Symposium: Event in Artistic and Political Practices, University of Amsterdam, 26 – 28 March 2013.
What strikes the viewer in Silvia Giambrone’s Anatomical Theatre is its penetrating, and disturbing character. Its capacity to affect the viewer. We are drawn to Giambrone’s facial expression when the needle penetrates her skin. Her face seems motionless; yet, sometimes we discern a deep breath, or her looking away, suggesting she is retaining herself from screaming, or even crying, during this clearly painful operation. Or perhaps, I am just projecting my own imaginary pain upon these images. It is mix of admiration and repulsion at seeing this artist using her body literally as a surface of inscription, stitching it, and violating it. This paper explores the embodied experience of the artwork through a specific (digital) medium: the YouTube clip through which the performance was documented and spread. Various theorists have warned for the virtual and disembodied character of electronic and digital images. Once rid of the body, the digital moving image is presumed to be unable to touch and be touched. Against these claims, I want to explore the digital as a source of sensory and affective sensations. In other words: Can the digitally available YouTube video ‘touch’ and be ‘touched’? Does it have a ‘body’?