a navigate commission
Eve Dent uses live performance and photography to create body installations that arise out of interactions with architectural structures and spaces, in an exploration of the threshold between bodily self and material thing.
Often she is almost completely hidden in the recesses and constructional spaces she finds within a building: for example, the space under the floor or the flue of a chimney, with only part of the body visible; or she is squeezed into holes or gaps in the material structure, skin to brick, her physical contours against those of the architecture.
She has performed widely both in the UK and Europe. Recent commissioned work includes: 'Mewed up Fresco' for the Arnolfini, 'Good his Labour' performed at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of Architecture Week 2003, and the 'Anchor Series' - ongoing site-specific improvisations tailored uniquely to a building or space, performed at the Anti Festival in Finland and Bone6 in Switzerland.
For the past couple of years I have been researching into the figure of the anchoress. A medieval female hermit, the anchoress chose to be shut up for life inside a small room attached to a church. This act of living entombment and incarceration, I find both deeply fascinating and disturbing, mirroring my artistic concerns: the housing of the body in site; the rite of disappearance and loss; a vision of the sanctity and strangeness of bricks and mortar, anchored by and mediated through a human presence, animating the hidden poetic life of a space.
"It is for this reason that an anchoress is called an anchoress, and anchored under a church like an anchor under the side of a ship, to hold it, so that the waves and storms do not pitch it over." Ancrene Wisse
When people see images of my work they ask, 'Is this real?', we are now so used to the photograph being manipulated to create an illusion. I like the idea that the images I produce are real frauds; that the work is a visual manipulation of our notions and expectations of the body and space; that the work exists both very much as a live 'bodily' experience, to be seen in the flesh, but also as a constructed two dimensional image that appears to be created by slight of technological hand.
In the creation of my body/architectural hybrids I seek to explore the ambiguous relationship we have towards both architectural space and the body: its familiarity and foreignness, its beauty and horror, our fears of being overwhelmed by the void within and without. Through my live installations, perceptions of structural and spatial relationships are fundamentally altered, blurring the boundary between animate and inanimate, subject and object, built structure and flesh, through acts of union and rupture.
My work has been consistently influenced by Roger Caillois' essay 'Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia' first published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure in 1935, and ideas of embodiment in relation to environment. Examining insect mimicry, Caillois poses that this merging with the environment has no survival value and is instead a confusion between the insect and its surroundings. Caillois links this behaviour to a kind of spatial psychosis, where a subject feels that their identity no longer resides within the boundary of the body but is lured out into space. "The feeling of personality, considered as the organism's feeling of distinctness from its surroundings... is seriously undermined."
"Eve Dent installs her own body, hiding herself in the very fabric of buildings, going between the walls like a ghost, hovering between the spaces of the real and some other world that lies just behind it. Her work also seems to speak of childhood - the delight in cramming oneself into spaces, of games of hide and seek. Hers is a sensuous and formal exploration - the curves of the body against the geometry of architecture, the colour and texture of the flesh made more explicit and vulnerable against the roughness of bricks. Within the context of the Glassworks show, Dent's work was the antithesis of the exhibitionism / voyeuristic spectacle of the other performance works. It was more subtle - a silent intervention, allowing the unexpected viewer the uncanny chance discovery of a naked body crouched in a hole in the wall. Beautiful and alarming, like a Spencer Tunick photograph, (an image of hundreds of naked bodies lying in a street in the centre of some city - is it decadence or desolation? an orgy or a holocaust?) Dent's work similarly inhabits the rich territory of uncertainty, of uncomfortable ambiguity - of playfulness and the abject, innocence and depravity, sensuality and horror."
Sara Rees Welcome to the Glassworks, June 2002