As someone who work with objects, which at times include ephemera from performance art, I continually consider how objects/materials embody and act as traces of events. I am particularly interested in how the sight of such objects/materials conjures up feelings of past events that reside in the memory of the viewers. My current research has been considering the emotional responses to the sight of blood within a performance setting and the associations this may or may not have to perceiving pain or rather, a perceived sense of pain. I am interested in the complexities of theorizing pain and the discourse around it that has emerged from both medical and cultural theories. I was particularly interested in participating in this group workshop on Emotions with Roger Kneebone and sculptor Matthew Sanderson due interest into how objects and materials embody emotions and how these are communicated through language.
The sight of surgical instruments, for me, conjured up feelings that were less to do with anxiety but more to do with what is absent from them i.e. blood. This was a mental image I could not seem to shift as I handled these cold-looking, pristine objects. Even though blood is absent in this somewhat pre-surgery type display, I found myself thinking more and more about how and when they were used and how they will eventually end up in cabinets of curiosities in a not to distant future, thanks to our rapidly advancing technologically age. Life-saving objects? No, this looks more like a museological display of objects telling stories of medical techniques of yester years. Surgical instruments celebrated as extensions of the hand, now it’s more to do with extensions of the brain.
In handling the instruments set out by Roger and making malleable metal structures with Matthew, I was reminded of a recent paper I read by Sidney Fels titled, Intimacy and Embodiment: Implications for Art and Technology, where he talks about how people have aesthetic experiences when they manipulate objects skillfully and how highly skilled performance with an object requires forming a highly intimate relationship with it. I kept thinking about this crossover of performativity, embodiment and intimacy between they ways in which both surgeon and artist and indeed we the participants all perform to make.