Body of Knowledge Abstract


Ali Chalmers Braithwaite and I presented our paper, “Embodied and Disembodied Presentness in the Immersive Explorations of Agatha Gothe-Snape” at the Body of Knowledge: Art and Embodied Cognition Conference at Deakin University in July 2019.

Embodied and Disembodied Presentness in the Immersive Explorations of Agatha Gothe-Snape.

“Yves, where are we when we draw?” John Berger, Berger on Drawing[1]

This paper centres around the ongoing creative and conceptual collaboration between the visual artist Agatha Gothe-Snape and the authors.

EVERY ACT OF READING PERFORMS A WORK (EARPAW) is a monolithic virtual reality sculpture that is the repository of accumulated inquiries (body of knowledge) into the 3-part exhibition The National[2]. It shifts Gothe-Snape’s performative and relational drawing practice[3] into live virtual reality drawing, manifesting a text-based spatial mnemonic system. This system contains the records of interviews, articles, reviews and conversations around The National that accumulate over time and space, and perhaps more importantly, it contains the space of, and for, the body — the body of both the artist and the viewer.

The spatial affordances of VR have enabled Gothe-Snape to build her own memory theatre of the Australian contemporary art field, scaled perfectly to the proportions of the human body – her body. It is reminiscent of Giulio Camillo’s 16th century “wooden [memory] theatre, crowded with images” which was said to be “a work…into which whoever is admitted…will be able to discourse on any subject…”[4] Except in this case, Gothe-Snape has created a personal theatre mediated via her own phenomenological understanding and experience of the time and space of The National and its cultural context. A such, she is dealing in what Johanna Drucker refers to as capta[5] as opposed to objective data. In this way, she is using the virtual environment, and her body’s relationship with it, to off-load the cognitive work of making sense of the vast amount of information she is working with and her subjective position within it.[6]

EARPAW is very much a work of performative process, and a drive to discover new practice and procedures. From this process has emerged a conflict between the disappearance of the artist’s body into an emerging self in the network of capta — only for this body to reappear, almost with a newfound sense of itself as embodied deeply within, and as a vital key to understanding, the resulting virtual environment. It is this sense of embodied and disembodied presentness in Gothe-Snape’s process and resultant work that this paper will go on to explore.

1 Berger, John. Berger on Drawing. Cork: Occasional press, 2005 p.123
2 A major exhibition partnership between three of Sydney’s premier cultural institutions (MCA, Art Gallery of New South Wales & Carriageworks), The National: New Australian Art is a six-year initiative presenting the latest ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art over three editions in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
3 This practice is based, in part, on formal training in multiple performance traditions, including butoh and postmodern performance art.
4 Yates, Frances Amelia. The Art of Memory. Pimlico ed. London: Pimlico, 1992 p.135
5 Drucker, Johanna. “Graphesis: Visual Knowledge Production and Representation,” 2011. p. 128
6 This terminology of off-loading was suggested to us by Wilson, Margaret. “Six Views of Embodied Cognition.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 9, no. 4 (December 2002): 625–36.

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