MAI-LYNG ROBERTS

SEMESTER TWO

ANIMAL

WEEK 1 “suffering is key to understanding”

These are a some of the things that happened last semester :

I have been living by myself for more than a month now and I have been feeling very calm and connected to myself after the work from semester 1. I have been reading and listening to so many art reviews and conferences which has been so enriching. It helped me to have a better idea of what I would like to create and bring to a public through my art. Surprisingly, I only realised a few weeks ago that I have created the work n the photos above. It is very strange to realise that I have been so inspired and focused on my practice that I didn’t see how much I have created and how much I have grown as an artist. As soon as I printed these photos and saw them aligning in front of me, I knew that I had to do more performance art. I opened my journal and noticed that I kept writing about it constantly.

Movement journal entry 1. I miss the space of the project room.

Performance art has become a new passion of mine and I find myself constantly thinking about it and constantly researching it. I look up for artists, I look up for their works before sleep. I read about the way our body and mind behave together during performance when I’m having breakfast. I move around my flat during the day. And as I stretch my body every morning and every night, I feel a part of myself expanding and feel a huge emotional release around my hips. My body is not only the interface between the universe I have within me and the outer world (which receives and gives) it is also my mean of expression. I have always painted using my whole body, putting intention and emotion in the gesture for the entire process. Now, I need to learn how to make my gesture and movement the subject of the work. When I look back at my performance work of 2020, I am filled with so much motivation to continue what I started. It feels so right. I know what I want to improve already and there is a lot of work ahead of me. This semester is going to be very interesting.

I found a connection between the nest piece and the third performance I made in 2019 entitled hatched. Hatched is a human shell made out of wire and polystyren balls found in my mother’s workplace. The wedging particles are meant to protect the contained object. The sculpture works on its own but when the performance occurs, a narrative is added to it. The shell becomes amorphous once I am in it, it is completely useless.

hatched

So I decided to leave the shell and step out of the nest as I am ready to expose myself to vulnerability even more.

I left the human shell.

I like the idea of being like a mollusc out of its shell. The theme of this semester is ANIMAL and I’m so excited to start creating and perform as I just left the human shell. The first step is to be present and presence is not as easy as it sounds. I think presence is the essence of performance.

Some notes from research on Marina Abramovic

the key to performance art is suffering : image

‘it comes from really suffering. Suffering is the key to understanding. Suffering is the key to put yourself in a different level of consciousness. So performance art has a lot to do with the suffering.Painting, sculpting too. But performance is about staging suffering, staging fear, the fear of pain and the fear of mortality.’

‘Performance is time based art. You have to be there to witness it, to see and performance is immature body because it’s all about energy dialogue between performer and public’

‘Performance is a language and it is really important that you understand this language like you learn how to read.’

‘sexual energy is the most important energy of our body, it comes from recreation and how we transform it is essential. It can create violence, aggression, killing other human being, love, tenderness and spirituality, it s all there, the centre of everything. There are so many aspects of it.’

WEEK 2 : don’t fiddle with shit, sit with it
Discipline rigour commitment endurance

-notes from the tutorial –

I like to watch performances while I’m making my breakfast.

Pope L’s crawl performance reminded me a lot of Miranda’s work. I like that his actions fit so well with his time. They make sense. I also like that he is resourceful. The onion installation for instance allowed him to create using affordable and accessible materials.

He shares a quality that I really enjoy in Abramovic’s work. Both artists work with simplicity. I admire that a lot.

‘In performance, there’s a task you need to perform, the goal is to commit to the task. and in some cases, the task you want to commit to is nt doing something instead of always fiddling with shit.’

Pope. L

Pope.L is also an artist who suffers in his work, he shows endurance and discipline which reminds me of Abramovic’s artist manifesto. I like the idea of sitting with something. I have found myself doing that this week. The lotus sitting is an important work (it reminds me of Regina José Galiendo, I will probably talk about her next week). Pope.L has big revendications, political, societal, social and economical revendications. His anger and irony are bearable. Sitting, protesting, resisting, enduring…

Yesterday, I felt a lot of emotions and tension. I stayed up until 4:30 am. The first thing I did was meditation. Then I stretched my body as usual. I have been practicing my mind and body since the first semester. It enabled me to reach a powerful emotional release within the seconds. Then I sat with it (the tension) in order to paint it out with a clearer view on it.

