For her current exhibition at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zürich (Switzerland), the artist Rachal Bradley, had the gallery staff medically examined. The result is three sculptures, Light Grey, Mid-Grey and Black, each consisting of two office cabinets in the corresponding colors, with a selection of plants presented between two large plexiglass panels.
A detailed project description can be found further down the page. Here’s the tl;dr version: For the new works « Untitled (Light-grey), « Untitled (mid-grey) », « Untitled (Black), each employee of the gallery was asked to submit samples of saliva for a Cortisol stress test. Each provided several samples over 1 day (from 7am – midnight). This tracked the cortisol release of each employee over the organization. A medical herbalist conducted clinical consultations with each employee – in tandem with the cortisol test results a herbal prescription was prepared. Each sculpture contains the plants from each person’s prescription. The plants (medicinal grade) were sourced and grown by the artist, then dried and pressed for weeks.)
Rachal Bradley was born in 1979 in Blackpool, UK. She currently lives in Glasgow, Scotland. Selected exhibitions include ‘The Erotics of Infrastructure’, Rachal Bradley Programm Series, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; ‘The Making of Husbands: Christina Ramberg in Dialogue’, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (programme of demonstrations, workshops and seminars); ‘Fenster’, cur. by Fatima Hellberg & Steven Cairns, Okey Dokey III, Jan Kaps, Cologne; and ‘Interlocutor’, Gasworks, London.
Rachal Bradley: Erotics of Infrastructure iii / Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zürich. Vernissage, June 19, 2020.
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Some notes on bodies…
The body under stress attempts to regain balance through dynamic homeostasis. Bodies are created through the affects of social process, legislation, diagnosis, in this sense they create form and are actively sculptural.
A paper trail.
A body under stress will attempt to regain balance through homeostasis, however under continued long-term environmental stress the body will be actively formed into this trauma.
All bodies are formed through process. This process creates a space of the body.
Underscoring the knowing of bodies in certain processes such as the legislature, is a premise of patriarchy and inequity – the knowing of all bodies through the view of only one body. This historical social space concerns the material of bodies under process and forms objecthood. For example, Roman Law built on the notion of dominium to provide that the right to self-defence extended beyond the individual body to the bodies under the patronage of the pater familias. Those included family members, slaves (as property) and physical property. An attack on these constituted, by extension, a personal attack on the body of the male head of the household. Use of force against an attacker, even in the event of homicide, was justified, phrased as the principle of vim vi repellere licet (“it is permitted to repel force by force”).
The parties in this social contract resemble a snake eating its own tail. (1)
The body of the gallery is known to me through three specific bodies who constitute the organisation. But the bodies I know here are primarily buraucratic bodies. We exchange emails, text messages, images. We are known remotely to each other through these processes of communication and process. The knowledge these processes generate in turn generate our perception of the versions of each others’ bodies. This version of our bodies, the roles played out through these processes creates a space which constitutes the space. An externalism creating the internals of the organisation.
The gallery has recently undergone a refurbishment. Its walls have moved inwards, taking approximately 2 metres off the physical space on one side. The floor has also been changed from a terrazzo style material to a rubber-based flooring.
There is now a lift, a restaurant and an electronic information board in the building. Whilst the boundaries of the physical space are movable and re-knowable, how can I discern the boundaries of another body within space? More specifically a body subject to process?
The space a body produces is premised on the nature and specificity of the processes encountered by the body, both in terms of effect and counter-effect.
Informatics how us in graphic terms the vocabulary of a result, they visually account for the movements within a process. The graph shows an increase and decrease of a hormone called Cortisol within a body over a period of a day from 7am to midnight. The samples were provided by each of the gallery workers with a permanent employment contract or ownership rights. In tis sense the samples capture the movement of this hormone across the organisation, across 1 day.
Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands and is released during the stress response process.
The space within a body is a space of knowledge both in tis presence and absence. Whilst pregnant with my son my body grew and contracted – my internal organs made way for an additional space of some 30 x 15 cm.
When my mother had a double hysterectomy what happened to the void left by these organs?
Can I get to know the space of a body better if I am able to see its internal workings? The word diagnosis derives from the Greek meaning ‘dia’ – meaning apart from and ‘gignõskein’ – to come to know or recognise.
Each body of the gallery undertook a clinical consultation with a medical herbalist in which their lifestyle, medical and emotional well-being and history was investigated through a framework of open questions. This is a confidential process in line with clinical ethics and protocols. Each person consented to their information being known to me in order to make the sculptures Light Grey, Mid-Grey and Black. Their consent forms the basis of this intimate process to knowing each other; a process out with their bureaucratic bodies.
A knowing of the space from the inside out.
For several weeks I have sourced and grown the plants which would be used in the herbal medicine prescription for the alleviation of symptoms in these three bodies. Medicinal plants and the paradigm of herbal medicine are polyvalent, holistic and dynamic in their process and effects.
Here, they are both the model and the formal material of this particular process of knowing.
- Unlike the mythical symbolic meaning of the Ouroboros, fertility and self-renewal, snakes who attempt to consume their own tale are usually doing so in response to stress.