The Poetics of Space
Edited by Arie Altena & Sonic Acts
Published by Sonic Acts Press
Design by Femke Herregraven
Annet Dekker in conservation with Sonia Cillari
2 February 2010
We talk about the background of Sensitive to Pleasure and what the plans are at this moment.
There are many subjects and ideas that inspired me to make this work. Sensitive to Pleasure comprehends most of the subject matter that aesthetically and psychologically has interested me over time, and it is at once a compendium of my previous research into expansion and bodily compositions, both in terms of installation and performance art.
On the one hand, my own experience of showing Se Mi Sei Vicino. It has always been a very emotional piece for me but, especially because of the number of people in the audience, I felt often very disconnected from it. So this new piece comes from a sort of frustration.
At the same time, this work speaks about pleasure and pain, something personal, selfish even. It looks like an artist should not question or think anymore about pleasure and pain as an idea in the visual arts.
It also reflects my critique to the way we understand interactive art. Often people perceive interactive art as if it belongs to them, just because they are part of it. I’m more interested in participatory art, it is a different thing. Driven by a fascination for our emotional world, with my work I like to create particular atmospheres in order to stimulate psychological situations which might generate different, and some times contradictory, emotional states and mental dispositions; I use technology because it allows me to create illusions in an attempt to transcend the local events.
In Sensitive to Pleasure, the artwork belongs to the artist, it doesn’t belong to the visitor. Actually I use the visitor to gain a physical experience from my work, an experience which is recognized as painful but which might be pleasant for me. I revert the relationship.
But then I started wondering – why am I so attached to my work? I reread the beautiful Greek legend, the Pygmalion story about the sculptor who made a female statue of ivory and at last fell in love with the statue, with its own creation. A statue that does not move, cannot kiss him and cannot talk. This feeling is making him almost crazy. The beauty of the piece was so overwhelming that he couldn’t let it go. Feeling pity for him Aphrodite decided to bring the statue to life.
Lately, I have been very interested in a kind of narrative underlying my work, a starting point to reading the personality of the characters involved.
The fairy tale of Sensitive to Pleasure tells about an artist that has created her piece for her own physical pleasure. I act as myself, the artist, dealing with the ambiguity of being in love with my own piece, a creature inside an ambisonics cube capable of revealing the sound of her body when in contact with other human beings. I created it to be pleased with but, as the creature has human-like thinking behaviors, my ideal lover has left me behind. I’m standing still outside the ambisonics cube. I become the doorkeeper of the interaction between the visitor and her. I am condemned to see a visitor entering alone and having pleasure with her without looking at it and what I get back is a very physical pain, which might be also pleasant for me; this is part of the piece. This is a reflection of an event that everybody can recognizes. And beside this human life aspect I like to transport this feeling into the artworld. Of course I’m not speaking of a lover but about my artwork. This is basically the underlying idea behind this piece.
The intimacy between the visitor and the creature that is happening inside the ambisonics cube will not be documented in order to give the visitor the possibility to fully experience it through involvement and exposure. I’m very interested in exploring in which way visitors may interact with the creature knowing that their interaction is provoking outside a strong physical reaction into my body. It might be that they will never feel totally free or comfortable.
I will experience the physical interaction between the visitor and the creature through electrical pulses. I like the idea of the public being in a voyeuristic situation looking at me experiencing the piece.
A restricted path on the floor made of lights guide the visitor to the entrance of the ambisonics cube; the lights’ subtle changes reflect the encounters between the visitor and the creature, enhancing the sensuality of the piece, as well as implying one’s own perceptions of my physical experience on stage.
Sensitive to Pleasure connects with my latest research into working with and exploring the body as interface.
Edward Shanken (2005)
Written 1 A.C.E.
Translated by Sir Samuel Garth, John Dryden, et al
Story of Pygmalion and the Statue
Pygmalion loathing their lascivious life,
Abhorr’d all womankind, but most a wife:
So single chose to live, and shunn’d to wed,
Well pleas’d to want a consort of his bed.
Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
In sculpture exercis’d his happy skill;
And carv’d in iv’ry such a maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his art compare,
Were she to work; but in her own defence
Must take her pattern here, and copy hence.
Pleas’d with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador’d, desires.
A very virgin in her face was seen,
And had she mov’d, a living maid had been:
One wou’d have thought she cou’d have stirr’d, but strove
With modesty, and was asham’d to move.
Art hid with art, so well perform’d the cheat,
It caught the carver with his own deceit:
He knows ’tis madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more:
The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fir’d with this thought, at once he strain’d the breast,
And on the lips a burning kiss impress’d.
‘Tis true, the harden’d breast resists the gripe,
And the cold lips return a kiss unripe:
But when, retiring back, he look’d again,
To think it iv’ry, was a thought too mean:
So wou’d believe she kiss’d, and courting more,
Again embrac’d her naked body o’er;
And straining hard the statue, was afraid
His hands had made a dint, and hurt his maid:
Explor’d her limb by limb, and fear’d to find
So rude a gripe had left a livid mark behind:
With flatt’ry now he seeks her mind to move,
And now with gifts (the pow’rful bribes of love),
He furnishes her closet first; and fills
The crowded shelves with rarities of shells;
Adds orient pearls, which from the conchs he drew,
And all the sparkling stones of various hue:
And parrots, imitating human tongue,
And singing-birds in silver cages hung:
And ev’ry fragrant flow’r, and od’rous green,
Were sorted well, with lumps of amber laid between:
Rich fashionable robes her person deck,
Pendants her ears, and pearls adorn her neck:
Her taper’d fingers too with rings are grac’d,
And an embroider’d zone surrounds her slender waste.
Thus like a queen array’d, so richly dress’d,
Beauteous she shew’d, but naked shew’d the best.
Then, from the floor, he rais’d a royal bed,
With cov’rings of Sydonian purple spread:
The solemn rites perform’d, he calls her bride,
With blandishments invites her to his side;
And as she were with vital sense possess’d,
Her head did on a plumy pillow rest.
The feast of Venus came, a solemn day,
To which the Cypriots due devotion pay;
With gilded horns the milk-white heifers led,
Slaughter’d before the sacred altars, bled.
Pygmalion off’ring, first approach’d the shrine,
And then with pray’rs implor’d the Pow’rs divine:
Almighty Gods, if all we mortals want,
If all we can require, be yours to grant;
Make this fair statue mine, he wou’d have said,
But chang’d his words for shame; and only pray’d,
Give me the likeness of my iv’ry maid.
The golden Goddess, present at the pray’r,
Well knew he meant th’ inanimated fair,
And gave the sign of granting his desire;
For thrice in chearful flames ascends the fire.
The youth, returning to his mistress, hies,
And impudent in hope, with ardent eyes,
And beating breast, by the dear statue lies.
He kisses her white lips, renews the bliss,
And looks, and thinks they redden at the kiss;
He thought them warm before: nor longer stays,
But next his hand on her hard bosom lays:
Hard as it was, beginning to relent,
It seem’d, the breast beneath his fingers bent;
He felt again, his fingers made a print;
‘Twas flesh, but flesh so firm, it rose against the dint:
The pleasing task he fails not to renew;
Soft, and more soft at ev’ry touch it grew;
Like pliant wax, when chasing hands reduce
The former mass to form, and frame for use.
He would believe, but yet is still in pain,
And tries his argument of sense again,
Presses the pulse, and feels the leaping vein.
Convinc’d, o’erjoy’d, his studied thanks, and praise,
To her, who made the miracle, he pays:
Then lips to lips he join’d; now freed from fear,
He found the savour of the kiss sincere:
At this the waken’d image op’d her eyes,
And view’d at once the light, and lover with surprize.
The Goddess, present at the match she made,
So bless’d the bed, such fruitfulness convey’d,
That ere ten months had sharpen’d either horn,
To crown their bliss, a lovely boy was born;
Paphos his name, who grown to manhood, wall’d
The city Paphos, from the founder call’d.