I felt so shaken as everything around me was really loud, everything I touched was vibrating through me and pounding in my head and nervous system. With the tip of my fingers, I moved the water from my painting jar onto the table to create a line. I sat with it and I did a simple action.

After this, I sat in bed watching performance art works of multiple artists and ended up reading ‘The analysis of performance art’ by Anthony Howell. I learned a lot from it.

Notes from this week’s class :

WEEK 3

Notes from the class

WORKSHOP 1 :

extremophile studies

Extremophile, an organism that is tolerant to environmental extremes and that has evolved to grow optimally under one or more of these extreme conditions, hence the suffix phile, meaning “one who loves.”

Britannica

Extremophiles tend to be very small such as shrimps, insects or micro-oraganisms.

Some of the things that I have watched/read lately related to the workshop :

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/21923937?print=true

https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/can-animals-live-inside-active-volcano/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00422-007-0158-0

http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/how-do-volcanoes-affect-plants-and-animals

https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781119166191.ch3

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-do-animals-perceive-the-world-1264109/

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2016-08-05/how-to-scientifically-name-species/7681634

Other things that I watched/read :

  • All of Regina Galindo’s performances
  • I watched the manifesto so many times because I realised that I also built a manifesto of moral conduct in my head.
  • Gina Pane

Gina Pane is a performance artist from South West of France. This is one of Gina Pane’s most important photograph for me. It’s entitled ‘ideal situation’. The artist stands on the horizon line, at the vanishing point. It means that she stands at the point of infinity. According to Gina Pane, the artist should stand between the sky and the ground. The artist is present. Performance art is an art of the present (live art).

WEEK 4
Thoughts on the group project

I loved Mayu, Matthew, Ellie and Ania’s ideas. Perhaps we could join the projects together as they all had something interesting in them.

-SOUND- recording imaginary animal sound samples to create an instrument with the keyboard, then make a music piece. Each letter of the keyboard becomes a sound. So a text could be translated into the imaginary animal language

-VISUAL- creating a video using our live stream screens. Imaginary animal shadows could travel from a screen to another so that we will all be interacting with each other. Or perhaps we could consider the screens as one big screen instead.

-QUESTIONS- how can we use the vile? how can we use our reflection on imaginary species?…

Sexual energy

My sexual energy is the most important energy of my whole body, it’s the force of life, creation, sensuality, passion, love… It’s the strongest energy, it pushes us to do the worst or the best things as living beings.

Lately, I have become aware of many changes in the flux of this energy.

One of the most important one has been my periods.

I did a 2x 1,5 hour performance in which I was sitting on a large piece of paper. At first glance, it seems like I am just sitting there for three hours but as I walk away, the viewer realises that there has been a lot going on internally.

This has been the longest performance I have ever made. It enabled me to work on my self discipline, endurance and commitment (qualities that I have admired in other performance artists).

On this last photo, you can see blood pouring out of my vulva onto the paper.

side note to find space in my flat, I cleared the space of my wardrobe. Performances can take place anywhere, there is no excuse.

WEEK 5 blood

I became interested in blood. I got inspiration from Gina Pane, Regina José Galindo, Marina Abramovic but one of my favorite performances is Death of a chicken by Ana Mendieta. The artist is holding a decapitated chicken, moving in agony. Blood, cultural rites, animal, raw, period, life, rape, death. The splashes of blood on her body were inevitable.

This piece feels different now that I learned about the circumstances of her death. She fell from the 34th floor of a building after an argument with her partner and artist Carl Andre.

The Guerilla girls have also denounced violence against women mentionning Ana Mendieta

There is also ‘Untitled’ (Blood sign 2/ Body tracks), Untitled self portraits with blood or Sweating blood by Ana Mendieta.

