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Brush

Artistic representations of the human body can be found in nearly every culture in the world, demonstrating the central role the body plays in art. Often viewed as a contested terrain, on which struggles over control and resistance are fought out in contemporary societies, the body of another can also be seen as a tool: utilized to fulfil one’s desires and motives.

Brush is a participatory art installation & performance that questions the influence external agents such as political entities, galleries, and private collectors, have on artists and their art.

By inviting participants to use the artist’s body to paint, the paintings created are directly influenced by external agents, and the artist is reduced to the inanimate – a performative instrument devoid of autonomy, utilized to achieve objectives of the other. The paintings were produced in-situ during the performance.

Materials used are acrylic paint on paper, body and time.

First performed at Bodyfront Belgrade, Inspiring Change Artist residency showcase, Društveni centar NNK, Belgrade, Serbia.

Two days ago, as part of an art showcase in Belgrade,
For two hours, I sat, slumped over a desk,
my fingers and long hair tied into a ponytail, dipped in a bowl of black and white acrylic paint.
I invited people to use me as their ‘brush’ to paint.

As light turned to dark, the sound of the chair facing me creaking as it was dragged and sat on was repeated many times.
Unfamiliar voices filled the space above my scalp,
and I felt warmth through palms, big and small.
By the time night fell, my ponytail was covered completely in acrylic.
Some paint still remains in the seams between my nails and my skin.

I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult-
after all, all I had to do was to be a ‘thing’ for two hours.
But just a few minutes into it, pins and needles formed under my bottom and started to spread down my thighs.
My skull weighed heavily over the tiny area of forehead that was in contact with the desk.
I struggled with the unnatural feeling of surrendering my weight under the control of others. Hardest of all was the wait- I don’t think time ever passed so slowly.
The second it was over I immediately tried to stand up, weak in my knees as foreign sensations spread through my entire body.
I felt so grateful to be alive, again.

A mentor congratulated me, saying I had ‘succeeded’.
Some said the idea was ‘well-conceived’, the experience ‘touching’;
others described it as ‘depressing’ or felt it was ‘disturbing’.
When friend asked whether things turned out like what I wanted,
I found myself without a response.

I’ve been in constant search for something.
The path less taken is winding, full of rocks,
and it’s tiring, trying not to stumble or trip over in slippers.
Looking back, I haven’t come far from since the road diverged and I chose this path.
It’s daunting that I can’t see my destination. And honestly, often, it feels like
I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Two days later, after letting thoughts sediment,
with nothing to do, nowhere else to be,
sitting by myself, quietly,
finally,
it hit me-

That evening, I found something.
I found a space where I feel you; you feel me.
A space where I see you; you see me.
Devoid of labels, without facades, beyond appearances;
just you, and me, co-existing.
A feeling that will continue to exist,
however much places change, or fall apart.
A memory that will continue to replay in my mind,
however much time passes.

However hard I try,
I am not, and
cannot be
a thing.

You are not, and
cannot be
a thing.

We are not, and
cannot be
things.

We cannot, and should not, live our lives treating people like things.
We have to stop using people like things.
Until we realise this,
we cannot say we have truly lived.

However transient, however fleeting,
I think this is what I’ve been searching for.
I believe in the power of one.
I can change things.
I want to change things.
And this is why no matter how long this road is,
even if the slippers break and I need to walk barefoot, and
blisters form, the skin comes off and the
toes start bleeding,
I know this is the path down which,
I need to continue walking.

I want to see the you, I want you to see me.
We have the power to change how we live, and shape the way others live.
You have the power to change how you live, and shape the way others live.
You know what I mean?

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