Convulsions in the Field of Vision: An exhibition of recent work by Elizabeth Manchester

Once upon a time … once … and once again.

Beauties slept in their woods, waiting for princes to come and wake them up. In their beds, in their glass coffins, in their childhood forests like dead women. Beautiful, but passive; hence desirable: all mystery emanates from them …

She sleeps, she is intact, eternal, absolutely powerless. He has no doubt that she has been waiting for him forever.

The secret of her beauty, kept for him: she has the perfection of something finished. Or not begun. However, she is breathing. Just enough life – and not too much …

She wanders, but lying down. In dream. Ruminates. Talks to herself. Woman’s voyage: as a body.’[1]

But what happens when she wakes up? Who is she then, when she has awakened to be a body with a mind? Eyes that see, lips that speak – two pairs of lips both above and below that tell an experience of life, a sense of self, that is not limited to any single mode of being but that moves from one state to another, in motion between, cohabiting even the dialectical conditions of being a an object and being a subject.

She is on the line – the finest of lines that we all inhabit, the one we cross every time we look in a mirror. And let’s face it – how many of us have the luxury of perceiving ourselves full-length, whole, of encountering ourselves as a singular other? Fractured, fragmented, out of focus: faces, hands, feet, limbs, organs – it’s almost impossible to see them all at once, impossible that is if you look with eyes alone.

Only by touching will you know the object that you hold between your hands.

Listen to your heart beat. Hear your breath moving in and out. How many other signals of muscular motion can you tune into in your body-house? Convulsions are the sign of life. The convolutions of the vine are no less procreative than the vulvular contractions that produce release, dispersion, connection, multiplication, thought, invention, poetry, science and … art.

Elizabeth Manchester is in the fourth year of her practice-led PhD at CCW. The works she presents in the four rooms of the Cookhouse examine themes latent in Marcel Duchamp’s last great work, Étant donnés, and its related erotic objects, using photographs, performance, sculpture and drawing.

[1] Hélène Cixous in Cixous and Catherine Clément, The Newly Born Woman, Paris 1975, translated from the French by Betsy Wing, I.B. Tauris, London 1996, p.66.

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