TRACES – Paulina Tanterl

Material | Body – The Body in Contemporary Art

"Writing is a trace in which an effect of language can be read"
— Lacan, XX, 121


NLS Congress presents

Paulina Tanterl
Material | Body – The Body in Contemporary Art 

When we talk about the body, the body and furthermore the body-event we first have to get a glimpse of what kind of body we’re talking about and what this body is associated with.
The artist can use his body as a tool to access material but not exclusively in a performative way. One has to carefully decide, consider and abolish in order to figure out more about the material he chooses to work with. With material we form a structure, we create. It’s a physical thing. Material as form. Figuratively we refer to material as the base of ideas or concepts, the subject matter. Something we express through words. Material as content.
This is why the material the artist works with implies not exclusively the solid physical form but even more so the process of reflection, choices, rejection and resumption. This process is the alliance the artist builds with the material. The material functions as an extension of the body. Like a prosthesis which extends the physical but also the mental/intellectual capacity of the artist. But besides these well elaborated steps there’s also the need for a breaking point, a detachment from any preset concept and transgression into something bodily, something which happens spontaneously.
What about owning the material? What happens to the “material-prosthesis” after an exhibition for example? Ultimately, the artist only will be able to claim his ownership of the material after undergoing the process of working with it. Only with intense dedication, with persistence, sometimes even obsession and only through the process of trial and error the artist is able to make his material processable and maybe even accessible, too. It is precisely the examination of the material – the trial and error – which ultimately defines the artistic process and progress: The bodily experience of improvisation.


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