Overspill 2007- Rachel Lois – Eve Bonneau ‘Body is the first word I say’

I: a singular character. I is bold and sticks out between the lines on the page. A long stem with a blob on top-or a curve- as I write it. The smallest word there is for the most complex thing. I is theories, reflection, thought itself reduced to a stick: the perfect sign. How can I match up, how can I inhabit that I?

Using a bare light bulb, shadow play and digital projections to variously touch, distort and illuminate her bare flesh Bonneau performs childlike, raw and naive fascinations into the strangeness of her own body. In order to achieve this strangeness Bonneau attempts to adopt an unprejudiced analytic position concerning the reality of her body. In doing so ‘Body is the First Word I Say’ interrogates what it means to be, or think of being, a Subject by placing presupposition under the microscope. Bonneau asks the question: Who, what and where is this body, this I that I examine?

The projected close-ups of anatomical parts in ‘Body is the First Word I Say’ clearly refer to the abject body: the familiar, sensuous yet horrifying folds of skin and the liquid that oozes out of its orifices. In addition, video images of broken mirrors reflecting disjointed and at times unidentifiable body fragments conjure up the surrealist photography of Hans Bellmer and Man Ray. Bonneau dealt with all these different narratives with a lightness of touch that stayed just the right side of ephemeral. But her greatest achievement is the transformation of each fold and mound of flesh on her body into an event, a surprising one, both for her and the audience.

Bonneau’s curiosity about the body is beyond identity politics or narcissism. Neither is it body as autobiography or body as physical memory. It is a thoughtful exploration into the boundaries of a priori knowledge and the antecedent that allows the artist distance from her own body and its I in order to reflect upon those two distinct levels of consciousness. In ‘Body is the First Word I Say’ Bonneau demonstrates the courage to subject herself to this radical insecurity, to inhabit I by exposing its inherent pre-supposition, and in doing so she comes a little closer to realising the nature of our linguistic and physical selves.

Rachel Lois Clapham

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