There is also the work of other female artists such as ‘Action Laure’ by Gina Pane, ‘Bitch’, ‘Pigs blood’, ‘Quien puede borrar las huellas’, ‘el peso de la sangre’ or the weight of blood by Regina José Galindo or Juliana Notari ‘diva’. I would say that I am not really interested in the ‘violence of blood’ and extreme practices but I am interested in blood as a natural organic fluid. In these works blood has been used to convey different ideas, some had a political meaning, some were about the female condition or the concept of life itself

WEEK 6 tantra

Week 6 has all been about researching and reflecting on what I would like to create for this semester.

Reflection

I have been extremely focused on sexual energy this semester as aforementionned, it my most important energy. My sexual energy is what enables creativity to flow. Sexual energy is capable of the most powerful positive and negative emotions such as passion or hate. Sexual energy is life force. It is the source of creation and abundance. This is the main connection between my project and ANIMAL.

The reason why I decided to base both my creative writing and art module projects on that is because I have been dealing with vaginismus since the start of this semester and it completely disrupted my sexual energy. My libido had collapsed and I could no longer have penetrative with myself or a person. Vaginismus has been on my mind a lot since the beginning of the year which nurtured the pressure for penetration, anxiety and a small loss of confidence. Vaginismus is in the tension that I felt when I made the water drop line. It is also in the insomnia that kept me awake at night and pushed me to research and to seek parts of truth and understanding. Vaginismus is also in the reflection part of my work, in the journal that I keep to find out why is my body holding this tension. It is also in the need to really understand what has been going on inside me with the period performance where I forced myself to sit down and expose myself to vulnerability and all the emotions despite the pain and the tension. It was an attempt at letting it flow instead of ignoring it and getting rid of it. My sexual energy is at the centre of my work as it represents the animal part of myself. At the moment, I am challenging myself to expose its disruption and to sit with it in order to find healing.

In February, I wrote a few entries in my journal that striked me :

  • “Lettre à mon vagin : j’ai si peur.” from French to English “Letter to my vagina : I am so afraid.”
  • “L’énergie sexuelle est très importante pour moi. Je la sens refoulée donc je suis triste comme si j’avais perdu qui j’étais.” “The sexual energy is very important for me. I feel it repressed which is why I am sad as if I had lost who I am.”
  • “I am going to meditate to get it back. Well actually I have this part of myself, I just need to reawaken it.”

So I meditated while listenning to healing music and focusing on my sexual energy. As I woke up, I recorded everything that happened in my journal in a series of drawings and a long piece of writing :

I was walking inside myself. Opening my vulva with both hands, spreading each layer before going in.

It was pitch black. The path was sandy with pebbles and stones.

Exotic flowers grew all around like a tropical forest tunnel.

My vagina was tingling.

I arrived at a waterfall of golden rain. The golden light that went through the rain came from the sky. There was a hole in the ceiling of the cave which allowed the light to go in so strongly that t resembled a golden stick.

I start climbing up towards it. I am gripping the brown rocks around me with determination. However, I am terrified as I am scared of heights. I am crying now as it is incredibly hard for me to climb.

XXX grabs me in my momentum and I curl into a comfortable ball. I feel supported. I rest in his arms. I feel myself soothing as he puts me in a giant human nest.

Then I open my eyes again and walk through the curtain of golden rain. I think to myself perhaps there was no need to climb up for now.

I am facing a gigantic orchid and a hawk flies above me. The flower was bigger than any building I have ever seen. When I see the orchid, I feel so emotional that I cry just like before XXX held me. My vagina is still tingling. The orchid holds my sexual energy. It is white, purple and red just like everything that I have encountered, although the leaves of the plants had dark green tones.

I try to go in the centre of the orchid but it’s very intense and difficult. I repeat to myself : I am safe, I am supported. Yet the energy is too painful, I black out and forget.

I try to come back to it. I see the orchid again, flowing in the black void and it’s too difficult. My vagina and my head are tingling. I eventually manage to put my hands and then my head through it. And I see myself crying. I try to hold my hands and then it works. The hawk appeared a few times. The sun as well.

