Harness for Self-Reflection

Laura Hudspith (2021)

Laura Hudspith is a Canadian artist and first year MFA candidate in the CMU School of Art. In creating “Harness for Self-Reflection”, made with the support of Microgrant #2021-001 from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier, Hudspith was able to begin “a new mode of experimentation that holistically interweaves the various strands of my practice: performance, material, and writing.”

Combining sculpture, image and text, “Harness for Self-Reflection” (2021) considers the tenuous relationship between chronic illness, agency and activism. Object and image compose a self-referential installation and looping phenomena that choreographs movement within the surrounding space. Documenting a private performance ritual of self-examination, eight silken image-texts hang in a pinwheel formation around a central copper cylinder. A wearable viewing apparatus or harness, hangs limp with nonuse at the structure’s center.

Cotton cord becomes the common thread between illness and culture, sexuality and healing, social bondage and autonomous political agency. Interweaving the ‘domestic’ craft of macramé with erotic shibari techniques, the harness binds the body to a large mirror suspended between the artist’s legs during performance–self-bondage diagnoses, reclamation of agency, auto-interview introspection. Performance images are overlaid with portions of a poetic text written in the artist’s hand. Here, temporal linearity collapses as terrains of embodied knowledge are traversed through metaphor, idiom, diary remembrance and real-time narration of a medical examination. Latent illness, elusive agency, fugitive knowledge; raw edged silken prints are volatile and highly sensitive to voyeuristic presences where even slight movements cause the material to flow and obfuscate.

Punctured momentarily when performer and viewer catch each other’s gaze through the viewing apparatus, the installation forms a feedback loop of looking that simultaneously threatens disaster and promises relief. A cyclical structure, cotton loops, and cursive script; “Harness for Self-Reflection” ensnares, a lens through which to consider the trap of visibility.