To paraphrase Charlie Brooker '…you are a farting stumbling skittle' you are a mass of flesh, one of billions shifting and moving in this sea of humanity. You are composed of a biological history of viruses, genetics and pumping hearts.
We are our bodies, life and consciousness is withheld in the body, somehow. Don't ask me my knowledge only goes so deep. Perhaps there lies somewhere within this collective and yet individual experience of the body the drive to attempt to understand the baffling operations it undertakes, operations which are at one vital and yet alien.
Is then this pursuit of biological understanding an element of wider understanding of our existence here, as our position as the smartest lumps of flesh on the planet?
These are the thoughts which travel through the grey mush I refer to as my brain well looking at the Gina Czarnecki retrospective at the Bluecoat. An exploration into the augmentation of body through science and technology, which questions the affects that this exploration can have on society.
I find myself inside an installation, sat in front of a piece called Cellmass. A figure smears across the screen, her limbs twisting into evolutionarily dead ends. The fading trails of her movement speak of the memory of movement of lactic burn. Other figures begin to merge into her path, bodies forming a tumbling flailing mass. An orgy of genetic memory, retracing actions, paths, until they compress and reform into something new. Their collective actions have sparked the creation of a new organism, evolution in action.
What is driving this evolution? The tooth and claw of Darwin's theory or some need to circumvent nature. To provide that we are masters of our own biological destiny and not merely meat puppets controlled by deep animal urges.
Cellmass forms part of a trilogy of sorts, three parts of a whole, three organs acting as one. It's easy to read them as parts of a whole thanks (in part) to the booming blood in your ears hum provided by Christian Fennesz. It creates the sense of being enclosed within a body or having your internal sounds being amplified and projected into the space surrounding you.
The middle piece, which would be the first you would encounter (it will make sense when you visit the Bluecoat) is Infection. Features a figure trapped inside what looks like a petri dish. Within this space the figure undergoes a digitally edited evolution, using video editing techniques Czarnecki forces an evolution. As a genetic smear grows limbs and begins to fight against its confines to breakout and complete its genetic destiny. There's a point when I put my hand into the shallow waters that Infection is projected into and the figure retreats from this intrusion. I know that this isn't happening that it was just a coincidence, but it makes me think wonder if I'm no longer just experiencing this and have become part of the piece.
Then onto Spintex where the surprise of the red light of dusk awaits me. For a moment its strange to see something which is outside of the body. Though the rolling heartbeat of the score act as an bodily reminder as it washes into me. The screen fades to black and out of the darkness looms a face, ghostly with the look of being on the edge of something, some kind of revelation. It becomes apparent that this face is part of an moving mass, swaying to some primeval hearts to a greater rhythm. The pulse of music recalling the beat of the heart the flow of blood.
While in this space I can't help but relate it to my experiences of nightclubbing. Specifically that point where you've stopped hearing the music, or stopped trying to hear the music and everything becomes a thudding rhythm that seems to glue the sweaty mass you're in together. To continue this allegory it also feels like the morning after where your body still reverberates and the blood in your ear still keeps a 4/4 beat. The sensation you put your body through something that you responded to some pre-programmed urge to be part of some unknown viral mass.
This has focused on three pieces and I haven't touched on the other themes inherent in the exhibition or spoke about the spectral figures or the collection of teeth moulds that haunt part of the gallery.