butterfly dreaming

Went to see David Khang’s performance “Mediamorphosis” at The Western Front last night. Publicity materials talk about the transformation of experience through mediatization. (Hello Blogger!) The artist performs under a mosquito net, behind a screen with an array of monitors positioned in front of it. There is a camera in the mosquito net room so we can “see” what he is doing. He is wrapped in a swath of white cloth, looking monk-like, tending to a case of monarch chysalides and butterflies. At different moments the monitors and screen display both real time and pre-recorded video of the artist piercing his tongue with a needle, binding an enormous tongue (beef?– probably its origin isn’t nearly as important as its size and fleshiness. yum! uh…) that hangs out of his mouth to the rest of his body, a brushstroke circle at the moment of closure, live monarch butterflies discovered inside a hole in a book and tethered to the inside of the book by long black threads, human teeth embedded in flesh (tongue) that pulsates as though there are lungs beneath it, breathing. In another video segment, the artist slits the giant tongue open, inserts a calligraphy brush into the slit and sutures it shut. With the ink-soaked tongue he paints/writes on a giant piece of paper spread across the floor.

Mediatized yes, but there is so much more going on than that. There is a visceral recognition of the violence in closing the gap between media and experience—the brush in the tongue suggests a kind of hope for closing the gap between speech and writing, but the horror of such an act is palpable. There is a strange visual equation of the chrysalides (32 butterflies) with teeth (32 in a normal mouth). What if our teeth held pupae that could transform into something winged and lively? At the end of the performance, Khang wraps himself completely with the white cloth, and is strung up by his feet—a chrysalis containing a man (dreaming he is a butterfly?) The poetic circle is completed—- perhaps our teeth contain little homuncular versions of ourselves, sleeping, waiting to emerge.

In other news, here’s details on the talk Ashok Mathur and I are doing in Kelowna:

September 21, 7:30 pm
Art 103
UBC Okanagan
3333 University Way

We’ll read a little, and talk about our practices and concerns. The event is sponsored by the Canada Council and the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies at UBC-O as part of a series called The Lake.

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