In the summer of 2006 I spent a few consecutive days performing a live drawing as part of her Elizabeth Leister's exhibition "Every Body is Everywhere and Nowhere" at the Academy of the Fine Arts in Philly, PA. See elizabethleister.com.
The action I performed was a daily ritual of tracing the outline of my body onto a papered wall, but first erasing the outline which I traced the prior day. There was a camera continuously fixed on the wall while I performed the drawing and it remained on throughout the day, broadcasting the image to the gallery space. What I’ve written is a documentation of my experience.
"I am Everywhere and Nowhere"
Down on my knees, rubbing eraser over the etching of a figure. My figure? My attempt to capture myself in a moment the day before. I do not recognize myself.
As I erase I recall the labor of yesterday’s particular pose.
I see it in the inconsistency of the line and the distortion of my shape. It is at once primitive and surreal.
I’m erasing my image. Preparing to try and capture it again.
It’s a foggy morning in Topanga. I’ve locked the dogs out. No one is in the room but me. And a camera, a one eyed witness who feeds my every move through imaginary circuits in cyber space to an imaginary gallery a few thousand miles away…. people may or may not be watching. This is altered performance.
The act of erasing leaves indellable marks.
Rubs the charcoal into the paper.
Lifts surface dust and imprints a deeper layer.
The eraser also makes its own marks along the etching. Grayish streaks create shadows and accent the original stoke, make it three-dimensional.
Erasing softens the line, renders an impression.
Moves the former image to the distance, gives up the foreground for a new.
Creates depth, sends it off in time.
Erasing leaves a trace.
While I work vigorously to erase my image, there is no erasure erasing me doing this.
I am witnessed by the camera’s eye all the time and it demands my physical diligence. For what I do will be encoded in the memory of all who see it and will not be erased tomorrow morning.
I keep erasing. Trading the work off right and left. My posture contorting to follow the line. It is satisfying.
Like in meditation my mind trails off into thoughts beyond the task, transporting me somehow until lassoed back.
I realize that for some minutes I’ve been in the setting of a daydream. Gone to fantasy. Housed somewhere in the eye of my brain.
While absent, I erased a good chunk of myself.
The task of drawing my body is too involved to think- for the most part I’m merely engaged in the physicality of what I’m doing. My posture contorting to follow the line- of me.
I retained some moments in sense-memory.
Dogs meandering about outside while two people bark in argument upstairs.
Music faintly coming through the walls but not disturbing the sound of privacy in the drawing room.
The silence of being watched from afar while hearing my body press into the paper.
The pencil going over strands of my hair and waves of perfectionism sending it back.
Trying to trace every inch of me and the impossibility of the task.
Feeling the steady effort of my hand and the teetering of my balance.
The demand of the task overriding performing and the qualitative shift of forgetting I am watched.
Being done and stepping back out of sight, beside the eye of the camera.
Rae Shao-Lan Blum
Topanga Canyon, CA