Dan Graham, Body Press, (1970-1972)
Many of Graham’s artworks and performances are about mirrors, reflections, projections, and generating images of the viewers/participants who attend his artistic events. However, rather than multiply, and disseminate the universe, as in Borges’ apocryphal quotation, they aim at producing a self-awareness of the body, or creating environments in which viewers, as Beatriz Colomino wrote, “could see themselves seeing themselves.
In Body Press, for instance, a male and a female, naked, enclosed inside of a circular, semitransparent wall of glass, must take snapshots of each other. The act of communication consists of the act of producing pictures of the other’s body, while silence stresses the erotic magnetism of the movements and physicality of the performers interaction with each other.
The following is from a text written as part of “Film and Performance/Six Films, 1969-1974”
“Two filmmakers stand within a surrounding and completely mirrored cylinder, body trunk stationary, hands holding and pressing a camera’s back-end flush to, while slowly rotating it about, the surface cylinder of their individual bodies. One rotation circumscribes the body’s contour, spiraling slightly upward with the next turn. With successive rotations, the body surface areas are completely covered as a template by the back of the camera(s) until eye-level (view through camera’s eyes) is reached; then a reverse mapping downward begins until the original starting point is reached. The rotations are at a correlated speed; when each camera is rotated to each body’s rear it is then facing and filming the other where they are exchanged so the camera’s “identity” changes hands and each performer is handling a new camera. The cameras are of different size and mass. In the process, the performers are to concentrate on the coexistent, simultaneous identity of both camera’s describing them and their body. (The camera may/or may not be read as an extension of the body’s identity.) Optically, the two cameras film the Image reflected on the mirror which is the same surface as the box (and lens) of the cam-era’s five visible sides, the body of the performer, and (possibly) his eyes on the mirror (In projection what is seen by the spectator).
The camera’s angle of orientation/view of the area of the mirror’s reflective image is determined by the placement of the camera on the body contour at a given moment. (The camera might be pressed against the chest but such an upward angle shows head and eyes). To the spectator the camera’s optical vantage is the skin. (An exception is when the performer’s eyes are also seen reflected or the cameras are seen filming the other). The performer’s musculature is ‘seen’ pressing into the surface of the body (pulling inside out). At the same time, kinesthetically, the handling of the camera can be ‘felt’, by the spectator, as surface tension, as the hidden side of the camera presses and slides against the skin it covers at a particular moment. The films are projected at the same time on two loop projectors, very large size on two opposite, but very close, room walls. A member of the audience (man or woman) might identify with one image or the other from the same camera or can identify with one body or the other, shifting their view each time to face the other screen when the cameras are exchanged.”