May 11, 2018
Drawing upon the human body as a sculptural media, Virginia Lee Montgomery and Selva Aparicio play on synecdoche and corporeal materiality through unsettling inversions of individual and object. Catching body oils on copper plates and marking wrinkled crevices in concrete tiles, Aparicio harvests forms from human cadavers, suspending traces of decaying flesh. By contrast, Montgomery extends her physical presence through synthetic surrogates which act as alternate selves, grounding Montgomery in spaces where her actual body is absent.In alternate interpretations of the material self, Aparicio and Montgomery speak to the memory and animation of material, subjecting bodily time to elisions and cuts that may both preserve and destroy.
Following is an excerpt of a conversation between Virginia Lee Montgomery and Nicole Kaack. The full conversation can be found at the following link. This conversation was held in conjunction with the exhibition OPEN MIND.
Nicole Kaack: [to Virginia] I thought it would be nice to launch in with the text, ‘OPEN MIND,’ that you wrote for this exhibition. I was so stricken by the image that you recount again and again of Selva’s hands making this incision into a cadaver’s skull. Perhaps we could focus on how that image informs the title of the show and continues an investigation into the transformations between material and memory.
Virginia Lee Montgomery: Absolutely. Selva and I had a really intense bond in graduate school. As the text lays out, we had our studios side-by-side in this removed corner of the Yale sculpture building. Our practices shared many interests, even though what we make is very different. A lot of what we do is about being out in the world, constantly absorbing experiences with our bodies and our minds, and later trying to translate that through whatever it is that we make. And always being hyperaware of the paradox of contextualizing that within the ivory tower situation of Yale.
There was this one strange, surreal morning when I was coming back from taking business classes at the Yale Management School, which was this really intense experience that I was seeking out for the sake of research. It’s actually, extremely hard to even get inside that ecosystem because they don’t want MFA students. It’s a separate entity that exists outside of the academic pedagogy. I was the first MFA to successfully get business school access. Selva had similarly started up a relationship with the medical school at Yale and was actually taking anatomy classes through the surgery group, spending most of her time in the morgue hanging out with dead bodies. Versus what I was doing in terms of weird anthropological but very earnest research with the business school students. One morning, when we were about to go to our departmental meeting, Selva just grabs me. She just keeps saying to me, “My hands, my hands.” And I’m slowly putting together what happened. I was the first person she encountered after she left that particular medical community, so she’s recounting the memory but building it out spatially with her fingers and also with these rapid eye movement blinks. She was telling me this because she’s trying to ground it in me. In like 20 minutes we’re about to go sit down around a departmental meeting board room, and talk about, I don't know, who put black paint in the sink, and eat donuts. The kind of bullshit that you experience in grad school. So I had this 20-minute window with her, where she was trying to tell me about the experience of cutting open this body.
It’s one of these moments where we’re realize, ‘Oh my god, yeah, this is really what we’re doing.’ How weird is it that we now have to sit in a department meeting and talk about bureaucracy. The strangest thing that I later realized, when talking with her a year later, is that she had no memory at all of telling me any of this. It had been internalized, but it was also interesting actually understanding how trauma and shock operate within the body. You can be moving forward in time, saying things, speaking things, but have no conscious memory of what was going on.