My curvy spine exaggerates the straight walls that surround my body.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that develops during the adolescent growth period. Diagnosed with double curvature Scoliosis, I underwent a correctional surgery that reduced the curvature of my spine while adding permanent hardware and barriers to my daily life. Through a video documented performance drawing titled Ju mp and Slap, those barriers are explored, rivalled and slapped.
The video (approximately 5 minutes in length, on loop) shows a performance space in which the walls and floor are covered in paper. A tray contains blue pigment powder and I am dressed in all white. I bend down, cover my hands with blue pigment, and jump as high as I can by propelling my interior hardware upwards expanding the space between each vertebrate elongating the spine and slapping the wall with my blue hands before landing back on my feet to absorb the compression.
Still from Jump and Slap, Performance drawing, March, 2016
Image description: Ariel view of a plastic bin filled with blue pigment powder with a pair of hands picking up a handful of the pigment.
Description of work: This is a large video projection of young woman (Alexis Bulman) wearing a white shirt, protective plastic glasses and a facemask. Her dirty blond hair tied up in a ponytail. Close up video shots show her blue eyes, her feet on a white floor, her hands gathering bright blue pigment powder in a big plastic bin. She jumps up and slams her dust filled palms on the white wall above her. After each jump, she pauses to look up at the handprint and then jumps again to slam the same spot. Over time, we watch her move across the wall, jumping up and slamming the wall along the same level to create a thick blue line made of palm prints. The sound is quiet except for the exertion in her breath and the occasional grunt when she jumps.
Vanessa Dion Fletcher: Let’s start with what we see in the video Blue. Dust, pigment, a young woman, right away she makes the connection between her body and the material. The opening shot is a close up of her with blue eyes. The blue dust covers her hands, falls through the air and covers her feet as she repeatedly jumps to slap the wall. The dust on her hands creates a blue line of hand prints, that through repetition become obscured into a solid blue stripe.
Lindsay Fisher: She doesn't talk about Yves Klein’s work, and I want to respect that and not say too much about it, but I can’t help acknowledge that the blue she uses, for me even if it’s unintentional visually references and responds to Klein’s “Anthropometries of the Blue Period”. It feels connected for the fact that it’s the same kind of blue and that she’s a woman making a mark on a white wall with her body. I think it’s important to acknowledge this even though Alexis doesn’t because I feel the work becomes even richer with meaning with this reference. Her body’s role as a mark maker remains the same as it was for the role of the women in Klein’s work but the manner of the mark making points not to eroticism but to her own self experimentations on what she describes as limitation. To me, it speaks to feminism and the power of reclaiming the body and re-evaluating the medical model of disability.
VDF: I was thinking about how through her act of jumping she is trying to achieve something. She set an objective for herself that is just out of reach, but she can reach it... if she jumps. So we’re seeing her continually meet this goal that she has set but that begs the question, who is setting the goal? Is this an internal measurement of ability and achievement or is it one that is being set by something outside of herself?
LF: And the repetitive nature of it, with the sound of her breath, shows that she becomes fatigued. That it’s getting more and more difficult over time. Her other work is often about testing her body through highly repetitive and mechanical tasks and yeah, it does seem to allude to a form of self-evaluation and measurement. It feels like she’s reaching, both emotionally and physically, for those spaces where her disability is visibly experienced in a body that is visibly non-disabled. It feels like she’s very intentionally and very consciously locating the space that she knows is her threshold and making a line there. She’s also testing herself and at the same time, exploring how her disability informs her art making.
LF: The close up imagery of her hands in the blue pigment is really beautiful and it makes me think about ceremony or magic. In her statement, she talks about the blue colour as being symbolic of the multiple x-rays and MRI’s that she underwent to assess her curved spine. Knowing this, it feels as though she’s washing her hands with her own bones. In a way this performance work becomes a personal exploration of self-ritual, magic and symbolism.
VDF: I keep thinking about capitalist culture in terms of work and achievement and what you are supposed to produce. Fantasy plays a role in this capitalist narrative. What you’re supposed to achieve is always unattainable, you’re always producing more, you’re always wanting more whether it’s wealth or status. It might be your fantasy but what sense of achievement is imposed on you? It is constantly moving.
LF: Out of reach, just out of reach.