The Unavoidable Biomorph

Colour Me Dead - Chapter 9

The Unavoidable Biomorph - excerpt (3-screen compile) 2' 37", silent © 2014

Background

The Unavoidable Biomorph is the 9th production in the 18-part series of films, animations and prints collectively titled Colour Me Dead. All the productions in this project are based on research which is forming the basis for the in-development book Colour Me Dead: Art, Sex & Psychos.

The Unavoidable Biomorph is comprised of 11 sequences, each featuring a moving-image digital collage of naked body parts. These fleshy sections (filmed either in close-up fragments of discernible wholes) are digitally composited to recreate the forms of key Modernist interpretations of the body which at once appear recognisable and abstract. The resulting ‘biomorphs’ evoke the originating painterly abstractions, yet here are composed of actual living body parts. These filmed sequences are projected in silence as a 3-screen synchronized work within an installation featuring mirrored surfaces, designed to enhance the kaleidoscopic patterning of the biomorphic body parts.

Credits

Direction, editing & post-production - Philip Brophy
Biomorph - Rebecca Manger
Produced with assistance from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council.

The Unavoidable Biomorph - 3-screen view © 2014

Overview

One tends to forget the perceptual schisms engaged when you—with your body—attempt to recognize and read an image of a body. On the one hand, you perceive the imaged body as a displaced Other; on the other hand, you are ensnared by its replication of your Self. While this has been well theorized according to Freud’s schema of the Mirror Phase and set as a formative moment in childhood sexuality and identification, the unending haunting effect of seeing one’s biological form is often overlooked. Like faces in clouds and monsters in shadows, one’s body can be everywhere. Forever on the cusp of being identified, the body’s limbs, mandibles, orifices, protuberances, extremities—and their silhouettes, frameworks, partials and textures—form a fleshy cartography of the liminal world. Suddenly, neck creases become vaginas; elbow joints become penes: the body’s Other becomes the body’s Self. This is the eternal visuality of The Unavoidable Biomorph.

As Modernist artists strove to redefine the body as form, shape, event and substance, they collectively flitted between Self and Other—between classifiable organisms and declassified shapes. Within this crux of the erotica/pornography divide, the humanist mirror devolves into the posthuman mould. Artists attempted to perform alchemy on the actual body to recreate it in the their own image, but the biomorphs they produced are but homunculi devoid of any originating template.

The Unavoidable Biomorph - 3-screen view © 2014

Technical

A detailed technical script and chart was organised for The Unavoidable Biomorph prior to shooting. This entailed scrutinizing each of the chosen paintings or sculptures, and perceptually deconstructing their depiction of a bodily form into a network of potential bodily fragments. A painting’s buttocks would be recreated by the model’s elbows; a painting’s thigh would be created by the model’s inner forearm; and so on. The chart also devised the sequential layering of all parts, as well as determining how the model would move her body for each fragment. The idea was to have the final collaged body be an assemblage of fleshy moving parts, disorienting in their perspective and scale, yet wholly recognisable as living flesh.

The shoot was carried out in front of a green-screen stage. For many of the shots, green-screen fabric was cut out and dressed around the model’s body parts in order to fragment her for the shoot. All these shots were then trimmed, angle/positioned, colour-graded and matched, and layered in After Effects. The final biomorphs were composited onto a black background, which during their movements opens into a bright blue background, greatly contrasting with the pink fleshy orbs, and accentuating the alien otherworldly quality of the strangely pulsating biomorphs.

The Unavoidable Biomorph - 3-screen view © 2014