As I wake up, I try to insert a finger into myself, I breathe, flex and relax my pelvic muscles. Slowly, I can fit my four fingers and thumb into myself. I cried twice.

This weird dream felt like a trip or crazy awakening. I felt myself healing and it worked despite it being difficult. This hasn’t been a linear journey. Today, I felt a little bit of that magic healing energy which is why I can finally release it in the notebook.

I had thought about the food colouring idea that Miranda had to push the period performance forward but it didn’t resonate with me. To me the period performance was about releasing and observing what has been going on inside me in the same way that I have been doing research to find truth. It was about keeping the record and looking deeper into my inner true and natural transformations and flux. I didn’t want to paint artificially.

Notes from the research

I have been watching a few interesting videos from the British museum about Tantra (sexual energy, women, the body, yoga and art) by curiosity. Here are some quotes that I found compelling :

VIDEO 1 by exhibition curator Imma Ramos

Tantra’s affirmation of the divine feminine was radical for its time ,but how did this inform the lives of real women ? Earlier Hindu and Buddhist traditions taught that the female body was an impediment to achieving enlightenment, and that women should remain submissive and dependent on men. Tantra, on the other hand taught that women could achieve rapid enlightenment because they were natural embodiments of Shakti. Many Tantric texts even say that for this reason, women should be venerated as goddesses in their own right.

[…]

‘The ultimate aim of Tantric practice is to become a deity like Kali – to fully internalise their power. Tantric images re-envisioned women as independent practitioners who were capable of achieving self-deification.

[…]Many tantric texts describe women as superior teachers in their embodiment of Shakti. One example says that ‘There are no rules for women, all are said to be gurus.’

[…] Tantra has challenged not only gender norms but also religious, cultural and political establishments.

VIDEO 2

It says very specifically that ‘everything that you find in the cosmos is located within the body, but there are special substances within the body that are not found elsewhere in the cosmos.’

VIDEO 3

The tantras taught active engagements with spiritual obstacles such as desire, aversion and fear, in order to ultimately transcend them.

[…] Tantric imagery is unique in its inclusion of erotic and macabre symbolism.

[artists in the 1970’s adapted tantra’s imagery to their time]

[contemporary artist] Kher, born in London and now based in Delhi, creates sculptures made from casts of real women.

WEEK 7 the invisible box

I find it interesting that I discovered performance art through an exhilarating experience of mind-body connection as I am now making performances about a mind-body dissonance. A mind-body frustration.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaginismus/

For this week, I would like to share works of art that represent the constrained body.

  • Douglas Gordon, A Divided Self I and A Divided Self II; 1996
A Divided Self I and A Divided Self II 1996 Douglas Gordon born 1966 ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Presented by the artist 2012 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR01179

  • a mime performance (vaginismus made me think of being trapped inside an invisible box made of mental blockages such as fear or anxiety. The walls seem imperceptible yet the body shuts down as a reaction to danger. In reality, there is no danger.) I thought that a person trapped inside an invisible box was exactly how I felt.
I could pause the videos anywhere, each still is so compelling
  • one of my favorite performances :

  • A lot of the early performance art was about transgressing the body’s limits, pushing through to get a sense of release or freedom. It is also about our human condition. The mind-body problem is a fundamental questions for philosophers like Plato or Descartes. It is also called the body-mind dichotomy or dualism.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/dualism/

  • the performances of Elaine Shemilt in 1976 and 1978
  • ‘RVSPI’ the elasticity of the body with Senga Nengudi (deals with changes of the body, pregnancy, etc.)

https://www.youtube.com/embed/hyEC9Pwh7uk

onca live event

I’ve attended one of ONCA’s livestream event called Artists in Conversation on the 6th of March : adapting practices during Covid. I lost my notes but I remember enjoying looking at the work of different artists who were invited to the show. An art professor made prints that he sent to his students for moral support during the first lockdown. Someone wrote a speculative novel about the future of the art world as a way to cope with the uncertainty. She tried to think about ways that we could sustain the arts and support artists instead of artists supporting galleries. She said that galleries could reach out to artists as an example instead of the artist trying to showcase themself for the gallery to exhibit them. It was interesting to hear about the influence of the pandemic on the guests’ art practices, everyone had different experiences. Someone thought that it had a negative impact as it made art more difficult to access without galleries or events. A few artists said that it created stress, anxiety and even depression as the lockdowns have created a sense of loneliness and imprisonment.There was only one person who had a positive experience in Covid times, she said that she could finally slow down and be mindful. ‘The race to get exhibited has finally stopped.’ She mentionned that she used to be very insecure in the art world, she couldn’t manage comparison to others and felt like she was always competing to succeed.

