August 7, 2016
At the Art Department we are presenting artistic approaches to the future, under the theme of ‘Prophecies’. This week we’re bringing you the story of a dark experiment to solve humanity’s problems.
The artist Bettina Hutschek imagines the experience of a woman who is sent to the “world beyond” to find answers. By being fed radioactive capsule to generate visionary images, her body turns into a machine made predictable and analyzable through scientific analysis…*
IN THE FIRST YEARS OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM, THE OUTSIDE WORLD IS CRISES-TORN.
A WORLD WAR AND THE CATASTROPHE TO GO WITH IT ARE IMMINENT.
THE MOVING CIRCLES OF HUMANITY ARE INTERRUPTED. PEOPLE RETIRE INTO SCIENCE AND LOGIC.
MEN AND WOMEN LIVE STRICTLY SEPARATE LIVES.
MEN ARE IN POWER; WOMEN SERVE AS BODY-SLAVES FOR RESEARCH AND SEX.
TIME-TRAVEL AND SPACE-TRAVEL ARE TO NO AVAIL.
THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE SURVIVAL OF MANKIND LIES IN THE COUNSEL OF THE VOICES FROM BEYOND.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER THAT NUCLEAR MEDICINE CAN PUT THE HUMAN BODY INTO A STATE WHICH ALLOWS IT TO CONNECT WITH THE OTHER WORLD.
Why do we always look up when we think of a superior force?
What can be measured? What can be divined?
A woman is confined to an experimentation ward of a dystopian clinic. Scientists research the possibility of traveling to the “other world” through the help of radioactivity.
The woman, like other test subjects, is fed radioactive substances in order to generate prophetic images, with the aim of – nothing less than – getting an answer on how to solve humanity’s problems. Her body turns into an experimentation field. It becomes a machine made predictable and analyzable through medical and chemical analysis.
Her body is glued to the bed with the ominous pillow and sheets in a linear pattern. The woman remains in her bodily cell-structure, confined to the clinic. The woman perceives her body as topie pitoyable:
“My body, it’s the opposite of a utopia: that which is never under different skies. It is the absolute place, the little fragment of space where I am, literally, embodied. My body, pitiless place.” (Foucault**)
Her altered perception doesn’t transport the woman into a different space, she does not travel through space and time, she does not need to. Confined to the body, the utopian travel starts from the simple location of a bed. The bed sheets have become takeoff and landing platform for travels to the world beyond. The body as such disappears, and brings the prophetic utopia to the foreground.
The woman approaches a different world – unlike a world in the future, this is not a futuristic story; and unlike the parallel universe idea of mirror-like images, this parallel world knows much more about life than she does, from her limited perspective and perception. After all, she is just lying in bed, a body in a clinic. She is in one place, and out there is a different place: It is a place of black bile and of miracles alike.
There is something scary about it
Then, somehow, she gains agency over the un-bodily part of her body. Her mind and her body start to separate; her mind enters a different frequency. Utopia slowly starts to be hosted within her own body.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THIS TIME?
WHO DETERMINES THE BORDER BETWEEN THE VISIBLE AND THE INVISIBLE?
THE EXPERIMENTERS GIVE A CYNICAL GRIN.
THE WOMAN SUBMERGES AGAIN.
THEN, SHE SEES THE SORCERESS. THE SORCERESS OPENS A WALL, OPENING UP THE VIEW TOWARDS A LAKE. THE SORCERESS APPROACHES THE LAKE AND RAISES HER ARMS. BUBBLES RISE, AND TURN INTO FISH, THAT GLITTER BLUE, YELLOW, GOLD AND WHITE, WHILE SINKING BACK INTO THE WATERS.
THE SORCERESS TAKES TWO FISH AND EXPLAINS: IF YOU RUB THE FISH’S SCALES AGAINST ONE ANOTHER, YOU CAN ATTRACT THE GOOD SPIRITS. THE FISH TURN INTO BIRDS AND FLY OFF.
Something happens, some sort of bodily epiphany. The voices from the world beyond are now moving in the same space-time she is moving in. The voices are all around her and even within her. Her body turns from being topie pitoyable into prophetic vessel.
“The soul. It functions in my body in the most marvellous way: it resides there, of course, but it also knows how to escape. It escapes from my body to see things through the window of my eyes. It escapes to dream when I sleep, to survive when I die.” (Foucault)
She had always wondered: Which shape the magicians and prophets from the other world have? In which shape would they choose to materialize? Would she recognize them as such? Would she understand their message?
“No, really, there is no need for magic, for enchantment. There’s no need for a soul, nor a death, for me to be both transparent and opaque, visible and invisible, life and thing. For me to be a utopia, it is enough that I be a body.” (Foucault)
There is a way of entering a world and being allowed in it. The voices are there, she tunes in to understand them, so that from an undefined murmuring the voices become audible and clear, until they directly deliver the message we were all waiting for: the solution to humanity’s problems. She is partly body, partly wavelength, free to move between one state and the other.
The prophetic message she delivers to the experimenters is surreal in appearance only, while green and glistening and brightly lit: “The answer has to be found in the cat’s interior.” Her past is conversing with her future in bright and colorful pictures. It all makes sense all of a sudden. It could have all worked out. But once again, the male experimenters make the mistake of killing the messenger.
*This article is a companion to the video Haus 209 (2016) by Bettina Hutschek. Haus 209 takes Chris Marker’s film La Jetée as a point of departure from which to develop its own narrative based on a true story, mixed with another truth.”
** Foucault, Michel. “Utopian Body.” sensorium: embodied experience, technology, and contemporary art. Ed. Caroline A. Jones. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2006.
Bettina Hutschek (* 1977) is a Visual Artist and Videographer who lives and works between Berlin and Malta. She studied Fine Arts, Art History and Philosophy in Florence, Augsburg, Berlin, Barcelona and Leipzig and spent one year as Visiting Scholar at TISCH, NYU.
Today, she uses fragments of different realities to examine the possibilities of knowledge transfer – that is: to tell stories.
This article is part of the Art Department’s theme of Prophecies. From July – September we are exploring artistic approaches to the future have shaped us today. Bettina Hutschek is one of the selected proposals from the Open Call for Prophecies.