The mutated body
Written by Jorinde Seijdel in a Montevideo/TBA publication,1998
Peter Bogers' Apart(1996) shows images of isolated parts of the body on four screens, placed next to each other. From left to right, we see a clenched fist, a head seen from above, an open hand, and a bare foot, seen from below - these are scanned video stills moving in a loop. The organs are floating freely in the image, and show various revolving, vibrating or punching rhythms of motion: the fist, for example, draws back and then strikes out powerfully, while the head is turning around, and the other hand and the foot are moving backwards. In this constant acceleration, the body parts eventually run amok. Captured in isolation, they seem to want to escape their predicament, without actually being able to break free from, or come closer to, each other - as they were controlled from within, but by a force outside themselves.
Frozen Voice and Without the World, installations dating from 1992 and 1994, also include various parts of the body which manifest themselves in isolation from each other. Bogers' representations of the body are a far cry from the humanistic ideology of the body, which is precisely about unity and wholeness, about the body as an integrated system of connected parts, governed and controlled by an all co-ordinating higher brain the subject that imposes its will and identity on the body as the object. This traditional concept of the body fits in with the philosophy of progress, in which man controls his environment and bends technology and matter to his will.
What, then, is the identity and ideology of Bogers' disintegrated, mutated and alienated bodies? What is their context and deeper truth? At face value, they are devoid of any kind of hierarchy, of a central point, which gives them coherence and unity. The organs, which seem to be in an embryonic state of weightlessness, are also restrained, held in quarantine, by the hardware and software of the technology with which they are represented; it is precisely this technology which defines their context, identity and truth. Technology is not merely used as a presentation model, instrument, medium or shell, but rather, is part of the content.
Bogers' bodies seem to be possessed by an alien bodily order, which has taken hold of them internally. They are following a logic, which has nothing to do with us. They do not control technology, but rather, it controls them, mutates them internally. The traditional rift between body and technology seems to have been eradicated, to make place for a hybrid fusion. Bogers' bodies are no longer superior to technology and matter, but rather, are completely absorbed by them. They are an ecstatic representation of the ongoing mutilation of the body. This is alarming, but only if considered from the traditional idea of the pure controlling and controlled body.
Now that the body is becoming more and more contaminated, not only by external, but also by internal (bio)technological prostheses and genetic manipulation, now that there are dreams of cultivating parts of bodies and bodies without heads, the fusion of body and technology is no longer a nightmare or science fiction, rather, it has become reality. Bogers shows the body in a precarious position, but without provoking a nostalgic yearning for 'the times when all was as it should be' -of course, we now know that such times never existed, but were only invented in retrospect. Rather, Bogers' work represents a courageous spirit of survival, and attempts to let go of the old and familiar, in favour of the strangeness and uncertainty of the metamorphosis.
The metamorphosis of the world
Bogers' installations can also be regarded as attempts to make the fundamental chasm between the inner and the outside world, between subject and object, between image/representation and reality, visible and tangible. Bogers emphatically shows the confinement of the images within the order governing the representation, a strange, introverted order, which does not belong to ordinary reality. Everything looks so miss-happen and strange that you are forced into reflection on the status of both worlds, the ordinary world and the one represented. It is as if the manifestations in Bogers' work were in a different dimension, with a different gravity and different laws of space and time. Considered from the sphere of the normal and conventional, it is governed by total disintegration and fragmentation, and you are the observer of alienating, introverted, rituals. There are barely answers to the whys and wherefores, on the contrary, questions are raised. There are no co-ordinating, narrative, contexts: the images mainly relate to themselves and to each other.
In Heaven (1995), the focal point is not specifically the body, but rather, perception and the experience of time: a great many video monitors, showing fragmentary images and sounds from life about the house, are spread over various rooms. The images only last a second and are repeated endlessly, one second forward, one second back. The whole set-up evokes an unearthly, constantly tense and alarming atmosphere. Heaven shows an out-of-the-ordinary world, which seems to have come about beyond our perception. As if something fatal had happened and reality had undergone a metamorphosis.
Ritual 1 & 2, which are presented in direct connection with each other, once again confront us with the body, but in a different form from previous works. Ritual 1 consists of an old-fashioned, wooden wall clock and twelve monitors, placed in a circle on the floor, with their screens facing inwards. They show video and audio samples of physical violence from TV films, and are edited according to the strict rhythm of the ticking clock -this work also bears witness to the special way in which Bogers deals with sound. Each second, a flash of violent action can be seen, which, the next second, springs over to the next monitor. Ritual2 is a large video projection with live images originating from three black-and-white cameras installed in various areas of the exhibition building. One of the cameras records the image of the exhibition gallery itself, and therefore also shows the installations and observers. Each second, the images vibrate on the tick of the clock. A table and two chairs are placed in front of the projection screen. On the table, there is a small colour monitor, with two connected headphones. Visitors can sit down and view a constant, rhythmical repetition of violent actions.
The observer standing in the middle of the circle of monitors, witness to a chain of violent, vibrating moments, becomes involved in the performance via the camera, which records and directly transmits his presence. He is no longer an outsider, but what is he then? Intruder, voyeur, or accomplice? But to what? What has landed up in? The violence shows itself formalised and ritualised by the repetitions and lack of context, thus emphasising the passive, inactive, role of the observer. But at the same time, the rhythm of the clock has also annexed his image on the screen: He becomes infected by the same thing that has pervaded the other images, incorporated into the same order. He under-goes a metamorphosis, in spite of himself.
The way in which the various elements of Ritual 1 & 2 overflow into each other, and link the rooms together, makes it difficult to escape from this 'creepy', introverted, atmosphere.
As with Apart and Heaven, Ritual 1 & 2 are governed by different laws of space, time and causality. An alternative reality manifests itself, where the familiar certainties and stories do not apply. Its logic and coherence is not ours, but rather, comes from within, from the objects and images themselves. We become aware that our traditional perception of reality, and of ourselves, is not absolute, but relative. The unity and coherence, the seamlessness between the things and events that we think we see, even in ourselves, perhaps do not exist at all, but serve to maintain our superior place and position. Considered from this traditional position, the effect of Bogers' images is uncomfortable and disconcerting; they condemn us to a condition of solitude. But Bogers does not actually stage an intimidating, morally reprehensible future, nor do his mutated bodies express concern. Rather, by making a different order visible, he enforces a radical turnabout, which undermines our familiar position and challenges us to assume a different identity, to cast a different glance at the world and to reinvent it.