A body rises from a latex cocoon and grows in all directions. It then takes its first steps, stands up, learns to occupy space, and enjoys it. In the intoxication of this new freedom, the figure then falls unexpectedly. The injury to the knee leads to a high level of suffering, which demands a new way of dealing with the body. The movements learned before the fall no longer work, the character must find new ways to continue. Symbolic of this perpetual learning process, the figure pupates again and again. The old skin disappears and reappears during the process, emerging over again – it is never completely gone. This corresponds to my own experience of (un-)learning processes.
My bachelor thesis and video performance ECDYSIS uses shedding as a symbol for the “psychic-mental” changes in humans. In our organism, the limbic system is also called the “seat of the psyche“. The psyche, as well as personality, develops in close connection with neural information processing. For people change usually means development – the infinite cycle of unlearning can take place in all areas of life. In fact, the video performance ECDYSIS shows this ongoing process in the form of a physical language of expression.
The body as the object of change
For this work, I was inspired by the first feminist video performances that can be found in the 1970s avant-garde movement. Here, it is the body itself that often becomes the material of art, – some artists used it to the limits of their physical endurance. Also, I once met in a dream, a double-headed snake that hasn’t left my thoughts ever since. The artistic confrontation with “skin-shedding” first caught my eye in the work of Jahra Wasasala. The self-appointed “world builder” finds unbelievable movements and images for collective experiences in her impressive embodiments. The proximity to her own community and constant emphasis on her activist stance has changed my approach to creating profoundly. For the representation of own my body, I was strongly influenced by queer-feminist artists like Jazelle, better known as @uglyworldwide on Instagram who self-determined and radically turn their bodies into art.
Trust as the foundation for the making
My body in its raw materiality was used as the main object for making specific mental states visible. To reach the final result I envisioned, I was demanded a lot of honesty, physical bodywork, and discipline. In the dance studio, I had a clear sequence of events: stretching, warming up, empathizing, and getting into the respective state through songs and memories. It was important to me not to judge my own feelings, and not to force a hierarchy. I allowed everything: curiosity, joy, delusion, lust, arrogance, pain, sadness, shame, anger, self-pity, and acceptance. As a matter of fact, recreating the bodily experience of an unlearning process proved to be an extremely exhausting practice.
The realization of the video shoot demanded a lot of preparation, planning, and coordination. For the collaborations, I made a conscious decision: work with people whose artistic practice I respected and with who I also felt a specific security and trust. Pascale Egli, a filmmaker and a childhood friend of mine, has years of experience in the film industry and coordinated the entire cinematography plan. For the sound, the collaboration with XV06-Y proved to be extremely nourishing and instructive. The translation of movements into sound and vice versa led to clear mood images: Xav formed my ideas into real soundscapes. “Sometimes I feel very lonely in difficult moments”, one viewer remembered when he told me that the sound reminded him of a void.
Lastly, Alyssa Berrez was responsible for the creation of the costume. She was able to recreate the invisible, slow, imperceptible biological process of human skin shedding through the use of artificial body extensions. Carolina Misztela, designer and stylist, bleached my brows and did my makeup.
I recognize the elaboration of new strategies and mechanisms as a non-linear, fragmentary process. This insight is rooted in my personal experiences, as I understand my practice as personal research. When something isn’t working in one’s private life, many people try to change it. Often, it is a big challenge with setbacks. In a world as fast-paced as ours, where power constructs and acquired knowledge are fortunately more and more often questioned, we have to adapt in all aspects of life at some point. I hope we all realize how much we can and must still (un-)learn to make this world as fair as possible for all.
“Deconstruction does not say there is no subject, there is no truth, there is no history. It simply questions the privileging of identity so that someone is believed to have the truth. It is not the exposure of error. It is constantly and persistently looking into how truths are produced.”Spivak 1996
An invitation for self-reflection and self-acceptance
“I found neither a beginning nor an end” was the remark from a spectator that reassured me of my creative decisions. The form of the film results from the process of its creation: in fact, for the diploma exhibition, the video played as a loop. This decision was made so that the form of the medium adapted to the non-linear narrative of my ECDYSIS. Despite the defined, planned sequences, the performance does not have a clear beginning and end. Rather the movements function as fragments or chapters that can be placed in and after each other, one after the other. My very own learning remix.
“Rebirth – of course. A never-ending theme.” Many visitors recognized it from other artists. “Young people tend to explore their identity more openly.” The discovery of the own body, patterns, preferences, and roots tends to lead to a deeper understanding of one’s own existence. Young artists around me seem to share the bravery and energy to introspectively perceive, investigate and express what is hidden or personal. Overall, I was pleased to hear positive feedback on how sound, material, and performance blended together properly.
Throughout this work, I was reminded of the importance of self-reflection at a time when many have a distorted relationship with their own bodies and emotions. The result of this project is a combination of body-centered self-awareness and critical self-presentation. My artistic honesty has led to many interesting discussions and brought me much closer to many. The whole process of ECDYSIS has most definitely led me to forgive certain past personas, understand my own actions better and reflect on certain decisions. I gained more understanding of my own past and processes as well as more compassion and empathy for others around me. To conclude, ECDYSIS invites the observer to understand how consciously confronting and re-enacting our own behavior – whether it be on a physical, cinematic, or scientific level – can lead to better self-understanding and self-acceptance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aina Aliotta is an art educator and transdisciplinary artist based in Zurich. She recently completed her Bachelor in Art Education at the Zurich University of the arts with her work “ECDYSIS”. Alongside writing for magazines, performances, and creative projects, she has always been active in local collectives. Aliotta’s work primarily centers on medial self-reflection, in which the body is both the raw material and a form of expression.