WEEK 8

Thank you Anna for your workshop, it was well led. I enjoyed playing around with the project, it was quite calming as we didn’t have to do anything with serious meaning. I think Anna managed to unite us through her tasks. The recorded meditation was so fundamental to help us get into the headspace of the project.

I could feel the effects of PMS during the end of week 7, I was extremely sad just because of my hormones. It culminated last Friday which led to a self-portrait photo-series about vaginismus. It took place in the bathroom after I just had a shower. As I finished shooting it, I looked down at the carpet and realised that I was bleeding everywhere. Instead of rushing to get ‘protection’, I grabbed another A1 sheet for the period performance. I sat on it for another hour and a half. I notice that my art practice gives me new instincts. I would say that I am at the age in which I am constructing and deconstructng, learning and delearning every fundamental belief that I had younger. I am evaluating the beliefs that do not contribute to growth. Art has been shaping my perception of everything around me.

As I checked the time, I noticed that I was going to have my tutorial with Miranda soon. Therefore, I just put the paper on my chair and opened teams. It would have been such a pity to interrupt the flow of the performance and not adapt to the situation. I am still committed to it.

These are Miranda’s notes from the tutorial :

Shower thoughts, photo series about vaginismus
SECOND PERIOD PERFORMANCE

This performance was exhausting both mentally and physically. I am so glad that I pushed through the suffering.

layering

I was a surprised by Miranda’s advice to consider protecting my work as I’ve always tried to open myself to vulnerability as much as possible in my process. I’ve always tried to push through my limits and expose myself. I hatched out of the egg that no longer served me and I left the nest in two different performances aformentionned. When I look at the performance from the first semester, I can definitely see that I added layering as a way to convey multiplicity in the liminal space. Yet, it is also layering that protects me. Throughout this semester, I have tried my hardest to distance myself from that layering by being present. I learned that presence is the most essential part of performance. It is what makes a performance so raw and truthful.

I am now considering different techniques to add layers of protection…

layering experiment : drawings

I created bewitching patterns in which I could lose mysef in. The claustrophobic bathroom disappears to an abundance of space to explore. The toilet seat is turned into an ancient column on which the three versions of myself are balancing. It looks like an spirit animal totem.

losing me

In order to accentuate the effect, I experimented with animations on the different patterns.

The black hole reminds me of the abyss and the womb.

Niki

I discovered Niki de Saint Phalle three years ago but I never knew about She-cathedral. It just reminded me of my dream where I was walking inside myself.

Easter break (part one introspection, part two expression)
part one introspection

I started to experience really strong pre-menstrual syndromes (PMS). In my case, they came as an inexplicable sense of sadness and a lot of anxiety. I took myself on walks in the forrest in which I made ephemeral land art. I practiced being present with the trees and the water. I had never experienced such PMS, I felt a strong need of sollitude and introspection. My energy levels were really low. The periods have been extremely draining emotionally too. I couldn’t stop crying for no reason. These periods have been the most intense I ever had, I allowed myself to step into my most vulnerable self. I have done a lot of writing, yoga and painting.

Just like any project, it gets clearer and clearer as we progress. I have found that the words of Bergson match with the idea that I have been trying to express this semester. Out of all the research that I made to this point, I felt the closest to the ideas of Henri Bergson one of the most important French philosopher of the 19th and 20th century. In my practice, I have been expressing an élan vital, the essence of every living thing.

I identified with l’élan de vie, the human body, the sense of self, the force of life of all living things, the sexual energy, creativity and vitality.

