‘I am in distress. I do not see any light. I am drifting.’
These are some of the maritime code signals that appear in the comprehensive work Maneuvering with Difficulty (Mike and November), 2012 by the American artist Mary Coble. At the opening of Coble’s first solo exhibition in Denmark, Overgaden will be transformed into the colourful setting of a tale of longing, love and loss. In a live performance, large, specially-sewn signal flags will be mounted in the exhibition space, choreographed on the basis of a fictitious dialogue between the first and the last ship to be built at the now-closed shipyard in Nakskov.
Mary Coble will present a series of works manifesting issues that relate to physical, social and historical navigation, and through video, sound art, photography, installation and live performance, the exhibition will trace the links in Mary Coble’s practice, which ranges from political statements to poetic narratives. One striking common feature is that the performative elements are characterised by an extreme physicality which sets the stage for the subject field of the works. As an example, the audio work The Sound of Fighting Cocks, 2012 establishes a disturbing, intimate space of flicking blows, cries of pain and shouts that impose themselves in an imageless scenario that cannot unambiguously be interpreted as sexual play or violent power games.
Mary Coble explains: ‘In many of my performances there are levels of difficulty that I have set up for myself. It is important for me to push myself to the limit, and in this way give others a particular experience. A piece can progress unexpectedly because of the physical challenges I place on my body, which is a code for something more than mere bodily action.’
With the body as the linchpin of a performative visual language, Coble explores the limits of the body’s abilities, and identifies the cultural codes and regulations by which we navigate. Through persistent and often physically exhausting performative actions, she challenges, with the body as a breakwater, the limitations that arise in confrontation with social norms, expectations, concepts and progress.