Cantata: A Play of the Trace II

Hocken Gallery, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

An Installation by Lyn Plummer
28 January - 1 April 2005

The skin is marked by the materiality, spaces, traces and erasures of its lived history. The skin has always been a surface of display and a permeable shield/communication between the self and the elements: between the personal experiences and cultural responses.[1]

Over the past 15 years my work has investigated the relationship between public ritual and private instincts; between cultural mores and personal desires and experience. This has been manifest in an interest in space and especially in the secular space of the gallery which is a ritualized space. My focus has been in changing and charging this space into one which demands that we reflect upon our private responses to ceremony and ritual and their multiple readings and meanings.

During this period all of the installations have involved sound as an integral part of the presentation. The sound components for each of the exhibitions have been developed with composers and singers as collaborative efforts. For the Cantata Series there are two sound tracks. I developed the concept and the scores and they were arranged and engineered on the computer by artist Rodney Browne. The track for the female voices was interpreted and sung by performance artist Jane Venis.

Since 1981, (the last year I lived in Papua New Guinea), a central concern in the works has been with referencing the materiality of the skin and its power to arouse not only a sense of the self, but also a subliminal memory of the scars of the culture's past initiatory ceremonies and punishments. The skin/flesh here is taken as the site of memory. The skin inscribed as memory. Its traced surface connects the individual’s inside, the private sphere, with the outside, the public sphere. It connects the private response with the public custom.

The second skin is the costume, the vestments that can proclaim office, authority and rank as well as show evidence of acts which subordinate the sense of self and marks which trace the subversiveness of the individual. From these ‘second skins’ as with the marked skin, associations can be drawn between the ceremonies, the will-to-power and the whispers of the . Such etched surfaces in both the skin and the ‘second skin’ bear witness to the acknowledgement of power of the church and the state and also to past ritualized acts of violence; mutilations inscribed into the skin/the self.

Traces of these experiences-of-the-flesh can be detected imbedded in the fabric of modern ceremonies and their accoutrements. A cadence of beats and strokes, of threads, of cuts and stitches, a pulse that can be read as a text, as a trace from the underbelly of our ritualized customs. In the main, rather than choosing representational imagery, I have employed primary shapes, forms and materials as a method of invocation of the self as sensory surface.[2]

[1] Lyn Plummer Statement: Reading between the lines: Space pierced, the trace inscribed, Cantata: A Play of the Trace II Catalogue, Dunedin 2004 p 23

[2] We can find many visual and written examples of symbolization based on the body over many centuries of Western art. However referencing actual corporeal inscribing remained repressed for most of this period and was reclaimed only by means of symbolic references. 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