"Bread and Butter"
Text by Kate Beckingham
We woke to the footage of Notre Dame burning. It was thrilling and it was beautiful. To see this bastion of civilisation burn as nature burns. We watched the ash and the soot of the burning cathedral enter the lungs of the spectators by the river. A few months earlier I was in Paris researching the relics of saints contained within churches and cathedrals across the city. These bones had, once upon a time, been an active part of the living saint’s skeleton, supporting them, breaking, cracking. After canonisation, slivers of these broken bones were displayed as active subjects of worship - transformed into magical talismans, subjected to pilgrimage, devotion and offerings.
Then - revolution - the revolution - during which many of the bones were destroyed
or thrown into the Seine - left aimless and useless under the moving water. Submerged, they dissolved into the drinking water, into the bodies of the inhabitants of Paris. After this time, for many, the bones left on display never recovered their vitality, their magic. Instead, they transformed into being objects.Much of our everyday, that previously useless time, is now spent in the realm of the digital. This time spent has become a thing to be used and monitored. Here, the body is no longer subject to offerings, instead we offer ourselves. Actions, movements, emotions, the rituals and rhythms of daily life, the narratives of individual experience, are turned into data via our constant talismanic companions - phones, wearable monitors, devices, all types of screens. This raw data is a modern-day incantation, an unseen small spell, uttered under the breath. It exists in the substructure, just beneath the surface of our lived experiences, casting us into a trance.
The more of our everyday that gets translated into data, the more objectified we become. Our bodies, now, are simply everyday objects - not magical, not vital, just there - as much or as little as everything else. Our bodies are no more or less vital than those unthought of everyday objects. Exercising, eating, sleeping, resting, our blood and our bones, are all captured and stored. Our bodies are hacked, enhanced and optimised for efficiency, much in the same way that software and computers, iPhones and tablets are upgraded and eventually discarded. And so, there is a flattening. The separation of, and boundaries between, active, subject, body and static, useless, object are porous and unstable. Our bodies, our bones, are now subject to observation, things to be seen, but not worshiped. Not cared for, but maintained. Subject has again become object.
Just let my bones become ash and soot, vital and magical, aimless in the air.
Kate Beckingham is an artist based in Sydney. She has exhibited widely around Australia, in both major cities and regional galleries. Her practice centres around creating expansive installations looking at the similarities between the act of art making and the act of making talismans.
Bread and Butter
05.06.19 - 29.06.19