The photography site for sore eyes. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.
Natalie Ramus is one of those artists you see and go: Wow, I never knew anything could be done like that.
I saw Natalie do a three-hour installation piece called 16000:3 at Emergency, a performance art event organised by Word of Warning at Zarts in Hulme, Manchester (Oct 1, 2016).
Actually, I was photographing the event. And so I sometimes get a different perspective of the performers and their performances, both from the actual process of photographing and also from talking to the artists themselves.
It was in the green room kitchen when I first met Natalie. An unassuming lady with a strong Welsh accent, she explained to me what she was doing later that afternoon. As fascinated as I was about 16000:3 and the theories and reasons behind it, my mental image fell way short of the actual reality of experiencing it.
I’ve seen nothing like it before. There she was, standing naked in a dark, claustrophobic room opposite a pile of paper the same height as her, slowly stitching threads from the white sheets to various parts of her body.
If you want to experience intense art, experience this.
Visitors came and went in 10 minute blocks. I saw a few outside visibly upset by what they saw, others were wide-eyed. I think it was the intensity that got to them.
Of the project, Natalie says this: ‘The room, which was so small that only 5 observers were permitted entry at a time meant that this action was unavoidable. The intimacy of the space held invisible connections made through empathy, connecting the observer to me; and so a shared 3 hour experience meant that a web of visible/invisible connections filled the room, which we all became entangled in. The space felt transformative. The ritual of repetition was relentless. The intensity of the action has deepened the level of connection I feel to this stack- as the suture that passed through my flesh then in turn passed through the edges of the stack I began to question the edges of my body; I wondered…. Is the stack now an extention of my flesh? Is it now part of me?’
She added: ‘Threads. (Inter)connection
s. Tension. As the number of sutures connecting my body to the stack increased, the stack began to sway with my breath.’
On the project in general, Natalie said: ‘A fascination with the materiality of the body has led me to question its edges and boundaries. 16000 is a long term project in which I will make use of a stack of paper which equates to my body’s height. This stack will be used to extend the body into the occupied space; it will explore and document the body through action- the traces of which will be captured and documented creating an archive of time, memory and body. The traces of materials such as body fluids are as autonomous as the body itself in the way that they change through time, and so the artefacts of the performance are also performative by nature. Overall this project will question the parameters of performance, and will ask the question- when does performance begin / end? (If it ends at all).’
I’ve written previously about art and the fear or inability to understand. This, for me, was one of those pieces, incorporating themes and processes alien to me and my own way of thinking. But that’s why we go to these events. To learn, to experience.
Natalie told me later via email that the sutures (a surgical seem/stitch which holds body together) she used were 35 Silk braided sutures. This information is provided for the surgically inclined. She also told me her next installation was smashing up a washing machine violently with a sledgehammer.Like I said, unassuming.