Eva Fàbregas’ practice concerns forms of somatic experimentation, exploring the eroticism of consumer objects, the social engineering of desire, and cultures of wellness, therapy, and heightened sensation. Her recent work investigates all those objects, tools, and instruments that are used with, for, and on our bodies, either to produce sensorial effects (pleasure, relaxation, therapy, euphoria, etc.), to correct our posture, discipline our bodies, or even to become part of them.
Artist(s) Eva Fàbregas
Venue Kunstverein München
Images courtesy the artist and Kunstverein München
As a visual glossary for this research, Fàbregas presents a massive drawing on three walls, populated by forms alluding to a wide variety of therapeutic, prosthetic, ergonomic, and erotic instruments that have stimulating effects. Each of these forms refer to products that shape — and are shaped by — the body, implicating how our bodies, desires, experiences, and affects are formed and deformed by the politics of industrial design. By classifying this cosmology of objects and reducing their representations to amorphous symbols, the artist illustrates a genealogy of affective objects through their morphological affinities, while equally proposing the possibility for transformation.
This rejection of fixed form and relations, which can be seen throughout her practice, is reminiscent of Sergei Eisenstein’s characterization of early cartoons, which exhibited an infinite flexibility of figures, and celebrated the polyformic capabilities of instability, inconsistency of form, and the fluidity and suddenness of formation. In the cartoon world, all entities are part of a continuum of endlessly animated matter that can take many shapes and forms. The filmmaker termed this principle “plasmaticity”, based upon the omnipotence of plasma, which contains in “liquid” form all possibilities of future species and forms. In her work, Fabregas is applying this same logic to the realm of material objects and somatic experiences, thereby placing subject and object on an equal plane of experience. In doing so, this exhibition animates the inanimate and points to the possibility of seemingly stable structures to change unexpectedly and channel desires. At times, objects that are normally seen as inert and supplementary are granted an uncanny sentience, where industrial packing materials no longer travel according to human needs, but through their own uncertain logic. At other times, shifts in scale and material allow for a new appraisal of common orthopedic and therapeutic devices such as earplugs, orthodontic braces, and a noseclip, again demonstrating the mutual interaction and mutability of technology and the body. While these forms serve practical purposes, each generates points of intimacy that are erotic in nature and played out through flows of mutual accommodation, attraction, repulsion, discipline, resistance, power, and control.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a large-scale, immersive 8-channel sound installation, which consists of three bulbous and textured inflatables outfitted with layers of mesh fabric. Tangled tendrils of medical tubing are attached to the titanic twisting tubes, connecting to sound amplification equipment that not only animates the materiality of the sculptures but also transforms them into resonating membranes. The Jamaican electronic music producers Equiknoxx have produced a soundtrack specifically for this installation, responding to the exhibition’s themes through their idiosyncratic use of cacophonous samples, elastic dancehall ‘riddims’, and cavernous sub-bass dub production. Deploying properties of tactile sound, auditory-tactile synesthesia, and psychoacoustics, this installation encourages altered states of consciousness and physical awareness by locating the act of listening to the skin and bones, the tactile domain. Akin to pulsating tools in physical therapy or a club sound system, the installation allows the beat to throb and traverse different bodies and forms of matter, thereby allowing material communication and interaction between very different entities, human and non-human, and inducing spatial and somatic effects.
In other words, Those things that your fingers can tell is a sinuous parcour of vibrant prosthetics, where the different senses continuously affect each other, where the relations between living and non-living entities are persistently redefined, where knowledge is felt more than thought, and where the viewer ends up in a state of longing for somatic experience.