In and Out, Back and Forth

In the 1966 Science Fiction film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ a crew of scientists are shrunk to microscopic scale and are injected into the bloodstream of a dying body, they voyage through the body in order to perform an operation which may save the life of a political assassination attempt. As the film develops we see spectral, phosphorescent ‘landscapes’, each section of the body the voyagers encounter becomes a different kind of place, different flora and fauna surround us and we find ourselves in an ‘Unknown Universe’ to quote the voice-over from the movie trailer. In the film there is a complete inversion of the notion of inside and outside, the scientists are themselves ‘foreign bodies’ within the body. The idea of bodily interiors becoming unfamiliar surroundings is at the core of Natasha Rosling’s work, her sculptures and installations are both physical and mental spaces.

The physicality of these pieces is a kind of magnification (like looking at an image in extreme close up, trying to recognise the familiar in the unfamiliar) and this brings about, to some extent, a sense of scale slipping away from us. The varied materials, the use of colour, (bringing a graphic intensity to the work and foregrounding a painterly impulse behind the arrangements) surfaces and textures, and the detail of fixings is both informative and bewildering on a sensory level, the viewer moves from rough to smooth, from taut to slack and from thick to thin as if they are looking at something through a microscope, each surface or sinew seeming to have some hidden purpose, the meaning of which remains unavailable to us.

Human figures play further with this relationship to the body, bringing in an element that acts as a fulcrum for states of rest and activity. The figures seem to be deployed in order to signify some kind of potential, as if they are components within a mechanism waiting to be activated, or mussels about to contract or spasm (Shenzhen 2009). These possibly active elements obviously make the works ‘live’ as they have a durational quality. There may be very little happening, a shift of an arm, a turn of the head or torso, but they infuse all the elements with their presence and as we watch we know that these figures dictate the duration of the piece, they could fold it away, step down or rise and walk off.

The sense of beginning and ending is a spatial concern as well as a temporal one in the works. The way things join, continue, truncate and attach is highly considered, bringing to the work a dialogue between material use and decoration – at some points the materials are wholly seductive and at others almost awkward and abrupt and this all lends itself to that sense of spatial continuity being a central concern of the work. This ‘continuity’ is to do with thresholds between inside and outside, the body and its interior/exterior limits.

Three little words:

Stem (noun)

1. the main body or stalk of a plant or shrub, typically rising above ground but occasionally subterranean. A rod or cylinder in a mechanism, for example the sliding shaft of a bolt or the winding pin of a watch.
2. stop or restrict (the flow of something)

Tract (noun)

1. an area of indefinite extent, typically a large one: Large tracts of natural forest; poetic/literary an indefinite large extent of something.
2. a major passage of the body, large bundle of nerve fibers, or other  continuous elongated anatomical structure or region: the digestive tract.

Graft (verb)

1. insert (a scion) as a graft
2. Medicine: transplant (living tissue) as a graft; insert or fix  (something) permanently to something else, typically in a way considered inappropriate

There are perhaps some interesting connections and disconnections here; The word ‘stem’ – this implies connectivity while also embodying its opposite, the prevention of flow - a state found in much of Rosling’s output in the literal depiction of connection and discontinuity; the way a material might marry itself to another (Graft), the natural and artificial reminding us of replacement surgery and the inclusion of the machine and the plastic into the body (and into the environment). This brings us to ‘Tract’ and its clear relationship between landscape and bodily interior but also with its vertiginous relationship to scale – ‘indefinite extent’ married with ‘nerve fibers’, tissue becoming terrain.

There is also ‘rising above ground but occasionally subterranean’ – often in Rosling’s work there is the feeling of something enveloping or being enveloped or of a fragment of something far more extensive beneath the waves or above clouds. Materials are often bound or stored, again a possible indication of potential use, they appear to be great weights keeping something afloat, like ballast in an airship or placed low in a vessel to improve its stability. Suspended between all of these states the works are vivid, highly delineated encounters with a subconscious body.

The body is a place, one that is sometimes at a great distance from us, unknown, exotic and perhaps threatening. It could possibly be described as an alien landscape, its scale unable to be deciphered. Rosling explores this place, moving from organ to organ as if they were mountain ranges or cityscapes, joining, pressing and filling its various expanses with suggested processes and tense passages, building a territory as she moves through it.

 

Graham Gussin  2010

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