Translucent surface/Quiet body

CONCRETE/METAL/GLASS/PAPER/BODY: researching a reciprocity of touch between surfaces

NOTES FROM RESIDENCY: L’Animal à L’Esquena, Celrà, Catalunya.
30th June- 12th July 2014

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The aim of this residency at L’Animal was to work with the glass table. The table, constructed originally for Steve Paxton’s dvd tool: Material of the Spine, offers an opportunity to see a body moving on the surface from underneath, flipping the perspective to see what is usually unseen or is differently perceived. The aim was to make some documentation from beneath the surface.

I have been drawing as a choreographic activity in intersections of body and surface. I am used to perceiving the impact of the body on the surface and the emergence of the drawing on the surface as the body moves away.

The glass table is offering a reversal of the perceiving to see the impact of the surface on the body; the installation and the video from underneath shifting the visual dominance of a body’s presence and quietly bringing the surface to the foreground.

1 – installation

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A 2 x 1cm thick double glass surface 2m x 2m.
Natural tracing paper 90gms lies on the glass surface creating a translucent membrane.
A body lies, is still and moves on top of the glass and paper surfaces. This is a floor to the moving body, which becomes a screen for the viewer.


The translucency of the paper works together with the natural daylight from two opposite side-windows in the studio and allows the body to be seen but not everything of the body: the body is present but personal expressive qualities of the body are less visible.


There is enough visual information to understand the installation and at the same time much of what we normally see of the body in its environment is omitted. The main focus of attention becomes the contact between surface and body.

There is an action camera with a wide-angle lens under the table, able to capture the underside of the situation. There is also a video camera on the balcony facing downwards. This above camera is intended to document the process, but can also become a comparative tool for what is happening simultaneously from both above and below; the same moment from two perspectives, from below and above.

2 – conditions

The installation creates a laboratory-like condition defining a particular situation for intersection between moving body and surface. These conditions generate clearly defined limitations on movement and framing.

Katrina Card 6

The elevated 2m x 2m floor is a limitation on movement possibilities. Over the two weeks I became more adept at moving in these conditions; understanding better what was possible, discovering strategies and becoming more sensitive to the visual effect created for the viewer by my movements; rotating around fixed part, reconfiguring around pivot, curled and extended body, lifted-suspended and released body, twisting, spiraling, circling, vertical body(feet), fluidity and speed. Moving between these parameters created vocabularies, sequencings, internal logics and I attempted to isolate these in a series of short studies.

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Naked, because clothes were distracting from the body with folds, seams etc, and also because clothes are contextualising the body into 2014.

The viewer is under or behind the paper and glass, looking from beneath, from behind the surface.

3 – observations from below

Impact of fixed surface on body
Flattening of body in contact producing anamorphic forms that are forming and unforming, as the body moves, appearing and disappearing, disappearing and reconfiguring. Processes of forming, of appearing are unfolding. In leaving no mark, a process of disappearing unfolding.

Fluidity of the weight moving becomes evident in the appearing and disappearing of contact areas.

Lower arm, shin, shoulder and upper back as pivot points around which the body can twist, lift, rotate and reconfigure.

Standing becomes a surprisingly huge event. The least contact areas are visible, the body absenting itself in its rising from the surface, another perception of weight-gravity in the simple act of standing-up. Falling becomes a huge event as the body releases totally into the surface.

(I am moving between release and rise, between suspend, pivot, twist, rotate, release)

Surface as skin
There is a meeting of still and moving surfaces, of hard and soft surfaces

(Moving from/with skin rather than from weight-gravity and allowing skin to opening to surface as body moves over surface and surface receives body)

Surface as screen
Paper becomes a membrane on the glass, through which some visual information passes and some is obscured.

The horizontal glass-paper table-top becomes a viewing screen on the video.

Surface as screen is mediating the intersection of body and surface.

The glass isolates sound, the body and paper are quiet, so the video is almost soundless.

Through these factors the videos have particular visual qualities that are interesting to observe and that affect how we perceive what we are seeing. The videos give a sense of time slowing down, a floating fluid environment rather than an environment that is hard and working with weight. The situation becomes visually weightless in this two-dimensional plane.

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4 – drawing

Drawing introduces another element. From below, there is the possibility to see the drawing emerge on the surface and not see the actual gesture of the drawing; to see the drawing in the foreground and the body behind the drawing. The drawing appears on top of the body.

The drawn lines start and they end: the body’s gesture before the drawn line or the continuation of the gesture after the drawn line is not seen. There is a disconnection between the body drawing and the drawing becoming evident on the surface. Visually it becomes similar to a digital tool.

The moving-drawing action is mediated through the paper, the glass and the digital video image. The body becomes less distinct from the surface as the skin becomes darkened with charcoal, pastel, graphite.

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5 – I have been framing my phd research as drawing in, as and after performance
and approaching the work through what is occurring, what is appearing and what is remaining; as a way of observing of what is unfolding on the surface in relation to body-space-material-time. This time at L’Animal has made it possible for me to work with and perceive surface from a different perpective both as mover and a viewer. In the video documentation I have gathered the body is quietly present behind the surface; still, unyielding, constant, actively receptive.

6 – collaborating
Thank you:

Ana Sanchez-Cousos for collaborating with me in this research residency; in the studio in those first vital days, observing thinking talking and the continued dialogue via skype and email.

L’Animal – Maria, Pep, Eduard, Neus and Lluis – for all your support and making it possible to work.

Toni Cots for the studio visit and responses to the working.

Katrina Brown
Devon, UK
19th July 2014





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