Streams of Consciousness
by Julianne Cordray
Sitting in a forest at the edge of the city on an early autumn afternoon, I was suddenly struck by a deep and profound sadness: “Do you think the trees are sad that they are about to lose their leaves?”, I asked, staring at them through moistening eyes. I felt they were losing a part of themselves just as I was seeping into them, incapable of maintaining my own structure. “No, they’re not sad; they’re relieved. It’s finally time for a rest,” came the reply.
Fragmentary bodies, oozing bodies, detached limbs. Hybrid creatures at once human, animal and plant are the embodiment of coexistence in Florencia Rodriguez Giles large-scale pencil drawings, Biodelica (2018) — installed at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in the frame of the 11th Berlin Biennale.
Orgiastic entanglements, pain and pleasure. Tongues stick out and enter into orifices, liquids flow from female genitalia. Tongues. Touching. The tongue
is echoed in an image from Hildegard von Bingen’s Scivias from 1151 CE — an illuminated manuscript that describes 26 religious visions experienced by the author. In the third vision, a tongue-like appendage emerges from a central orifice occupying an oval frame, the edges of which are coated in flowing layers, vegetal, like leaves. The top of the oval, which tapers off slightly, is crowned by a large red flower.
The image is reproduced in ‘A Body Turned Inside Out’ by Shelley Etkin, featured in COVEN Berlin’s blog. In the text, Etkin describes the medieval era as a period in transition — into capitalism — marked by both enclosure, of land and bodies, and transmission. “The body is earthly just as much as it is otherworldly,”1 she writes, before going on to discuss the ongoing process of transformation that characterizes the exchange taking place between body and environment.
In their book The Contemporary Medieval in Practice, Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing examine the relationship between body, self and the environment in early medieval culture, as well as its translation in contemporary medievalism. Their concept of the ‘biodegradable self’, or liquid self, is a notion of the self-in-progress—of becoming.2 Biodegradability is entwined with the very physicality of matter, even as it acknowledges its ability, or susceptibility, to be broken down. For Lees and Overing, the biodegradable self is “one which enacts and embodies a symbiosis of self and environment.”3
Also refers to the conversion of assets into cash.
The Institute of Queer Ecology (IQECO) describes itself as a collaborative organism, situating itself as an ‘institution’ in order to subvert academic models. In part two of their film series Metamorphosis, ‘Liquidation in the Pupal Stage’, the caterpillar and its life cycle are used as a visualization of a potential counter-narrative for breaking out of the endless consumption and production of the capitalist system.
The film’s narrator describes liquidation as a process that occurs during growth as well as crisis — while also emphasizing it as a mode of redistribution, rather than erasure. The potential of liquidation as a means to redistribute energy into sustainable and equitable systems for the environment and all living organisms is put into contrast with what is described as the contemporary condition: diapause. Diapause is a period of suspended development, experienced by insects when their environmental conditions are unfavorable.
“A proposal to become less human and embrace an alien strategy to bring about a multispecies utopia.” – IQECO4
Prior to the pupal stage, caterpillars are essentially ‘eating machines’. During the pupal stage, they fast, gaining nourishment from what has already been consumed. In the cocoon, the caterpillar’s body undergoes a so-called radical remodelling: enzymes are released and tissues are broken down, while muscles reformulate into clumps of cells to be reused for new body parts — antennae, wings. Structures dissolve and rebuild themselves into something else entirely. Some organs also remain intact.
How to be a liquid body…
Especially given the current regulation of bodies.
Large parts of my day are spent fluidly oscillating between tasks, webpages, word documents — screens.
Maybe the ‘changelings’ from Star-Trek: Deep Space Nine provide a good illustration for this: for becoming liquid. These beings find rest in a liquid state, liberation in changing forms — as well as physical empathy with the life forms they emulate — and relief in not having to hold a specific form too long. When they liquify and unite in the ‘Great Link’, there is a tangible process of community, renewal, redistribution and exchange.
1 Shelley Etkin, ‘A Body Turned Inside Out’, COVEN Berlin:
2 Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing, The Contemporary Medieval in Practice, UCL Press, 2019, pp. 73.
4 The Institute of Queer Ecology (IQECO), ‘Liquidation’, No. 2 in the Metamorphosis film series.
JULIANNE CORDRAY is an art writer and editor living and working in Berlin, Germany. Her writing has been featured internationally in magazines and journals online and in print, including Berlin Art Link, Hyperallergic, and THE SEEN — the art journal of EXPO Chicago — and ArtConnect Magazine, among others, with essays and translations appearing in various publications commissioned by institutions, artists, and galleries, such as Galerie Thomas Schulte. In 2018, she co-founded textur — online and riso-printed zine considering art through text and text as a visual art medium. In 2020 she was Critic in Residence at studio das weisse haus, in cooperation with Vienna Art Week.