Barbara Graf: STITCHES AND SUTURES – Phenomenological Archive of Body Sensations
Defensio von Barbara Graf, Doktoratsprogramm Künstlerische Forschung (PhD in Art)
The artistic research project “Stitches and Sutures” explores possibilities of making lived experiences visual. The point of departure is the repeated occurrence of sensory disturbances caused by a chronic disease. This irritation in one’s own body perception brings on a feeling of alienation. For decades, I have been concerned with textile representations of the body and of corporeality. My discovery that bodily phenomena that I currently experience resemble phenomena embodied in my earlier artistic work has raised several questions about body consciousness, body memory, and the bodily unconscious. At issue are inner-body phenomena caused by the disease and perceived as if they were tactile sensations. One of the crucial questions that I ask is in fact twofold: What kinds of language and what memories of past experiences are available to me in my efforts to make the invisible visible? And does the artistic research that I have undertaken make it easier for me to cope with the illness? Does it serve as a support to me in the process of reappropriating a body that I have come to perceive as foreign? Also of particular interest is the question of how and if instances of subjective perception can be conveyed visually as ‘embodiments’ and what relevance these embodiments can have with regard to the medical humanities as well as in the clinical context. The title of the project is to be understood literally as referring to work with needle and thread, but also as indicating a conceptual approach. I ask myself the question: Can I use Jacques Lacan’s notion of ‘suture’ as the basis of an artistic method? This notion signifies a process whereby the past is studded retroactively with stitches as a production of meaning. Textile membranes and drawing paper are the ‘canvas’ on which I record physical sensations and a means that enables me to reflect on the transition from sensation to perception and from perception to visual representation, a process that culminates in a Phenomenological Archive of Body Sensations. The exhibition will present drawings, textile works and photographs.
Barbara Graf is a visual artist and senior lecturer at the University of Applied Arts Vienna www.barbara-graf.at