Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pam Patterson (80)

Pam writes:

A Flash of the Real: Situating a Performance for Change

Sometimes I can hardly use human language to tell how I feel... 'If I were a dog, I'd be shaking and trembling.' Animals don't use words; their bodies speak for them. . . But I am not an animal. I am a human being, an articulate one at that, who is challenged to find words to apply to sensations I've never had before, challenged to find meaning and stability despite a changing body. I'm caught in a relentless metamorphosis.
Barbara Rosenblum in Cancer in Two Voices (1996,166-67).

Susan Sontag writes of the photographic image’s power to haunt us - to bring us to an understanding of the fragility and mortality of human life. However, she faults photography for lacking narrative continuity; it remains fatally linked to the momentary not able to produce ethical pathos in us or, if so, only for a moment.

As a multi-media performance artist, how do I work with this? How do I, as disabled woman communicate my experience of transition and of pain? Why are my bodily changes a matter of public exposure? Can my strategies control/limit/expand the perspective(s) for others?

Bodily change and its accompanying pain, as presence and as content, are not always evident on my body or in my art − the marks of my mastectomy hidden, the swollen joints covered. Artists, such as Orlan, document surgical procedure-as-choice to question our refusal to acknowledge pain. While others, such as Hannah Wilke, photograph their failing medically tortured diseased bodies, exposing our inability to comprehend and effectively respond to her’s and others suffering.

I ask, “Can the experience of the artist be experienced by the viewer and hence facilitate cultural change?” I turn from assuming that images of surgery and illness inherently have the power to portray/project pain, or politically charge the issues and transformative possibilities. Rather I move into a transparent discursive practice intending to expose abjection, reveal narrative and create distance.

Through the “performance” of the image, I capture a “flash of the real” (Barthes), to time “the decisive moment” (Cartier-Bresson) and suspend the ultimate act(ion)s of tension/pain and possibilities (Barba). I explore the insertion of interpretation in the captured moment, multi-media strategies to charge the moment, narrative or counter-narrative to structure memory, and time-based art’s potential to engage time, space and context in encouraging self-reflexivity.

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Kuppers, P. (2007). The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art, Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press.
Kristeva, J. (2003). Approaching Abjection. In Amelia Jones, The Feminism and Culture Reader, London/New York: Routledge, 389-391.
Lugones, M. (1990). Playfulness, "World"-Traveling and Loving Perception, in
Anzaldua, G. (ed.) Making Face, Making Soul Hacienda Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Colour, pp. 390-402. San Francisco: Ann Lute Foundation.
Oughton, J. (2008). A Journey through/around Pam Patterson’s Cellu(h)er Resistance : The Body wth/out Organs?, Toronto: Fado Performance Inc..
Rotman, B. (Online August 1, 2008) Gesture or the body without organs or speech.
Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the Pain of Others. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Wolff, H. (2008). (trans. Nicholas Grindell). The Tears of Photography, Grey Room 29, Winter, 66-89, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Wolff, J. (2003). Reinstating Corporeality: Feminism and Body Politics. In Amelia Jones, The Feminism and Culture Reader, London/New York: Routledge, 414-425.