The first part of the video attempts to disrupt an apsurd idea that all
women have bodies in the same way. The second part of the video "imagines a realm in between lives, where someone is
considering whether or not to be born again into a new body, knowing all of the
implications of that, knowing how many people in this world have bodies that
are racialized or impoverished or perhaps don't, in some senses, fully have
bodies at all."
When considering these notions of body
presence, whether it occurs solely through images, lets take it a step or two
further. Digital body presence is very often manipulated and deconstructed, its
presence is shaped by the limitations of a web. So what happens when the body
is lost, and there is no vehicle for its representation?
This is actually often the case when
artist creates their own alter ego, or a second voice. A voice that doesn't
inevitably needs to be embedded within a body and voice that doesn't
necessarily represent the voice of the artist. Rather, this second self is
shaped by certain circumstances and carefully crafted in order to speak of
things differently from its creator.
Therefore, despite of the fact that the imaginary Other comes from the
same person, he or she represents a different possible identity that is
missing, one that needs to be created and exposed somewhat. The body in such
cases doesn't even matter, but rather the traces and marks of his or her work
and actions gain the greater importance.
Make believe of identity brings in issues
of geography, race, gender, class, even history. For example, one of characters
created by artist Roee Rosen is Justine Frank(1900-1943), Jewish-Belgian
Surrealist and pornographer. Justine Frank was born in
Antwerp, lived in Paris and died in Tel Aviv. She was a Surrealist during the
movement's most radical phase, yet even within that audacious circle they had a
problem stomaching her artistic concoction of explicit erotic imagery and
Roee Rosen plays with this identity and often
leaves it up to viewer to decide whether Justine was real or imaginary.
But it is through the character of Justine that Rosen can delve into another
time and place, and from contemporary distance create a new world. Therefore,
the imagined second voice doesn't have to be contemporary but can also be
presented as someone who has already lived.
Moreover, as the Atlas Group conceived by
Walid Raad shows, this imagined identity doesn't have to stand for a single
author but it can also represent a whole collective. Raad created this
fictional foundation in 1999 in order to research and document the contemporary
history of Lebanon. Within the group, he produces artworks which he re-dates
and attributes to various imagined figures. The Atlas Group maintained its
documents, primarily notebooks, films, videotapes and photographs, in its
self-titled archive, and invited scholars, community organisers, editors, and
curators to research and exhibit these documents. The archive is also
digitised, which adds another layer to realness of this fictional content.
Actually, this delicate line between fiction and reality is crucial to play with,
and especially interesting in relation to historical context.
Another famous imagined Lebanese is Bassam
Ramlawi, Mounira Al Solh's alter ego, a contemporary Lebanese painter with whom
she shares some biographical facts, as well as some art passions. They both
grew up in the same street/neighborhood in Beirut, which is a highly dense
neighborhood in which very diverse groups of people live. They both studied art
in the Netherlands. And they both share passion for a Dutch painter René
Daniel's paintings. They met by chance at the Westerpark in Amsterdam
while Bassam made a beautiful sketch of the homeless people who were
sitting there. As Mounira Al Solh explained: "In his free time, he makes art. He is
divided between «a universal painter», and a «local artist», from the Zariff
neighbourhood." Furthermore, she explains that Bassam, despite of his daily job
of helping in his father in the shop, still hasn't
turned his back on art. Instead, this
fictive fact speaks to the importance of
continuing to work for the father, which is considered as part of their
habitat. Curiously enough, Bassam often collaborates with Mounira, and they
actually exhibit together, but they don't make the same work together.
Moreover, there is a distinction in the medium: painting and drawing remains
Bassam's primary focus. However, they both share interest in the everyday
people whom they encounter. For Bassam this is perhaps more about painting them
or drawing them, while for Mounira it is more about telling fragments of their
stories. Perhaps it is out of this curiosity for storytelling that Bassam
Ramlawi also came to be, as while he is fictional, his ways of being are quite
Though some artists tend to have only one second
voice, some artists, like Nataša Berk, have various characters. She plays with
their names, mediums and art techniques, and sometimes with gender too. From
time to time she embodies the character herself, like she did with art
historian Mojca Lešnik, while some
of her characters never have a bodily,
appearance. The way Nataša Berk imagines figures has more to do with their
being present as artists and speaks more to the particular relations of art
fields than historical or cultural issues. In contrast to Mounira Al Solh who,
through Bassam Ramlawi, tackles specific historical and cultural backgrounds.
When it comes to the imagined identity of
an artist, the voice is the most important aspect. The body is often completely
ignored, while the presence and make believe are achieved through representational
tools. Interestingly, it is exactly the how and what of representation
which, in the end, creates the reality
of this identity. In a way, this attempt to give life to the non-existing could
perhaps be understood in relation to the myth of Pygmalion, just with the
difference that here it is not the embodiment of identity, but rather its
articulation that matters.
 Darling, Jesse (2015) Artist Profile: Hannah Black.
Retrieved from: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2015/feb/17/artist-profile-hannah-black/,
10 January 2017