Friday, 21 May 2010

A Peculiar Geometry

A Peculiar Geometry

“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Space and time are perhaps the most familiar features of lived experience. They are also the most beguiling. Space and time appear as eternally fixed essences, fundamental to the character of reality, unyielding to the vagaries of conduct and perception. Yet for all the familiarity of space and time, the appearance of stability remains a mysterious illusion. The everyday experience of space rarely accords with a classical geometry of planes and fixed distances. For space is always experienced as a process of movement and rest, of travel, communication and associations. The earth is never still and distances are never fixed.

Kant was the first to perceive this ‘enfolding’ of space and time in the movements of a thinking, feeling body. Space and time exhibit for Kant, the properties of pure intuition. We experience space and time as subjective points of perspective and movement. Space and time are meaningful only in relation to our experience of this perspective, such that any notion of an objective, geometrical space must remain an abstraction, perhaps even an illusion. The world might be mapped, its contours measured and its expanses navigated, but the space of maps is never the space of the living body. No map has ever captured the experience of place; the living, affective, cognitive and emotional experience of being in the world. To chart the disjunctive spaces and jarring temporalities of this life-world requires a different kind of map, more sensitive to affective rhythms of embodiment and place.

Andrea Eckersley and Dell Stewart’s work explores the spaces and temporalities of embodiment and place. Each artist works between the geometrical space of surfaces and distance and the subjective life-world of experience and movement. Each artist creates work that addresses the body directly, taking the fixed spaces of the canvas, the silk-screen, the dress-maker’s pattern and the ornament, warping and moulding these spaces to accommodate the body’s peculiar geometry. The triangle provides an ideal example of the abstract surfaces of geometrical space and the ways these surfaces must be continuously distorted to fit the living body. Scales lift off
the surface of the canvas only to land in the imbricated folds of the adjacent garment.

To wrap the body in the abstract geometry of the triangle is to be reminded of the intensity of lived place and the inhuman flatness of extensive space. It is to force the living, feeling, thinking body back into space. It is to introduce the body’s sinuous folds into the flat abstractions of geometrical surfaces. Space and time are undeniable constraints – few bodies escape gravity and few bodies elude time. Yet to regard space and time as fundamental and immutable essences is to refuse the affective and corporeal potential that space and time present. All spaces are lived spaces; all time is experienced. Eckersley and Stewart remind us of the lived, felt, affective and relational dimensions of space and our desire to recover a place for the body, for experience itself.

Cameron Duff

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