VIDEO - “Body as Landscape” (2019)

Video Stills

April 1st, 2019

For this project, I wanted to abstract my body into an ever-changing, morphing, and indiscernable landscape in order to step out of constructed societal gazes, violent separations of certain body parts and insecurities, out of physical and sexual traumas, and the eating disorders and body dysmorphia I struggle with. I wanted to step out of those gazes and experiences which held such a pull on my own body in order to heal and fully see, feel, and embody myself as a whole.

This piece was initially inspired by Yoko Ono’s 1970 “Fly” film. In this piece, Ono uses her own audio which includes her singing, screeching, screaming, and groaning to visuals of a nude woman on a table, flies flying and landing on her body. It’s a curious and unique film to say the least. However, when I first experienced all 25 minutes of it, I was struck by how the body transformed in some shots so that it appeared the flies were navigating a mountain or desert, rather than a human body.

In John Berger’s 1972 book “Ways of Seeing”, he describes that "according to usage and conventions which are at last being questioned but have by no means been overcome - men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at" (Berger 1972, 45, 47). Berger argues that within European art from the Renaissance onwards, women are depicted as having a constant dual-view of themselves, always 'aware of being seen by a [male] spectator" (ibid, 49). The woman holds both her own individual gaze always with the other's (male) gaze in mind. After reading this book my freshman year of undergrad, it was a statement that related so well that it stuck with me in the making of this video. I understood the dual-view of myself as a dissociative process in which viewing another female or myself from the outsider perspective would always cause a split, no matter how much I wanted to be perceived as who I am authentically.

Each part of this film is shot in black and white which simplified the viewing and listening experience so one could be fully immersed in the abstracted textures, shapes, and sounds. The sound I used for this video was made by scratching a microphone, rolling cans and different objects against the mic and a glass table. I was inspired by the sounds of ASMR videos which can be quite visceral, ambiguous, and pleasing. I wanted the sounds to depict what scratching the skin behind the ears, a grumbling stomach, soft breathes, and other intimate, inner body sounds might be.

Copyright © Catherine Wang McMahon. All rights reserved.