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May 08, 2007

Psychological Prosthetics


@ Pathogeographies

Anya Liftig will be in Chicago this weekend performing her piece, 'Loomed' for the Pathogeographies Show at University of Chicago and Mess Hall. May 13: 2pm: Anya Liftig, Loomed' Performance :: at MESS HALL, 6932 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626 :: 773 465 4033 :: 'Morse' stop on the CTA.

Liftig and Lian Sifuentes (PSYCHOLOGICAL PROSTHETICS™) will participate in a Roundtable Discussion, "The Pathological Body," on May 12: 7pm.

About Psychological Prosthetics: Founded in 2005 Psychological Prosthetics explores your political feelings; we help you handle your emotional baggage in these political times. Our products and services range from deluxe to economy. Each service and product is designed for you to explore your political feelings of anxiety, guilt, outrage, apathy, anger, hopelessness and regret. Explore our full range of products from our 30 second rant recorder (investigate your outrage) to our custom designed suitcases for your personal emotional, political baggage.

Psychological Prosthetics™ has traveled internationally to England, France, Switzerland, Israel and the US. Most recently the full range of services was available at the “Corporate Art Expo 07” at the LAB, San Francisco, and at the University of Chicago “Pathogeographies” exhibition.


About Pathogeographies: Pathogeographies: Or, Other People’s Baggage

How do you carry your pile of political feelings, and how do you want to encourage others to carry theirs? Pathogeographies is an exhibition project to be held at Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago, June 15-July 7, 2007.

The term pathogeography is modeled on the Situationists’ psychogeography but substitutes pathos (feeling) for psyche (the soul), emphasizing the emotional investments, temperatures, traumas, pleasures, and ephemeral experiences circulating throughout the political and cultural landscape. For Pathogeographies, we have invited other collectives and individuals—artists and non-artists alike—to create suitcases, real or imagined, that can carry tools around the city of Chicago and elsewhere to incite, create, collect, and record political/emotional scenes and return them to the gallery to be inspected, collated, discussed, distributed, and diverted to new uses. We envision the project as a surrealist but not unsympathetic irritant to current cartographic trends in art making. With our collaborators, we want not only to reveal hidden political histories as we map the affective expressions of various body politics, but also to create magical linkages and intensities that might extend our political horizons.

What’s at stake in such a project? Some might argue that despair is the pervasive/prevailing emotional current right now in many political communities—where the only “belief” is in our collective and accumulated failures—of stopping the war, of building a creative and effective left. The political arena seems either unthinkable or out of reach, eliciting intense cynicism from people whose votes aren’t counted, whose needs are ignored, whose grievances have no impact, and for whom “politics” signifies little but abuse of power. An unending sense of emergency is matched only by a corresponding sense of alienation, of not “knowing what to do,” and often, of not knowing what to think and how to feel. And yet, like so many, we persist; we are moved, not only by necessity, but by a relentless search for joy, for a life that can be called good and just. Can hopelessness be transformed? Is there anything useful about guilt? How might we collectivize our despair, and our joys? What’s YOUR utopia in need of a rescue? To explore all these pathogeographies, we call on you, your ideas, energy, participation.

Reviewed by Ryan Griffis:

June 15-July7
Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago

In an overcrowded London neighborhood in 1854, the powerful combination of cartography and medical knowledge defeated a cholera outbreak that had killed over 600 residents. Dr. John Snow, credited as single-handedly halting the spread of the disease, mapped the proximity of the deaths to water wells and determined that a single well was the source of infection. Subsequently, he managed to have the use of that well stopped, despite the reluctance of local officials, by removing the pump's handle, thus stopping the outbreak. At least, that's how the story of the development of medical cartography and epidemiology if often told.

A century after Snow's formative maps of London's cholera-stricken Broad Street neighborhood, members of the Lettrist International initiated the theory and practice of psychogeography as the study of how the urban, physical environment impacted the consciousness of its inhabitants. Like Snow, the post-Lettrist Situationists sought to counter a disease they saw contained within the built environment. Also like Snow, they did so with the help of maps - only their maps sought to counter, rather than ameliorate, the oppressive instrumentality of capitalist urban space.

Cartography and mapping, including variations on psychogeography, have become a common trope in contemporary art practice, finding expression in forms across media and subject. It is within this context, among others, that I read the recent exhibition and event series, Pathogeographies. Organized by a Chicago-based collective known as Feel Tank, who's work investigates "the emotional temperature of the body politic," Pathogeographies offers an empathic critique of the urban environment, adding social bonding strategies to the oppositional methods of earlier psychogeographic practice.

The exhibition at Gallery 400 is organized into five key themes, giving some framework to the multitude of projects presented. "Moving Compan" contained interventions in space and place, such as the Institute for Infinitely Small Things' "Unmarked Package: A Case for Feeling Insecure" in which the group traveled around the city with a collection of white boxes marked "Unmarked Package" discussing insecurity with passersby. In "Left Luggage," designed by another Chicago collective, Material Exchange, visitors can browse through a collection of suitcases containing artist projects Laura Davis' autobiographical "My Eighties Self," to Matthew Slaats participatory photo-documentary "Timed Change." Gallery visitors were asked to take an emotional and political breather in the "Slow Feeling" section, where Laurie Palmer's "Cloud Cover" challenges us to connect the effects of UV light on our emotional health with the architectural and political reality we have constructed around us. "Raw Material" presents informational projects, such as the Friends of William Blake's "New Yorkers' Guide to Military Recruitment" and Bonnie Fortune's "Radical Grandmothers" zine in a space also designed to encourage visitors to produce projects of their own. And for "Body Politic," Feel Tank organized a series of events distributed throughout Chicago, including their own "Fifth Annual International Parade of the Politically Depressed," on, appropriately, the Fourth of the July.

At the exhibition opening, Dewayne Slightweight performed "I Want to Know the Habits of Other Girls," a self-described 'queer opera.' The artist performed conversations with characters Gilda Radner, Gordon Gaskill, Limbo Tomboy and The Great Auntie, played by life-sized mannequins made of sewn and stuffed shiny fabric. Slightweight's choreographed music and recorded call-and-response dialogue, unevenly, but quite movingly, climaxed in a utopian, choral sing- along with the audience.

"I Want to Know the Habits" provided, arguably, a great encapsulation of the desires and overall effect of Pathogeographies. The audience, seated mostly on the floor, in a semi-circle around Slightweight's minimal yet baroque 'set,' was presented with a constructed narrative, but without the mandate to suspend disbelief. Yet, neither was there an imperative to reveal truth. Both fiction and reality can serve to oppress and liberate, their objective status as one or the other matters little to our experience of them. What seems to matter most here is the collective nature of reality, how individual experience is multiplied and magnified through social structures. Emotional states become emotional States.

Even as mapping tools become more and more available to a larger public, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe in the potential of maps to lead us somewhere more liberating. While artists and activists will no doubt continue to visualize the spaces of both oppression and community, the organizers of Pathogeographies seem to suggest that it's equally important to resist and create those respective spaces. At some point, the handle might need to be put
back on the pump.

Posted by jo at May 8, 2007 12:48 PM