Exploration by Proxy

It is a surreal experience being human in 2020. We continue to adapt to sustained uncertainty alongside the practicalities of protecting ourselves and our communities from this virus. However, as complex multi-cellular organisms we are chemically built to connect and to communicate, not only within the confines of our own bodies, but with the societies we live and work in. I can draw a line around my movements this year which do not extend far or often beyond my home or studio. Yet my mind has travelled far whilst anchored in this shell; my mental metabolism on overdrive in the opening of new pathways. The body, more than a container for consciousness and a vessel for lived experience, is the common site of investigation for all of the researchers I’m getting to know. Their scales of observation and intervention are both vast and miniscule. As professor Alan Fairlamb says, ‘Complex problems require complex solutions!’ With an artist in their midst, we meet somewhere in the middle as I continue to anchor the intimacy of dialogue one to one. It isn’t a table at which we meet, but the space of the body itself.


To navigate these new ways of seeing, I offer you my proxy.

A body cast by artist Emily Fong

In this current epoch there is much to be grateful for, however, there are moments when I feel particularly vulnerable and constricted within the boundaries of my own self. The act of making this cast meant standing very still and controlling my breath to short bursts so as not to fracture the shell before it had the time to set. Whilst in this state I was reminded of how similar it felt to moving in and out of Covid restrictions. As my dedicated follower of Fong/assistant (my wife) carefully placed layers of the plaster on my skin, I felt a sense of freedom in knowing that I would be able to look at this sensation of containment from a critical distance.

The power of art for me is perspective and the ability to experience feelings or sensations outside of the body in the effort to release them. This personal and collective release is important right now. Our artists are important right now. Art, much like science, is non-linear and cyclical. Just as it takes years to design and test a new drug between concept to delivery, art is an experimental process. Art is a way of being in the world.

Through this non-resident residency, each encounter I have had thus far has provided a different way of seeing the body. I think this is fascinating and worth some bullet points!!:



A view out from inside a cast of Emily Fong

As I have no physical access to the WCAIR buildings, I trace the contours of my own laboratory, and embrace the invitation to play. I exit my protective shell and turn it into a tool for seeing. Through this lens the body is a site for exploration, a container for curiosity and a vessel to accompany the vulnerable creative core.