Sophie Bates meets curator Victor Santamarina of C.A.C.
Victor (V): Sophie Bates right?
Sophie (S): Hi there!
V: Nice to meet you
S: Nice to meet you too, thanks for inviting me to participate in this show.
V: It’s a pleasure. So… what are you working on at the moment and which do you have in mind for the show?
S: I’m planning to make a new performance piece, which will be showed for the first time at the space. It will be shown alongside some older video work that I’ve been working on the last couple of years. They are all individual pieces but I see them together in this space forming a bigger picture of my methods and practice.
V: Can you talk about the new performance you’re working on for this show?
S: The performance work will happen once a day at 5pm. It involves four naked or nude (however you might prefer to describe it), I would say naked, women performers.
V: Are you going to perform yourself?
S: Yes, I will be performing but most likely not everyday. The performance will be four masses of female flesh that will be kneeling on the ground and applying an ambiguous liquid to their skin. The liquid is Neapolitan ice cream, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate that has melted and the colours have merged into a “beigey” tone. I want the body to appear de-sexualised, that’s why I am referring to them as masses of flesh. I think flesh is a much larger and more interesting aspect to the work. I want it to relate to identity or stereotypes as well as consumption through a feminist perspective. I would say that these are the subjects most prevalent in my work at the moment. The performance will last for about 10 minutes and by the end of the performance the performers skin will be covered or smothered in the physical ice cream, a thin layer coating the skin to conceal or protect. There will also be some dialogue throughout the performance but I won’t reveal that part.
V: How do you feel about using the naked body in this performance and this space?
S: Using the naked body can have a lot of connotations and I am afraid but aware of objectification and sexualising the form through the viewer’s gaze, but I am keen to see how I can redirect these common associations and to try and think of the flesh as a material linked to identity but not necessarily body. How a naked body can be used today in contemporary art and how to avoid confusion of 70’s body art and body painting or a cliché representation of feminist performance art as a lazy reading of the work is something that interests me.
V: How will the performance frame itself in the space and along with the other work?
S: I am interested in the gaze and interaction between audience and viewer, and by thinking about the positioning of the performer, how can I create a non-confrontation, non-spectacle approach to this performance. The gaze of the performers will be the engagement with the material and their own flesh. The performers will take on a role as a sort of non-body, a non-individual, rather acting as one entire body or mass in relation to identity or stereotype. The performers will be in space not directly facing each other or the audience so there will be no ideal vantage point, more a sort of woven pattern of flesh and surrounding them the bowls of ice cream.
V: Is there a specific part or area of the exhibition it will take part in, say in the middle?
S: I don’t want it to be in the middle of the exhibition, as I don’t want the audience to be able to walk all the way around it. It will happen in a corner of the space and the audience can view in a sort of semi-circle. The remains of the performance will stay throughout the exhibition to allude to a space that becomes active at 5pm, when the performers walk in!
V: Ok, can you tell me a little bit about the other works that you are planning to exhibit?
S: The work “Now’s a good time to get up in the time zone you’re in” is a video piece that consists of lots of short clips and a layered dense voice over from multiple narratives. I made it last year and it will be projected on to a large screen with wireless headphones with a place to recline and watch the work. The work arose from a text that was made by weaving many narratives together from my own writing as well as using found text from self-help advertising for anxieties on social media. It aims to create a relentless, self-exhausting but hopefully trancelike experience for the viewer.
V: And the other works?
S: One is a very short video that will either be shown on a mobile or tablet screen with sound out loud. It’s called ‘Strawberry’…maybe I wont give it all away so people go and see it!
V: That’s up to you…
S: It’s very short, two and a half minutes and it’s to do with social pressures, perfection Vs. imperfection and I would say it could be read through a feminist perspective. The other two works have a different aesthetic they are visually dryer but more informative. The 2015 piece was made as a response to the ban of the female ejaculation in pornography filmed in the UK. It’s explains some of the historical theories and myths behind the topic of the female ejaculation.
V: And it’s also a video?
S: Yes, a video, with sound played on headphones. The final work is also a video; it’s called “Activities for Couples” and takes generic stock photography of leisure activities or ideas for couples into a slide show presentation with a voice over addressing each activity. I would say it’s a comment on leisure activities or non-places through the banality of modernity or heteronormativity.
V: How do you the works link and is there a title for the exhibition?
S: At the moment I am still working on a title. Each of the works alone has their own title and they were all made at different times, so I’m struggling a bit with that but some thing will come to me! I guess, I’m taking the opportunity to review the key works I’ve made over the last 3 years and putting them together to work through the connections.
V: How do you feel the works are connected? Is there a narrative, an overall theme or do you want to keep a separation between the works and present them in a kind of chronological order?
S: I thought the oldest work “Gushing and Gardening” and the one I made late last year “Activities for Couples” would pair up well together and these will be viewed on a one to one basis, so the audience can really engage without being distracted. I realise there is quite a lot of video but mostly are under 10 minutes so I hope people will watch the entirety of the work. I definitely think of the works as separate but I am interested in the effect of viewing them in the same space and how this build a picture for the viewer of what I’m looking to explore and present to an audience in my mode of research through to the outcomes.
V: Why are these works important for you to present now in this show?
S: I’ve used the space as blank canvas to test and not used it as a place where the work grows from the space. For me, it’s simply a platform to present my work in a neutral setting where the audience can really immerse themselves in each work without thinking so much about the setting. I want there to be navigation around the space but dictated by the artwork not the architecture. I’ve chosen these particular works as they all come from a similar pool of ideas. I really see links between the works even if aesthetically they are quite different, so I am intrigued to see how others perceive the show. I think most of my work probably would fit into some thematic title but for now I don’t want to shut too many doors off by naming them.
V: Maybe that should be the title?
S: What? “I don’t want to shut too many doors” Yes I like it! Lets go with that.