This is the first week of spring term of the BA Art course I am currently attending at the University of Reading. This term, apart from my studio, I will be attending two other modules, one of which is called Bodies of Difference.
“This module aims to provide a specialized understanding of contemporary art and visual culture from diverse backgrounds and communities, with particular reference to the body and its representation. It aims to provide you with a foundation in key theoretical approaches to the body as it is represented in contemporary culture.
“This module will focus on the representation of the body in contemporary art and visual culture and will consider advertising, film, painting, photography, and modern and contemporary art, combining installation, text, sound, moving image and performance.”
– Excerpt from Bodies of Difference Module Handbook, Spring 2016
The module focuses on aspects that lead to the following questions:
What is a body?
What is difference?
Perspective: geography, race, gender?
Why is it important to ask these questions?
How might we learn about other histories?
How can we approach the question in a different way?
This introductory lecture included a variety of audio material to give us an idea of what the following lectures will be about. I was particularly interested in an audio piece called California Rhinoplasty by Matmos (2008). Matmos is a duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel.
“Currently based in Baltimore, the duo formed in San Francisco in the mid 1990s, and self-released their debut album in 1997. Marrying the conceptual tactics and noisy textures of object-based musique concrete to a rhythmic matrix rooted in electronic pop music, the two quickly became known for their highly unusual sound sources: amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of bibles turning, water hitting copper plates, liposuction surgery, cameras and VCRs, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, rat cages, tanks of helium, a cow uterus, human skulls, snails, cigarettes, cards shuffling, laser eye surgery, whoopee cushions, balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones, Polish trains, insects, life support systems, inflatable blankets, rock salt, solid gold coins, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, a five gallon bucket of oatmeal. These raw materials are manipulated into surprisingly accessible forms, and often supplemented by traditional musical instruments played by them and their large circle of friends and collaborators. The result is a model of electronic composition as a relational network that connects sources and outcomes together; information about the process of creation activates the listening experience, providing the listener with entry points into sometimes densely allusive, baroque recordings.”
California Rhinoplasty is a track initially included in Matmos’ album A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure (2001) and later in an album with the same title called California Rhinoplasty EP (2008). The albums consist mainly of samples of medical procedures, including plastic surgeries, liposuctions, hearing tests and bonesaws. The album suggests a sense of humour in contrast with the serious nature of the audio being sampled. I find interesting that Matmos uses such sounds to create – if not music – audio art. Does the duo want to provide the audience with aesthetically pleasing sounds or does it want to appall them?
You can listen to California Rhinoplasty by Matmos below: