While self-consciousness depends on internal and external processes inside and outside of the body, the body as such does not likewise depend on a self-consciousness, causing a form of asymmetry in their joint movement. The body creates errors that influence our ability to be fully conscious, which in turn causes us to unconsciously feel things or to be touched by something without actually sensing it.
A Body Without Its Flesh is an ongoing research project that evolved from Benjamin Francis’s interest in dance performances and the realization that the errors that occur during the rehearsals in a dance class are often more interesting than the eventual performance. After the project’s initial output (the 2020 performance Copy and Paste as well as some sculptural works) his research into the non-harmonic chords and errors shifted to related themes such as discipline, power relations, hierarchy, religion and cleansing, resulting in a new performance that is dealing with some of the dogma’s that exist within the art world as well as the notion of making mistakes.
For his second presentation at P/////AKT Francis has created a setting that is both theatrical and ceremonial: a stage, a classroom and a morgue – inhabited by sculptures and props that reflect on the different references and, at set times, by performers and an audience. A Body Without Its Flesh is both an exhibition and an activated setting for a performance, addressing body and space, repetition and imitation, decay and restoration. The performance takes place in the setting of a classroom and is executed by an audience member who will be asked to take on the role of the teacher and a group of performers who acting like students. Both parties are following a script in which various dogma’s relating to the art world and the mistakes that occur ‘in translation’, eventually resulting in something resembling a ritual that is echoing the concepts that underly the various props and sculptures that are present in the installation.
Our tongues are being cleansed and our computers are being rebooted. That what is uncertain is afraid of falling into the abyss, to a point where it becomes formless.
The video work Maundy takes its title from a foot washing ritual; the Latin word mandatum means commandment.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. If I then, your Butcher and Separator of bodily spaces, cut your flesh, you also ought to relate to cleanliness. By cleaning I can become nameless, lose my fixed identity.
This flesh is cleansed through rite of foot-washing, which in various spiritual traditions is a form of purity through/as well as hospitality. A separator between the dirt that enters a space uninvited and the dirt that is accepted as common. Flesh is in this case being translated as common, unclean, defiled, and unholy. flesh is always dirty and unclean in the eyes of the other. Cleansing can be seen as an indicator of humility by way of low self-regard and a sense of unworthiness. In a religious context, humility can mean a recognition of self in relation to a deity or deities, and subsequently, submission to said deity or deities establishing one as a member of that religion.
The feeling of intrusion into a space could also relate to feeling liminal – feelings of tension and unease created by physical space and/or what happens within our bodies.
By creating an atmosphere wherein the ones that clean perceive themselves to be lower than the ones that are being cleaned, tensions are formed; the in-between as a constructed narrative. That which could be perceived as holy will now have space to reach beyond our control and become eloquent in between the invented and the otherworldly.
For more information and an impression of the performance: benjaminfrancis.nl/a-body-without- itsflesh
Xam van Kempen
Eleonora Johanna Remmen
Barry de Bruin
A Body without its Flesh is the second of three presentations by Benjamin Francis, who graduated from ArtEZ BEAR Fine Art Arnhem in 2020.