RE enact / DIS enchant

Opus #1, Wangatta Exhibitions Gallery, Victoria
Opus #2, Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
Opus #3, Storey Hall, RMIT, Melbourne, Victoria

by Lyn Plummer

The body is memory, where the wounds inflicted in initiatory ceremonies and vindictive punishments become the scars that remain the trace of one’s own suffering, a suffering that creates both self-consciousness and its ethical double, social-consciousness….. “The scar turns the body into an icon. The intensity of the knife’s passage and the memory of the blood’s flow are transformed into a symbol – the mark of passage into society and its regulated systems of value and exchange.” 1

Mankind has always resorted to body decoration to denote his/her relationship to the power structures within the culture. Ceremony describes and interprets this decorative and abstract coding. In the rituals and costumes of our public high ceremonies can be seen the relationship with the body, flesh and skin. The skin was the original precinct of display, which indicated the position held by the individual within the group or the society. The markings could signify initiations into either realms of power, subservience or rebellion. Flesh as memory is embedded with the markings and scars of the culture’s past behaviour patterns, lusts, ritual gratifications and punishments. The skin is the parchment on which the culture’s collective memory has traced and incised a collection of patterns and images. These relate a narrative of personal inspirations and public sacrifices, which is inevitably coupled with the instinctive preoccupations with human sexuality.

The costume has become a metaphor for the skin. These signs communicate as abstract symbols which provoke the individual memory and emotions. Woven into the garments of our rituals are entwined the convolutions of basic instinctual behaviour which can be related to sexuality and power.

The installations trace the relationship between costume and power structures, and the self/body and skin/flesh. They associate these ideas with underlying and faint references to sacrifice and sexuality in our revered ceremonies.
The works draw attention to the close relationship that art has always had with religion and religious ritual. They indicate how the creativity and inspiration which brought for religion the reverence and awe of the public, have been reclaimed by art. The structure of the installations registers how art has declared as its own, the formations and signs of the overlord which once it served.

Art has also claimed many spaces which were originally erected as places of ceremony. We are invited to view art in places that hold historic significance for the society, such as town halls, palaces, grand residences and churches. These buildings lend their aura of grandeur and pomp to the works; and the public who enter the space absorb the ambience and assume a demeanour of contemplation and reverence.

The visual elements of the installation are combined with a musical score composed by Mark Finsterer, which was created as he followed the research I was doing and observed the work developing. The music is based on medieval ecclesiastical chants which have been computer manipulated. The sounds of the score were envisaged as a muted echo to be constructed to set the mood of the space and assist in the summoning of memories and reflections. The complex and layered sounds fill the silence of the space with a procession of personal apprehensions.

The exhibitions have been formulated to evolve as they move from one ceremonial space to another. The public will experience Re enact\DIS enchant: Opus One in the Exhibitions Gallery, Wangaratta, a ceremonial space which was initially conceived and constructed for the observance of religious rites and now has taken on the role of revering art. RE enact\DIS enchant: Opus Two has been formulated for the Benalla Art Gallery, a modern space which was conceived and designed; purely for the contemplation of art.

Lyn Plummer© 1994

1. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, tr. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem and Helen R. Lane, NY, Viking, 1977, p190 quoted by Allen S Weiss Iconology and Perversion, Art & Text Publications, 1988, p14