A Curator Writes: The Dematerialised Body

ArtReview's columnist I. Kurator tries to get up to speed on post-gender thinking

By I. Kurator

Re-Materialising Feminism. Arcadiamissa.tictail.com Mona Hatoum, Corps étranger, 1994 (detail). Courtesy the artist and White Cube Gallery Hannah Sawtell, @dividend_plus, 2016. © the artist, courtesy Site Gallery, Sheffield.

The shame of it. After my trenchant analysis of gender in portraiture I am hauled in by the editor to receive a dressing down on what he unkindly describes as my “pre-Victor Burgin” views on feminist art theory. And all because of my witty use of the word 'buns'. After my ticking off I am sent away with a copy of 'Re-Materialising Feminism', a collection of essays from one of those ICA conferences that in my 'wrong-thinking' ways I had thought might be quietly ditched when Gregor took the saddle. I am also provided with a list of exhibitions to see which will help me get up to speed with post-gender thinking.

I morosely read the publication on the way to Mona Hatoum’s exhibition at Tate Modern following strict instructions from the editor to immerse myself in Mona’s innards in order to experience a materialised feminism. I dutifully make my way to Corps étranger, the now well-traversed journey through Mona’s very own Hatoum (ahem) filmed through the means of an endoscopy. With all the debate about Britain’s cash-strapped NHS one sincerely hopes Mona did not receive this particular procedure via the largesse of the taxpayer. However the quality of the colonic irrigation that must have taken place prior to the making of this work suggests more of a Harley Street job. I immediately WhatsApp Jay asking for the number of Mona’s irrigator and then watch the piece three times over as instructed.

Oh for a body without organs!

By the end I am weeping at the terrible beauty of how outsides slither into insides. I think about Gilles Deleuze’s chapter 'The Schizophrenic and the Little Girl', in Logic of Sense, and the little girl’s exploration of a world of surface. Oh for a body without organs! Swiftly I head to nearby OXBO for one of their Bottomless Brunches that I figure will somehow parallel my experience of Mona. Unfortunately the Bottomless Brunches only start form 21st May so I make my reservation for this date, hoping that the fillet of veal with morels and port reduction make it onto the three course menu. I notice from my phone that Jay has opened my message but there is no reply.

A slow East Midlands train journey later and I’m clutching a fistful of Hannah Sawtell’s newly minted currency. Metaphorically of course for Sawtell’s coins are in fact some sort of internet currency that one exchanges online. When this happens the CGI work that takes centre-stage of Sawtell’s show at Site Gallery changes shape. A second image alternates between a elderly bare-knuckle lady boxer and some sort of small insect that can survive terrible disasters. The editor’s notes inform me that this is about a de-territorialised identity. The booming electronic beat makes me nervous. I WhatsApp Jay again asking if Mona’s irrigator takes bitcoins. The gallery space is quiet. I take off my cardigan and white t-shirt and start dancing, letting myself fully experience the fluid transmission of Deleuze’s schizophrenic body. After, I wipe my brow with a handkerchief. I make my way back to the station knowing that I have at least started on my journey back to de-materialised and re-materialised gendered identity.

For previous columns by I. Kurator see here

Online exclusive published 11 May 2016