body to brain and back again (2013)

Bronwyn Platten ‘body to brain and back again’ 2013

Performance piece that took place at a library in Manchester. In it I mime the meanings of words from a young adolescent's vocabulary in the order that the words occur in the dictionary between body and brain. The performance was filmed and edited by Insa Langhorst with still photography by Huw Wahl.

Excerpt from a recent review about this work by writer and poet, Ken Bolton:

…All the words begin with ‘B’ and are to do with physicality, the body, activities that a self might undertake in pursuit of its rights, or enact as a role-playing, gendered being, but also listing various material qualities. (The words? For example, body, boo, boohoo, boobs, booby, book, bookish, boss, bossy, bosom, bough, boy, boycott, bounce, bouncer, bow, bowel, bowl, bowler, brackish, braid, braille, brain).

It is these words, taken from a child’s dictionary, that Platten does brief, three-to-five second impressions of, one after the other, and in the sequence that they follow around the sculpture—in the film on the nearby screen—as in the manner of charades. The effect is rather hilarious. A little like a one-woman Haka, with a wider range than just the usual threat to devour and rend: demonic and graphic and sometimes inscrutable, at others hilariously on-the-money. Platten is filmed between the stacks or shelves of a library. Books, either side, then, frame her. She is dressed in a pale blue, rather full, dowdy blue frock over which is a serviceable white pinafore apron. On her head are draped a pair of upside-down (men’s) black shoes—heels at the centre of her head, the toes above each ear. The silhouette says (to me, anyway), ‘Dutch milk-maid’. On her feet, under each of them, is strapped a solid hardback book. (Knowledge? Theory? The feet-over-the-head, body-over-the-cultural, over ‘ideas’, being a kind of topsy-turvy or reversal?) Platten swaggers and stomps about on these books, crouching, gesticulating, remonstrating, shaking her fist, clutching at her stomach, adjusting an imaginary bra, swaggering, slumping, slouching, perorating—ingratiating or coquettish, threatening or stern. Mad. Very very funny.

Entitled body to brain and back again (2013), the film is on permanent, crazy rotation. One of its delightful effects is to render the words and the kind of definitions we might imagine for them suddenly literal, ‘embodied’ by these single definitive actions, all vaguery or nuance banished. As if ideas—so nebulous, abstract, nuanced—are so many wisps-of-nothing… by contrast with these hard ‘facts’, these simple demonstrations. Embodiment wins out over the unbodily and the ‘immaterial’ and is made large and emphatically physical by the artist’s exaggerated gestures and forthright dispatch of each verbal concept. The sequence’s regular beginning is very nice. Platten stands, ready, ready for the roll-call of words to begin, her mouth tightens briefly then opens slightly and we see that she is breathing like an athlete readying for a test, her chest rising and falling. Heroic. Then she goes.

Bolton, K 2013, ‘GAME ON—acting out, mouthing off, unplugged & tricksy’, The Dark Horsey Form Guide, Archive & Punter's Companion
, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia


To view performance:

Video Camera and Editing: Insa Langhorst

Still Photography: Huw Wahl

Books for my feet were created by: Ginger Guest, Guest Leathercraft