Term Paper On The Life Of Paul

Term Paper On The Life Of Paul-85
Somewhat selectively this article considers the early sculptures and installations of Thek, which are an acknowledged part of the anti-formalist narrative, together with the early work of San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson (born 1941), who is perhaps better known for her pioneering work in new media.5 From 1963 Hershman Leeson also cast parts of her own face and hands in wax, integrating these pieces into installations situated outside the gallery.Augmenting them with make-up, wigs, glass eyes, as well as interactive sensors and audio components to simulate bodily processes and reactions, Hershman Leeson, like Thek, also encased her modular body parts in materials like Plexiglas or recycled them into site-specific installations, plugging the figures into larger cultural narratives about power, technology and gender.Unlike the hyperrealist sculptors, Segal left his plaster casts unpainted but arranged them in near-perfect polychrome simulations of a gas station or a diner, forcing a contrast between figure and ground that counterintuitively rendered the monochrome figures more real.

Somewhat selectively this article considers the early sculptures and installations of Thek, which are an acknowledged part of the anti-formalist narrative, together with the early work of San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson (born 1941), who is perhaps better known for her pioneering work in new media.5 From 1963 Hershman Leeson also cast parts of her own face and hands in wax, integrating these pieces into installations situated outside the gallery.Augmenting them with make-up, wigs, glass eyes, as well as interactive sensors and audio components to simulate bodily processes and reactions, Hershman Leeson, like Thek, also encased her modular body parts in materials like Plexiglas or recycled them into site-specific installations, plugging the figures into larger cultural narratives about power, technology and gender.Unlike the hyperrealist sculptors, Segal left his plaster casts unpainted but arranged them in near-perfect polychrome simulations of a gas station or a diner, forcing a contrast between figure and ground that counterintuitively rendered the monochrome figures more real.

The most famous of these was 1973–4, a room-size environment that stayed open around the clock for nine months at a San Francisco flophouse.

Always in flux, the work comprised imaginary composites of the hotel’s inhabitants, taking the form of two life-size figures whose only exposed parts were their wax heads and hands (fig.3).6 When the police shut down the installation, Hershman Leeson’s effigy took a new form in the alter-ego 1974–8.

Although nearly everything was painted a uniform pink, colour photographs taken in Thek’s studio by the artist’s lover Peter Hujar reveal that the figure’s tongue was blue (fig.2).

While some commentators have described the anomalous detail of the blue tongue as ‘poison-blackened’, it may also be read as a sign of putrefaction and volatility, at odds with the sanitised notion of a wax effigy.2 Lying in state yet allowed to rot, this corruptible effigy became a complex and contradictory requiem for the American counterculture, reflected in its alternative, unauthorised title ­.3 This article thus takes its cue from various readings of the work, including the artist Mike Kelley’s influential 1992 claim that it signalled the ‘pretty decay’ of a decade whose dirtiness became sanitised in historical memory.4 In the twentieth century many artists cast body parts using wax or other materials, including Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Bruce Nauman, Tetsumi Kudo, Robert Gober, Duane Hanson, Gavin Turk, Alina Szapocznikow, Kiki Smith and Ron Mueck.

Brought to life by the artist and other performers, this alter-ego was both a confessional self-portrait and a composite of abject feminine stereotypes; she left behind tangible tokens of her existence such as a driver’s licence, a dental X-ray, surveillance photographs, and a psychiatric report.

Hershman Leeson’s and Thek’s effigies provide a lens through which to perceive the confluence of political power and individual sovereignty in America in the 1960s and 1970s.Both stage the effigy at a point of putrefaction – the blue tongue of Thek’s figure, the duration of (1957) German historian Ernst Kantorowicz explained how the royal corpse threatened the symbolic continuity of power, thus prompting the production of a more durable substitute for public display upon death.7 What Kantorowicz identified in his book on the prehistory of modern ‘political theology’ was elaborated on by the philosopher Michel Foucault in a 1975–6 series of lectures at the Collège de France, in which he defined the concept of biopower.8 Foucault modified earlier theories, which understood sovereignty as the divinely ordained right to ‘take life or let live’, to argue that the state now had the authority ‘to make live and to let die’.9 Where individual bodies were subject to disciplinary techniques under medieval regimes, modern political regimes inaugurated in the later eighteenth century applied these techniques to entire populations.10 Individuals only mattered in terms of what data they could yield about the masses; in extreme cases this data could be used to strip citizens of their rights and place them under a ‘state of exception’, a term coined by juridical theorist Carl Schmitt to refer to a sovereign’s ability to transcend the rule of law.11 The political philosopher Giorgio Agamben has followed Schmitt by reviving the obscure Roman legal term at the bottom are thus oddly aligned.13The productive intermingling of death and vitality in these two bodies of work made them an ideal vehicle to challenge the constellation of technologies, institutions and discourses that Foucault named ‘biopower’.Thek’s entombed hippie, which bore his likeness, and Hershman Leeson’s equally entombed yet perversely vital effigies of marginal women can both be understood as confronting biopower through the perspective of the counterculture and other movements that flowered (and declined) in 1960s and 1970s America.The most famous of this series, 1965, comprised one of Andy Warhol’s iconic packaging replicas, which was upended and filled with simulated meat perforated by plastic tubing (fig.4).Here Thek intervened in readings of Warhol’s work that rendered it synonymous with the vacuity of postmodernism.18 As art historian Ileana Parvu has written, the work reimagined pop as ‘an exteriorized object whose interior has been playfully demystified as “mere meat”’.19 Thek’s appropriation and revision offoregrounded a meatier, less sublimated side of pop and suggested a new dimension of biopolitical critique.The artist Duane Hanson, for instance, enhanced the lifelikeness of his fibreglass, polyvinyl and bronze casts, based on real individuals, with paint, hair, clothes, and objects befitting their social status, such as shopping carts, lawn mowers, garbage cans and mops.John de Andrea’s gypsum casts of idealised young women fabricated in bronze or polyvinyl were also painted realistically in full colour.In the late 1960s and early 1970s American artists Paul Thek and Lynn Hershman Leeson independently created wax effigies and situated them within immersive or performative contexts that transformed the visual language of sovereignty and dignified the socially marginal body.This paper explores lost installations by both artists, where the effigy’s connotations of volatility challenged biopolitical systems of control as well as the reduction of individuals to stereotypes.But unlike Segal’s distinction between the figure and the environment, in Thek’s installation each part was brought together inside the tomb structure, which was bathed in an ‘incensed haze’ and ‘dim pink light’.22 This resulted in a hallucinatory environment, the boundaries of which were indistinguishable from the boundaries of the body.In addition to dissolving these boundaries between the figure, beholder and environment in which everything was immersed, Thek also invited viewers to enter the space fully, whereas Segal’s installations did not encourage the same immersive experience.

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