November 13 – December 14, 2008
The University Art Museum presents Un-figuring the Body, an exhibition of work of three Los Angeles-based performance artists, Skip Arnold, Dawn Kasper, and Johanna Went, whose practices challenge not only cultural boundaries but also the limits of the body itself. This exhibition focuses on the return to the body as a tool in order to question the demarcation between experience and representation, and the gap between feeling and knowing. No longer the privileged site of authentic meaning, the body is seen as an element of a complex cultural matrix – one that is in part, defined by the circulation of language and images in society. The artworks in this exhibition serve to examine the blurring of the boundaries that delineate the “authentic” experience of the body from the “mediated” representations of its image.
Although these artists use divergent aesthetic practices, they are united by the way they continually challenge and un-figure the body, never defining it. Skip Arnold creates tension between experience and representation by appropriating public spaces, and presenting and recording his body as a specimen. Dawn Kasper’s autobiographical actions analyze the experience of emotions through devices of representation. Whether binding, burning or marking her body, she literally writes on the surface of her skin. Johanna Went, informed by popular culture referents such as punk music, B-grade horror films and the surf, car and graffiti cultures, uses costumes to re-figure the human form in order to represent the chaos of fragmented dream imagery.
Un-figuring the Body was organized for the University Art Museum by participants in the Graduate Program in Museum Studies and is funded by the Department of Art and the College of the Arts.