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Ocula Insight

Alicia Frankovich at Starkwhite, Auckland

29 February 2016
Image: Alicia Frankovich. Courtesy Starkwhite. 

Alicia Frankovich (New Zealand, 1980) obtained a BVA in sculpture at AUT in Auckland in 2002. Formerly a national level gymnast, the performative body is central to her work, which is made up of performance, performance-based videos, short films and sculpture. Her practice often tests social conventions and behaviours through manipulations and interventions to the body. Alicia Frankovich has undertaken various residencies at AIR, Antwerpen; The Firestation, Dublin; and Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne. She is the 2016 recipient of the Creative New Zealand’s visual arts residency at the ISCP (International Studio and Curatorial Program) in New York.

You work across a wide range of media, however you are often discussed as a performance artist. What initially drew you to the body, and how does this play out in your investigations with other media and the resulting shifts between the performing body and static image?

I work between performance and other material manifestations. There is an interplay between the physical nature of my performance work that informs the sculpture and imagery that I produce and visa versa. My performances are usually very sculptural—sculpture was my undergraduate training. The notion of movement was first brought to the fore where I realised that my installations at the time were very much about my own movement throughout a space, or about notions of social conditioning: how we have been taught to move about a space or around an object in a particular way. Initially this was also very much about my body in particular, about my conditioning – most obviously about my early training as a competitive gymnast. More and more this became to be about the body itself as a material and as content in the work.

Now I try to transgress a lot of matter to illuminate the body in multiple situations or states of being. Here in this show you can see it across a leaf in Portrait of a Lady that transcends various colours, from pink to green, it has a persona of it’s own. This is how I see all of the works in the show—they could be seen as portraits, different subjectivities, or physical parts of the body, inside or out. The drawings Intensities also play on this where they use the subject matter of Alpha, Beta, Theta, Delta and Gamma brain wave patterns that refer to different states of the body such as in deep sleep, in conversation, at rest etc. However they become fictional as I work, rework and overlay them and more and more they become about my subjectivity as my hand is very present with these up and down lines. There is an intensity of the inner body, of labour, the drawings allude to brain and heart waves and beats which are echoed in the display in this exhibition as the works are hung in a zigzag way that reiterates the lines or pulses themselves.

Through diverse means I am interested in creating successions or equivalences between works that you can have a different physical encounter with and build a bigger sense of one idea, where work can affect you in various ways. You have options here.

Image: Exhibition view, Alicia Frankovich, The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations, 2016. Courtesy Starkwhite. 

Do you consider your works in other media as performative?

They are not always performed but I hope they perform. Here I am interested more in what the works are doing rather than necessarily how they were produced. I play with this.

Your static works seem to maintain a strong sense of temporality. How do you view the passage of time in relation to your practice as a whole?

Movements pervade my works. They are also about beings or topologies in states of transformation or becoming. In that sense there is no finality that I aim for—only the possibility of potential, of change. In this same line of thinking I am also trying to address time in terms of a past, present and a future. The sprawl of works allow for energy to spread throughout the room. Each work contains its own sense of time and then the dialogue between adds another one. I work with time differently in all of my works. I recently presented a live exhibition experience in Melbourne that played on the sequence or parcours of an exhibition, all though suspended in time through darkness. The work progressed over time and also across the space. Looking to this show at Starkwhite there are also new takes on notions of the temporal. Material shifts and live works also Turtle Turtle uses the turtle a signal of ancient time of the turtle, however there is no actual image of a turtle – only images of rocks that could allude to them. There is a transparent helmet underneath one of the fabric prints that impregnates the object/ animal with a back. There are three versions of a turtle in different colours, forms and manifestations. Mars depicts a planetary-like space, a situation. There is a close relationship to its past but then I am interested in how it produces a space that we can not only imagine but that we can see. It refers to a semi-fictive space also. I am interested in how it is spatial and bodily. The materiality of the oranges is then situated close to the Pink Murex shells that infiltrate the 206 “bones” (the number of bones in the adult body) of the PVC grate in Untitled (206 bones, 42 facial muscles). There are different histories and habitats here, the shells were once home for sea life, the goggles have all had past lives, and are “global” goggles sourced from many nations that I have been through and that have produced them. All of these moments and relations suggest multiplicity and becoming. I jump between making live situations and making exhibitions and spans of time in both viewing and being are very relevant in both, and bleed across the different iterations and materialities.

Image: Exhibition view, Alicia Frankovich, The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations, 2016. Courtesy Starkwhite. 

For your most recent exhibition at Starkwhite, The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations, the exhibition title seems to add a very different layer of meaning to the works presented. Could you talk a little bit about some of the works in this show and their relationship to the title? 

For me the title is intrinsic to the work, or was entrenched in the research and in my positionality in producing the work. It is a quote from Rosi Bradotti. She calls for a posthuman way of looking at ourselves in the world after postfeminist and post-colonial movements. These movements have attempted to advance women and people in society bearing in mind hegemonies of race, class, age and gender. Braidotti examines posthumanism as a re-examining of the “nature-culture continuum” broadening an awareness of ourselves to extend beyond a closed, individual, human-species framework, potentially allowing for new languages and new possibilities of understanding ourselves. Further, this show has also been influenced by my readings of Donna Haraway, and my interest in creating a non-hierarchical matrices of relations between species and machines we might understand a broader, lived community than just our own, that allows us to step in to other fields of consciousness as we inhabit the world and move across space. The variable materials and energies are a way to produce this kind of heterogeneous scenario of “becoming-bodies”. All of the works could be seen as (female) bodies for examples, or topological special planes. They could all be in motion, here suspended in time, as a capsule of this time.

Your work deconstructs and reconstructs the nature of a body, its limits and possibilities. How do you think humanity’s increasingly intertwined relationship with technology affects the relationship with one’s own body and with other people? Do you see new technology as having the potential to expand and/or diminish our personal and interpersonal understandings of our bodies? 

I’m sure it can expand our notion of what is next and what is possible. As humans we still strive for privacy and intimacy with others. Technology is only one way of framing our realities, it is important to also focus on environmental and living things, human, animal and beyond so as to be able to have an understanding of how everything fits together. In this show I attempt to reveal things through both the camera and the photographic working process, as well as a re-situating of things in order to produce new languages. The Intensities have an interesting relation to technology, there is a lot of give and take between different technological interfaces and the result is line drawing on paper. Mars for example could be seen as a depiction of a fictive planetary space. It refers also to science-fiction. No one has seen Mars with the naked eye yet. This image was produced by humans though contains images of other living elements. The relations here are complex and interchangeable.

Image: Exhibition view, Alicia Frankovich, The Female has Undergone Several Manifestations, 2016. Courtesy Starkwhite. 

Congratulations on being awarded the ISCP residency in New York! Could you talk about your plans for your residency?  

Thank you! This is a very exciting opportunity, my first real time working in the USA. I intend to work with the Brooklyn community to produce a new expanded choreographic project. Further I will immerse myself in this cultural landscape and draw from multiple situations to produce images, objects, and scenarios. —[O]

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