This is an impossible body.Some parts are painted, some are bagged, some stand straight, and others are perched up high.A network of metal rods holds them together, forming a central nervous system that allows each painting, sculpture, or piece of architecture to function as a dispersed limb of a single organism. As such, they belong with and fold into each other. Objects migrate into paintings, and bodies find a way to slip into objects. The flat surfaces of walls soften and take on the properties of fleshy skin or upholstered furniture,and cling to the paintings that hang on or inside them. The thin lines that cut through the space reappear on 19th-century portraits in the form of prostheses, and wooden sculptures cut from table legs contain that same sense of distortion.
Each element depends on another—the way a hand depends on a wrist—and it seems entirely possible that any change made to a painting would alter the shape of a sculpture or the angle of a wall on the other side of the room. In many ways, this is what the future looks like—a cybernetic entanglement where bodies merge with matter and space has a consciousness of its own.
Until fairly recently, bodies and objects have been easy to tell apart. People put objects on their bodies and put their bodies on objects all the time, and they don’t usually lose their ability to distinguish between the two—no one mistakes the neck for the necklace, and everyone knows which is the finger and which is the phone. There has been a basic understanding of where the body begins and where it ends.
The history of technology, for some, is a story about the body and its dependency on artificial forms. Used to enhance (and at times to replace) the body, objects have helped develop a more efficient and productive body, one capable of overcoming its vulnerabilities.
But in writing about the prosthetic or the post-human, theorists such as Elizabeth Grosz or N. Katherine Hayles point to how a technological apparatus can never entirely consume, capture, compute, or replace the tone of a voice, the character of a gesture, the rhythm of a laugh, the discretion of a pose,or the temperament of a glimpse. The body is still an affected body, an infected body, a contingent body… a body always vulnerable to itself.
Knowledge and consciousness, they argue, are always embodied, always enmeshed within the specifics of the body’s relationship to space, time, form, and culture. Grosz therefore sees promise in any art or science that “presents us with the possibilities of bodies that are barely conceivable, that challenge and problematise the very stability and givenness of bodies, that force us to rethink our presumptions and our understandings of what bodies are.
Markus Schinwald imagines new, other, and sometimes impossible types of bodies and ways of thinking about bodies. His paintings, sculptures, videos, performances, and installations confuse the boundaries between bodies, objects, spaces, and behaviors, and complicate the norms that govern the ways we understand how they all coexist. “I’m not trying to rob people of their personalities,but to give objects personalities, too.”