Anna Furse, Glassbody

Review in Issue 18-2 | Summer 2006

Corridors lined with paintings, a lift soaring up into the heights of the atrium, Costa coffee bars. An Italian shopping mall? No, an English hospital – the arts-friendly Chelsea and Westminster

Glassbody takes place in its own performance pod. Entering the space is like going into the small mammal house at the zoo: the hushed atmosphere, the dim bluish night-light. And here’s a bushbaby! The wide-eyed Marie-Gabrielle Rotie is on display, moving from her inert sleep on the hospital bed-trolley to confront us with her unblinking glare. Stories unfold through screened image, ritualistic action, movement motif and voice-over. As you’d expect from an art/sci piece about biomedical scanning, screens are important: two large flat screens on the back wall, an onstage monitor, two on each side of the performance space. A water tank is used as a surface for screened images, as is the performer’s white slip-dress. The idea under investigation is the inside-out-ness of the scans: revelation versus intrusion, secrets inside the body, the ultimate striptease. We learn that in the early days of X-ray, ladies would send X-rayed images of their hands to loved ones as a keepsake. Look, see inside of me and learn my inner secrets!

The piece touches on the relationship between sound and image, central to the science of scanning and the relationship between soundwaves and the water they travel through. But despite the richness of possibilities in these core ideas, Glassbody suddenly gets snagged on an investigation of infertility, a recurring theme in Anna Furse’s work. Although fine for an artist to continue lines of investigation from one work to the next, it feels that we are now in an altogether different piece.

It is all well realised: Rotie’s silent and enigmatic performance presence is beautifully played; the interplay of screen images (flying birds, babes-in-the-womb, X-rayed limbs, playing children) and live actions (the laying out of a set of child’s clothes, the pulling of a string of DNA-like beads from the mouth, the ritual washing and cleansing) are lovely images that work in harmony. But I find myself asking – where is the heart of the piece? One area of investigation would have been quite enough, thank you!

Presenting Artists
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2006

This article in the magazine

Issue 18-2
p. 30