Friday, June 26, 2015

DOPA-KINESIA Pezaloom and Kim Anderson

Pezaloom's experimental self-portraits entitled Dopa-Kinesia, beautifully photo-documented by Kim Anderson and currently being shown at No Vacancy Gallery, the Atrium at Federation Square, Melbourne are evocative to say the least. The subject of each photograph is Pezaloom's (presumably naked) body immersed in 160 kilograms of petroleum jelly, which represents 'the heaviness, slowness and restriction he experiences' as a person diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease.
Since we are privy only to the still images and not the performance we must imagine what it would be like to be covered with such a heavy substance that no dout rendered Pezaloom's gestures more cumbersome than usual. I immediately recalled Joseph Beuys's works from the mid 1960s with fat, namely 'Fat Corner elongated with a wedge' 1962 and 'Fat Chair' 1964, and his obvious influence on the later work of New York Performance artist Matthew Barney who used petroleum jelly in a number of his performances in the 1990s to point to the protective element and use of Vaseline on a wound after sports injury and more than a nod to Beuys's narrative about Tartars rescuing him and covering him with fat and fur after he was wounded in a plane crash on the Crimean front. (This may or may not be true, but Beuys certainly was inspired by this idea).
At a local level I remember seeinjg Mike Parr's performance at ACCA (when it was located in Dallas Brooks Drive, the Domain) in which he lay prone and barely moved in a Wedding dress; for in one of the photographs in Dopa-Kinesia,  the frothy off-white jelly, flowing outwards from Pezaloom's body evoked the whiteness of a Wedding Gown and the icing on a Wedding cake.
Pezaloom photographed by Kim Anderson
It was in this way that notions of masculine and feminine, institutions and the social mores attributed to them, the fragility of Pezaloom's self, obscured by a substance that defines and obliterates his self came to the fore.
An erasure of sorts of the head and face of Pezaloom suffocating under the jelly, is akin to some of the self-portraits of the Austrian artist Gottfried Helmwein who creates a monstrous image out of personal identity, which we naturally ascribe to the face and who invariably evokes injury in his oeuvre.
In all the photographic self-portraits Pezaloom's face is barely seen and so the petroleum jelly is a mask that threatens to dissolve him and remains glued to his body, whilst simultaneously threatening to spill out beyond corporeal space.
The sticky, sensuous gelatenous matter, akin to a glorious ejaculate, suggests that his interior body has erupted in a passionate plea to be seen rather than merely heard (the artist is also a musician), and this speaks volumes, for in this almost erotic vision of self evolution, albeit one that is corrupt and deteriorating, the body is transformed into something else, a spiritual endeavour evidenced in photograph #15 in which the pose of the artist is decidedly angelic, the jelly appears to form small wings on the artist's upper spine as light from the window forms a criss-cross dark shadow onto the floor beneath him. Drama is achieved in many of the photographs which reveal the artist surrunded by a black background, however a different narrative is created when the Pezaloom is photographed in the empty space of the Yallurn Power Station. Its noticeable derelection of surfaces reflecting the unseen deterioration of the artist's body.

Dopa-Kinesia may be viewed until 5 July.

Julie Clarke (c) 2015

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