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Phillip Bedwell – Echoes (2016)
By Daniel Holmes
A length of rope bookended by two nooses. One ensnares a mammoth block of ice. The other, Phillip Bedwell’s neck.
In Echoes, Phillip attempts and inevitably fails, to lift and suspend the block using himself as a counterweight. He strains and adjusts as the ice dangles before him. We witness his struggle as the weight becomes too much. The ice falls. He breathes. He sets. Sometimes he weeps. Then he tries again. The cycle continues.
Phillip beautifully delves into dichotomies. Warmth/cold. Life/death. The attrition which melts the ice, making it easier to lift, simultaneously breaks his body. Mostly, however, it is Phillip’s disrupted identity which captures the mind. His body is a form of hyper-masculinity, he is a Roman legionnaire, swelling and muscular, a demonstration of the power and strength conceptualised to the male form. Yet, in his struggle, he exposes his frailty, his vulnerability, his weakness. These are the antiseptic of conditioned manhood, that we have been told to be so afraid to admit.
The melting ice stains his skin as it turns to water, leaving traces of the battle in which he forges himself. Perhaps he too is changing state, defining himself a new man in the conflict.
By Rory O’Connor
Foucault’s argued that discipline created “docile bodies”, ideal for the new economics, politics and warfare of the modern industrial age – bodies that function in factories, ordered military regiments, and school classrooms. But, to construct docile bodies the disciplinary institutions must be able to (a) constantly observe and record the bodies they control and (b) ensure the internalisation of the disciplinary individuality within the bodies being controlled. That is, discipline must come without an excessive force through careful observation and the moulding of these bodies into the correct form through this observation.
In the case of Purgation we see a body, a self suffering due to the totalitarian presence which governs its movements and actions, the body becomes subservient and does not react or fight against what is being imposed upon it. It simply complies with what is being inflicted upon it, it does not want to fight against the system, and perhaps in some ways, it has been lulled or numbed by the constant abuse it has received. The oppressor although at first appears loving and kind, their true intentions soon surface, the body in this way becomes the subject of voyeurism and anatomisation. As audience members, we simply act as bystanders, and allow the chaos we are subjected to continue, without challenging or questioning the motives behind it. Beautifully fragmented, fractured and distilled the body becomes voiceless, a vessel of disparity, instead it harnesses its grief and sits with it rather than choosing to vent or express any emotion or disdain.