Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera, 1979

On Eye Body: 36 Transformative Actions for Camera, 1963

In 1962 I began a loft environment built large panels interlocked by rhythmic color units, broken mirrors and glass, lights, moving umbrellas, and motorized parts. I worked with my whole body—the scale of the panels and incorporating my own physical scale. I then decided I wanted my actual body to be combined with the work as an integral material—a further dimension of the construction.

In December 1963 I was encouraged by my friend Erró (the Icelandic, Paris-based painter) when I told him I wanted to do a series of physical transformations of my body and my work—the constructions and wall environment. I thought the ritual aspect of the process could put me in a trancelike state, which would heighten the submission of self into materials.

Covered in paint, grease, chalk, ropes, plastic, I established my body as visual territory. Not only am I an image maker, but I explore the image values of flash material I choose to make work with. The body may remain erotic, sexual, desired, desiring, but it is as well votive: marked, written over in a text of stroke and gesture discovered by my creative female will.

I write “my creative female will” because for years my most audacious works reviewed as if someone else inhabiting me and created them—they were considered “masculine when seen as aggressive, bold. As if I were inhabited by a stray male principle; which would be an interesting possibility–except in the early sixties this notion was used to blot out, denigrate, deflect the coherence, necessity, and personal integrity of what I made and how it was made.

In 1963 to use my body as an extension of my painting­constructions was to challenge and threaten the psychic territorial power lines by which women were admitted to the Art Stud Club, so long as they behaved enough like the men, did work clearly in the traditions and pathways hacked out by the men. (The only artist I know of making body art before this time was Yoko Ono.)

The nude was being used in early Happenings as an object (often an “active” object). I was using the noodles myself—the artist—and as a primal, archaic force which could unify energies I discovered is visual information. I felt compelled to “conceive” of my body and manifold aspect of Chattanooga the culture around me. Eight years later the indications of the body images I had explored would be clarified when studying sacred earth goddess artifacts of 4,000 years ago.

Published in More than Meat Joy (Documentext, 1979)