Fall 2013

Artist Project / Meat Hook

Memories of embodiment

Karen Yama

The full rotation of contemplation away from interior rummaging to out-of-body engine search steers us from what we’ve stored to that which is on the loose. Browsing, like tripping, opens itself up for revelation without pedantry or a solid plan. The search engine as autogenetic accumulator shakes out clusters from the great mass of data, giving rise to chance connections and new perception.

In this case, the eBay vigilance parameter, set to find press photographs from the period of my early adolescence, returned forgotten information about the once-ubiquitous quasi-primal performative use of our bodies. The individuals pictured in these news photos are all basically doing the same thing. They are performing gestures to modify others’ gestures in the world. They are corporeally agitating space as a way of gaining visibility, of forcing the production of a record. In the pre-virtual world, the body itself was the modifier; back then, it was mainly about moving meat in meat space.

Inspecting the meat in these archival photos is not unlike the probing body-audit of a first fetal sonogram. The protocol: Date the image. Identify the body parts. Read the text. Check for movement. Project the outcome.

The press photos on these pages were documented as they curled in the humid air of the present; my body angled to solicit, through the lens, the shape of the neonatal windshield-wipe they were meant to register. Declaimed as artifacts, they perform as “still life,” avowing not only image, but time and matter.

Currently, press photos from all over the country are being scanned and then dumped like a bunch of emptied clams—on eBay, at the flea market, or into the trash. The scan dismembers. The photographic image recalculated as pure information becomes separable from the photograph, ready for cloud-life in the electromagnetic field. A straight print from the cloud-archive revitalizes the picture in the present but does so tracelessly, without acknowledging its previous analogue condition. It proposes itself as a totalized artifact, dissembling its relationship to the past.

Disembodiment has always been part of shaping the news. Pictures taken out in the field by roaming photographers were captioned by writers occupying an entirely different space and time. The head, in journalistic terms, was split from the body. The freshly minted captions I have provided for these images are about severance from originating space and time. They pantomime the journalese of the newspaper quip. Remarking only on that which is visually manifest in the image, the words pit pictorial actuality against what we know to be the probable case.
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