How Our Bodies Move in Private and Public Spaces

By Lauren Piemont for McColl Center for Art + Innovation

Security—be it physical, political, or intellectual—is something we all take great pains to ensure, but is it really possible? 

This was the surprising theme that arose during Stimulus: Space, Place, and Body, a public panel discussion held at McColl Center on November 7, 2019.

Fall 2019 artists-in-residence Anna Garner and Pablo Rasgado, were joined by visiting artist Carolina Maki Kitagawa to discuss the sculptural qualities present in their installation, photography, and video work. Adam Justice, director of UNCC Galleries, and visiting curator Laura Ritchie led the discussion. 

Ritchie framed the conversation in her opening remarks, stating, “The tie between Anna, Pablo, and Maki’s work is the use of sculpture as a medium to examine the movement of bodies in private and public space.” 

As each artist discussed their work, however, a new theme emerged: security, or rather, a lack thereof.

Garner, whose work is most concerned with control and risk management, presented two videos in which she uses her own body to fabricate dangerous acts, akin to a stuntperson. 

For these works, Garner had to build apparatuses to keep herself from real bodily harm, furthering her exploration of the widely held, but erroneous, belief that any part of life can be regulated or safeguarded. These safeguards, along with the outcomes of the stunts, were hidden from the audience, creating an uneasy mystery around the artist’s safety.

Rasgado, whose work aims to consider how people relate to constructed spaces, described three different projects. The first depicted, through photography, the disappearance of a physical place that a family once worked and lived in, in a decaying part of Tijuana, Mexico. 

Artwork by fall 2019 artist-in-residence Pablo Rasgado.

The second experimented with the architecture of a pre-existing space, where the artist installed a rotating window to alter the natural light, rendering it inconsistent with the time of day. 

The third presented obfuscated classified documents displayed behind partitions with blacked-out text. In each of these cases, a sense of unease was either highlighted by reality or generated by modification or presentation.

Kitagawa described performance pieces wherein she upended the conventions of how viewers expect to interact with art. She considers play good for the brain and enjoys adding elements of surprise (and perhaps confusion) to her work to provoke distance between art and viewer. 

Artist Carolina Maki Kitagawa (center) discusses her projects during Stimulus at McColl Center on Thursday, November 7, 2019.

Security cameras installed to surveil viewers looking at her paintings or physical barriers placed in front of the gallery housing her exhibition are a few examples of the obstacles Kitagawa is fond of imposing to cultivate a tense disconnect. 

It was Justice who identified an emergent theme of insecurity after listening to each artist speak, and none of them could disagree with his new characterization. 

A thoughtful discussion of the timely nature of security issues in today’s rapidly changing and uncertain political climate resulted.

An audience member succinctly and poignantly tied the conversation together. “I think the message of this conversation has been security is an illusion but insecurity is not,” he said, leaving the room to consider a hard truth in a befitting end to an anxious, albeit fascinating, conversation.

The Stimulus series of conversations offers you deeper insight into the work and ideas of contemporary artists and our constantly evolving local arts community. Find out when the next one happens.