organs without bodies exhibition catalog, 2009

By Denise Carvalho – “Organs without Bodies” (2009) is Angela Freiberger’s most recent installation that consists of a series of marble urinals, plates, basins, and vessels with kidneys, lungs, heart, eye, brain, buttocks, hand, or navel, carved onto their surface as imprints or low relief, referencing an in-between state of aesthetic and organic form, between seeing and touching, thought and gesture. The body is like a vessel of constantly moving intensities, of “circuits, conjunctions, levels, and thresholds,” not a space or within a space, not formed or stratified, but intensified matrixes, since matter equals energy. (Deleuze and Guattari, p. 160) In the Deleuzian thought, Bodies without Organs means not what is primordial or the readymade, but a state that is never achieved, “you can’t reach it, [but] you are forever attaining it…” while already being in it, “scurrying like a vermin, groping like a blind person, or running like a lunatic: desert traveler and nomad of the steppes. On it we sleep, live our waking lives, fight—fight and are fought—seek our place, experience untold happiness and fabulous defeats; on it we penetrate and are penetrated; on it we love.” (Ibid, p. 150)

Freiberger’s video, Dual (2009), pushes this concept further to include the idea of the double, a term used by Artaud in favor of a culture of action—“a culture growing within us like a new organ, a sort of second breath.” (Antonin Artaud, Theater and Its Double, p. 8) The double suggests a search for an altered perception of the body, an encounter that aches in anticipation but is never realized. Like BwO, the double is always on the horizon of the possibility, in the split between an imagined familiarity and the potential of an experience. The double can be sensed as the shadow of one’s perception, an element that is recognizable but too abstract to be described. In Dual, the constant spinning of the person alters her reality by creating motion, by allowing oneself to be in a state of continuous search; a paradox in itself, since maintaining a certain rhythm and motion can lead to a sensation of stillness. The spin signifies the search for an imagined body inside and outside oneself, tapping on a state of synchronicity. Nevertheless, this continuous motion is also a realm of dissensus, the stirring of the pot, or obsessively pulling out the wallpaper to see what is behind it, skin after skin, searching for the ultimate skin, fostering a multitude of ambiguous meanings outside preordained spaces. It is the jump into the excess of meaninglessness.

Appropriations and fragmentations can also become distortions of the double, copies that are excluded out of their contexts. Freiberger’s BUwB&E (Buddha’s urinal with brain and eye) is a urinal that appropriates both Duchamp’s Fountain and Levine’s Buddha, one of Levine’s numerous appropriations of Duchamp’s Fountain (After Duchamp), highlights the multiple possibilities in the relationship between form and language despite appropriational intention and form. In Freiberger’s Buddha, the eye, placed below the area for the navel in the form of the urinal, is both the eye that focuses inwards—that sees it all without looking—and the mouth of a carnivorous plant, ready to eat you whole. This duality of the body is just a fraction of its multifaceted mutational tendency, showing the body’s potential of reversing its desire, if not conditioned by stratified methods of control and manipulation.

Different from Kiki Smith’s earlier works in which she conflates inner and outer body forms through fragmented limbs that are stained with body fluids (semen, lactation, blood)—a kind of a metaphor to the body’s desecrated and dismembered state—Freiberger’s body images are clean, smooth, cool, and white. As iron can be heated until it turns white, white is a signal of excessiveness and extreme decomposition. Her UwR&B (Urinal with ribs and butt), from 2004, depicts a large urinal of Carrara marble carved with the artist’s spine and ribs on the concave side, while her butt is imprinted on the negative, convex side of the vessel, sustaining the natural stains of the Carrara marble. These gray or brown stains are formed by iron or carbon oxidation, which are signs of exterior forces affecting and altering the appearance and value of the stone.

The abbreviations used in the titles reference the chemical, organic or inorganic alterations, as if taken from a table of chemical compounds—becoming molecular—suggesting that the body is always subjected to mutation and that even the purest elements and materials are transformed. In her UwSH&N (Urinal with spine, hand, and nipple) from 2004, one sees two lungs carved in low relief, creating a negative impression of the organs. On the open side of the basin, the artist inserted the imprint of her breast above her left hand. The artist’s hand is also seen filling up the negative space of the basin in a photograph, part of a series of photographs in which the body of the artist creates juxtapositions with her sculptures. These juxtapositions are subversions of the apparently syncopated reality: “connect, conjugate, continue,” a return to the “’diagram’, as opposed to still signifying and subjective programs.” [Deleuze & Guattari, p. 161). A kidney, a brain, a heart seem to become exclusive organs

Other extension of Freiberger’s multifaceted exhibition is a series of performances that include the participation of viewers by touching the sculptures or by bringing their bodies to the level of the objects, removed from the detached heights of art history. Touching is desiring, as the “BwO is desire; it is that which one desires and by which one desires…desiring one’s own annihilation, or desiring the power to annihilate.” (Ibid. p. 165) Here, participants become the missing links, altering the meaning and perception of the objects; like removed limbs they ache or itch, reentering a plane of paroxysms, becoming themselves their body symptoms, their outbursts and convulsions, their cries and laughter stirred by memory.

Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? These questions remind us that we are always on the verge of chaos, of losing ourselves while searching for ourselves. Our shadow is always present; it is the double. It is the other that you think you saw from the corner of your eye, or the negative side of the sculpture, where touching is necessary so you can prove to yourself what you have already predicted, or what you sensed but could not explain. You need to feel the presence of the stone that is no longer there, to remind yourself that you are like the stone, carved through a reversal trajectory, from empty to full, space to matter, anti-form to form. Your empty vessels, full of body organs, are your double, outside the mysterious, detached involucre of the skin, the larger organ of the body, that which bridges outside and inside, appearance and reality, virtual and actual. Chaos is needed to reenter the space of illusion, the illusion of knowing who you are, where you come from, and where you are going. The double is not the imagined, but what impels you to search. It is the unraveling triggered by poetry or art.