I suggest reading Living Consciousness : The Metaphysical Vision of Henri Bergson by  G. William Barnard or watching the following lecture to get a bettern understanding of the élan vital.

The literal translation of l’élan vital would be the vital momentum but really, l’élan vital is about the life force of all living things. It’s about vitality, le souffle de vie (breath of life) that animates us.

I selected my favorite extracts from the Living Consciousness : The Metaphysical Vision of Henri Bergson by  G. William Barnard in this Word document :

Before my periods, I didn’t have a specific idea of what the final project was going to be but I felt like I was about to find clarity.

After reflecting on the work that I made during the second semester, my relation to my animal self became clearer. I suddenly had the idea for my individual final project, a project in which I would embody my animal self and follow the flow of the previous creative projects. I immediately contacted a few friends to help me materialize my vision. The project had to be done immediately as I didn’t want this idea to die. I think that when we have ideas, we should give them life while we feel connected to them. Ideas come and go. It was 10pm when I had this idea. I got out of bed and tried to make sense of it by writing along my stream of conciousness. Then I made a powerpoint presentation to expose my vision to the friends who would help me. I have learned a lot about eading group projects thanks to Miranda and Anna S this semester.

The presentation included :

-a general presentation of the project

-visuals and words to help visualize the idea

-practical details : time and location of the meeting, equipment needed and tasks before, during and after the shoot

-detailed description of each roles

-encouragement and acknowledgements

part 2 expression

One night after having the idea, I reunited a group of friends and I around this project. The group is constituted of Darya Koskeroglu (camera 1 : main POV), Samantha Thompson (camera person 2 : documentation of the process) , Anna Serafin (actor and frontseat camera POV), Ellie Waller (actor and driver) and I (the animal).

At 8pm, we met at Fferm Penglais and drove to Pen Dinas. Here is some footage of the process by Sam and I.

getting ready for the shoot

progress

After editing a few photos, I created a few sounds for the videos as the video editing softwares cannot be supported on my laptop. When I found out that I couldn’t go to the School of Art before the 12th of April, I immediately tried to find an alternative.

PROPOSAL

SEMESTER ONE

NATURE

L I M I N A L S P A C E S,

L I M I N A L T I M E S

Beginnings

It is nice to start from where we know.

I first discovered what is a state of liminality at the end of my first exhibition entitled IN MOTION, an exhibition centred around the states of perpetual inner and outer change and transformation. I would like to push this idea of transformation even further and focus on liminal spaces and liminal times.

The phenomenon of liminality is a transformation process of Nature that we can observe in humans too.

STRANGE SPACE, HERE, NOT THERE YET, NOT THERE ANYMORE, SOMEWHERE, NOWHERE, EVERYWHERE, ANYWHERE THAT IS NOT HERE OR THERE BUT WHERE ?

During the first Interdisciplinary meeting, I was in self isolation for fourteen days at Balmoral, seafront. I was in this capsule with myself and as time passed by, it felt like the capsule was in motion. I had left Toulouse but I had not moved back to my new flat in Aberystwyth quite yet. I was transitioning in this space on a geographical and personal level. I was in a space of nothingness which I have been enjoying at times. I was in a space in-between.

During these fourteen days, I have been able to deeply experience the way our environment and surroundings help us to understand who we are. The Nature of what is around us helps us understand our own Nature. Therefore space is intertwined with identity because the landscape cannot be separated by the person who perceives it, the landscape is the visitor within Nature and the Nature within the visitor.

4th of October

Self portraits i took the day after I moved into my new flat, discovering my new environment, my body is embracing curves and moving in response to this new space, welcome home

Fish eye selfportraits make me feel like the viewer has an insight to myself in my habitat and intimacy, the viewer can perceive the way I behave in a room of my own.

Photos from the 30th of September

WEEK 1 :

For this first session, we had a sharpie and a few sheets to our disposition to express our impressions on the art projected on the screen. I enjoyed the combination of sketching and writing. I found it easier to understand myself as I looked back at my notes.

We watched a broad spectrum of definitions of Nature. All of them were deeply intertwined with our human relation to it. It was about the human ex