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Inherent in the human compulsion for self-representation is a complex mesh of desires hinging upon self-cognisance and acceptance. In Corps, curator Charles Robb assembled a group of artists whose works touch upon contemporary issues of the self, associated with the body.
In tilling this exhibition Corps—literally meaning an organised body of persons and phonetically allied to 'corpse' and 'core'—Robb acknowledges three fundamental ways in which we represent ourselves. Namely, as 'corps' (the self as cog in the wheel of humanity), 'corpse' (the self as externally defined), and 'core' (the essential inner self). Each work included in the show embodied one or more of these concepts.
Body Memory was a collaborative installation by Justin Avery and Courtney Pedersen in which a bed-sheet, impregnated with wax, shrouded a wire reinforced bodycavity set in the foetal position and lit from beneath. Occupying a small room, the work exuded the pungent aroma of honey and rosemary (the herb of remembrance).
Its subdued glow and evocative aroma produced an effect which was both eerie and poignant. Reminiscent of a deathbed scene, it commented upon the fragility of the body and the ephemerality of life. Michelle Reed's I Still Hear Your Voice, a series of five hand-coloured photographic montages in which she superimposed her own image into old family photographs, similarly emphasised boundaries between past and present, life and death—between the presence and absence of the body/self.
Both Laura Bechly's Disseverance and Madeleine Kelly's The Nutcracker took a compartmentalised view of the body. Bechly's work incorporated small pieces of animal-gut and illustrations of human anatomy, delicately fastened with entomological pins to a wax base. The Nutcracker was comprised of packing cases, prosthetic limbs, casts, and shoes. This fragmented, pseudo-medical approach characterised the body as a fragile machine, a conglomerate of parts.
Offerings from Ross Hobbins, Nicole Voevodin-Cash and Ray Cook explored the connection between representations of the body and perceptions and constructions of gender and sexuality. Hobbins's Masculine Identification Number Seven (Heaven), an ovoid wall-mounted light-box featuring an enlarged film-still (from a pornographic film) of a man's torso with head thrown back in ecstasy, defined masculinity in terms of the male body's implied relationship of power to the invisible entity (presumably female) whose ministrations he enjoyed. Voevodin-Cash's installation, The Ranger (Bedside Touchings Series), of plastic fruit upon a whitegood with glass drawer containing a g-string woven from human hair, positioned the sexualised female body within the context of a traditionally gender specific 'woman's domain.' Ray Cook produced four manipulated photographic images, each depicting a naked male surrounded by a profusion of queer (in both senses) props which commented upon the way we package and perceive ourselves and each other. Lucreccia Quintanilla's Collateral Damage, (Fatigues Series), juxtaposed camouflage material derived from army fatigues with pantihose in a patchwork-like wall-hanging. In combining fabrics traditionally associated with male and female gendered bodies Quintanilla effectively eroticised the piece, again stressing the correlation between body-related objects and our construction of identity. In Marijke Lambregtse's Orientation, the cast of a torso was enclosed in a box with louvres, suggesting confinement of the human body, either symbolically—in terms of the pressure we place upon ourselves to conform to an imagined ideal—or actually, in terms of imprisonment.
Franz Ehmann's installation Lustmond surveyed the human body within the contexts of war and social injustice. A suspended black shirt symbolising fascism and wax slabs, inscribed with names of past massacres, mapped these themes within human history. A school desk filled with chalk, bones, and the drone of a badly tuned television, commented upon the way in which the lessons of human history are subsumed by the ephemeral.