liminal

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Liminal was a solo show at The Proposition Gallery, Belfast in June 2000. It consisted of three elements. In the downstairs space which is usually the prominent gallery space and is visible from the public arcade, 400 kilos of poppy seeds filled the entire floor space to a depth of around 3-4 inches. The walls were painted a light grey colour and there was no artificial light. In order to see the other work in the exhibition, it was necessary to walk across this sea of poppy seeds which released a heady, opium like odour when stepped upon. Upstairs in a small room at about 1m from the floor, a Super8 film of a pair of hands separating poppy seeds from dirt was back projected onto a tiny screen (10 cm x 6 cm) imbedded into a partition wall. The film lasted for twenty minutes. At the end, the hands pushed together the two piles of seeds and dirt and began the whole process again. The final room was filled from wall to wall with fresh turf. In the right hand corner a tiny TV monitor was placed on the grass and played a video of a young girl apparently sleeping. In order to see the screen, viewers had to walk on the grass. The title of the work ‘Rosalia Lombardo d. 1920’ revealed that the child had been dead for eighty years and her body preserved from decay. Rosalia Lombardo is on public display in the Capuccini catacombs in Palermo, Sicily. The video lasts about seven minutes, during which it is possible to hear noises from the street, footsteps from inside the catacombs and the Angelus bells ringing at 12 noon.

The piece aimed to explore the relationship between femininity and liminality. The liminal realm is a transitional one between two distinct states. Anthropologist Victor Turner has described it as ‘a place that is not a place and a time that is not a time’. The uncertainty of threshold states has led them to be regarded with suspicion and fear, they are also often culturally designated as feminine. The liminal realm is also one of great creativity and potentiality. It is a space of ‘becoming’ where outmoded ideas about the self may be discarded. The desire for a stable (masculine) identity has historically caused the liminal realm to be feminised, a space where a masculine ‘becoming’ can take place at the expense of feminine subjectivity. The piece ‘liminal’ sought to draw attention to this whilst also pointing towards the need for a space for feminine ‘becoming’. It also perhaps suggests that the liminal realm is not a space to be conquered and returned from in triumph, but one which must be endlessly traversed in a process of ‘becomings’ which is never complete.

Liminal aimed to avoid the sensationalist aspects of the public display of the body of a dead girl by creating an environment which brought the viewer into her realm, in a way which would challenge patriarchal polarization of subject / object and active / passive positions

 

installation shot with poppy seeds in floor

poppy seeds on floor of gallery

 

image of a pair of hands sifting

image of a pair of hands sifting

image of a pair of hands sifting

 

image of a girl's face on tiny TV monitor on grass

 

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