All Bodies Via Voids
Soft armor. Victorian dresses, garters, aprons and other clothing items normally made of fabric, become rigid cages and masterfully crafted structures made of metal, wood and MDF in Diane Simpson’s work. Often these materials are painted or dressed with some kind of finishing, be it fabric, paint, aluminum or other laminates. The edges however, remain exposed, and become integral to the illusion of the perspective, cut at sharp angles that enhance the trompe-l’oeuil effect.
The untreated edges of these over-sized sartorial items become the boundary between hard and soft, the bodily and the architectural, the intimate and the public. They are a marker of tension, like a bra strap exceeding from underneath a top, one that causes embarrassment and asks to be tucked back in with a reticent finger. These edges are also contested grounds as they betray the flatness of the pictorial by drawing obtuse tangents into another space: one that engages and implicates the viewer on a planar level.
This push and pull between the pictorial, the sculptural and what Lucio Fontana referred to as an infinite dimension, calls into question the role of thickness within the three dimensional realm. Indeed thickness is not a measurement that is charted when specifications of an artwork are given, and so, in this sense, it is not one of the three dimensions. Here the thickness is an interruption within a surface, which relates to the otherworldly, it departs from what is closest to us and projects into the void of the unknown.
Gordon Matta-Clark described this projection as a “geometric progression [of lines]…from line to plane to various kinds of planes to volumes to something…beyond the volume…” One could argue that the dimension beyond the volume is not the fissure that Matta Clark performed onto buildings, but rather, the thickness of the walls, which the cross sections revealed.
This undocumented realm requires tactile assurance by the viewer, it is a void that creates anxiety until it is filled: a finger run along the edges of an unprimed cut, or inserted into a punctured canvas. The planar opening is not understood until confirmed, not unlike doubting Thomas inserting his finger into Jesus’ wound in Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas.
The body is a cage, a building: it is skeleton, skin and exoskeleton all at once. Traveling seamlessly in a lateral movement between interior and exterior, through multiple layers of enclosure. The edges of Simpson’s sculptures act as diversions that instantaneously puncture these layers, providing a sort of release: a release that is not of an asexual order.
These punctures are the pressure valves of the body as cavity, wounds that require fingering such as the gashes of car crash victims in JG Ballard’s Crash… The relief (/release) of an accident, or even the necessity of the cut, as release, like in Michael Haneke’s Piano Lesson. As the psychosexual exchanges between a piano teacher and her young affluent pupil steadily rise in intensity throughout the film, the only possible conclusion of the build-up, is a swift self-inflicted stab wound just above the heart. The otherwise composed and elegant teacher’s perfectly pressed white shirt is slowly stained by a vibrant red drip that slowly seeps its way down from the opening.
While the release of Haneke’s inward stab is outwardly, and while the body is clearly a thing that contains, here there is also a sense of the body as infinite void, a Mapplethorpian space of sorts where its entries and exits become portals to a space that unifies all bodies via voids.
In Fist Fuck, Robert Mapplethorpe creates an infinite body: an infinity that can be accessed via orifice. Here again, while the body as limitless cavity is of interest, thinking of the thickness of the anal membrane as threshold to be tested, verified and probed, provides for a much more pointed investigation of an instant.
The argument could be made that thickness (this non-dimension) is inherently anti-mathematical; in fact, it is the downfall of the perfect precision of Euclidian geometry. Indeed, our concern here has been the investigation of an instant that is a point in time and space: the point created by an axis intersecting a plane.
The thickness of the materials that we have investigated here is not unlike the thickness of the pencil line in a drawing. Perhaps then, it could be said that thickness is the sabotaging of all representational space (drawing, sculptural, mathematical) and that it is inherently narrative and even visceral in nature.
If the intersection of an axis with a plane is about time and space, then the thickness of that axis (a thickness that is itself mathematically infinite), is a description of that instant, of the resistance of the threshold, and the intensity of the friction created by the passage into space. Thickness is in fact the tactile story of any space.