thread in her piece Liminal Breath. You may recall Rittichier from the Potluck Meet-and-Greet post, where she choreographed a group performance of ghostly little girls. The visual language of the feminine and the ephemeral is on display in Liminal Breath as well, albeit in a more abstract context. Every day, Rittichier enters a womb-like enclosure in the center of her space and slips on a small dress made of cheesecloth. With needle and red thread, she proceeds to literally sew the connection between her garment and the veil around her, moving in slow-breathing circles with every finished strand.

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The meticulous nature of the sewing culls great associations to spiders, female labor, memory, and pregnancy. It is the growing muchness of the work that gives it its power–when will the red threads tangle? can she get out? what is being built?–and still eludes any straightforward interpretation. At the end of each performative day, Rittichier slips out of her dress and exits, leaving her dress suspended in space like the ghostly little girl referenced in her earlier works.

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In Suspended Illuminations, Piscitiello leaves threads of a different kind in her installation environment. The maze-like space consists of a growing stream of consciousness written on the wide walls and hallways. Black lights hang from the space like glowing exclamation points, activating the phosphorescent ink with which Piscitiello is penning her words. Like Rittichier, Piscitiello is carrying through a line of inquiry with this signature ink–she performed Glass House by similar means at the Sacred & Profane show earlier this semester.

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Suspended Illuminations activates Piscitiello more as a performer in the space this time around. Donning a miner’s light and ladder, she scales the maze she has created to cover every square inch of cellophane with her thoughts, rhythmic language, and narrative. Viewers could grab a small backlight flashlight to make the manic writing glow with energy. The light itself is a remnant in the space, only powering text that is in its immediate surroundings. Like the viewer, Piscitiello is excavating her own writing, seeing a half dozen words in the corona of her miner’s light. No one in the space is quite aware of the beginning or ending of the Illuminations; the fragments captured by the light is the sole evidence that a writing body was present here at all.

Both performance-installations reference not only the traces left by the physical body, but also the markings of Piscitello’s and Rittichier’s body of work. Thematic elements unique to both artists’ works are emerging–a process that starts to truly manifest in the Space & Place class. From here on out, finding patterns in the traces their work leaves behind will be just as important as the remnants themselves.

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