Curatorial Statement by Paul Couillard
Five Holes foregrounds our bodies by examining aspects of the five basic human senses. The presence of bodies—the performer’s body and the audience members’ bodies—is an essential element of performance. We ‘perform’ when we bring our bodies into relationships with an audience in time and space. Five Holes considers some of the ways in which sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste allow us to perceive. At the core of this project is a concern with our bodies as a root aspect of humanness. The presence of bodies—the performer’s body and the audience members’ bodies—is an essential element of performance. We ‘perform’ when we bring our bodies into relationships with an audience in time and space. Five Holes foregrounds our bodies, considering some of the ways in which sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste allow us to perceive.
Civilization has constructed a worldview where ‘virtual’ reality has become a tantalizing ideal – a desired end point that will offer our consciousness and imagination a new beginning and a new territory to explore. At the same time, cultural theory has come to consider our bodies as something separate from our selves – referring to an objectified Other, ‘the body’, sometimes understood as a ‘text’, and sometimes considered as one ‘site’ among many to be inhabited. Our bodies are now subject to interrogation on multiple fronts, particularly in the realm of performance – from Stelarc’s assertions that “the body is obsolete” to Orlan’s surgical remodeling of her physical appearance. It seems that we are following an inevitable path, guided by René Descartes’ oft-quoted maxim, “I think, therefore I am.” We are in a headlong rush to abandon our bodies – our imperfect, traitorous physical forms that suffer, wear out and eventually die. We seek immortality and omnipotence, two qualities that our ‘minds’ can imagine but that our ‘bodies’ can never attain.
But where and how are knowledge and imagination generated? For me, the answer lies in the daily struggles and resistances that my body undergoes. I am motivated by imperatives – survival, empathy, a search for fulfillment – that are bodily driven. Learning does not come from having my thoughts fully realized the moment that I think them; learning comes from experience, which is another way of saying that it develops through the process of making my thoughts manifest in physical form. Learning happens as I go about trying to reconcile my theoretical ideal with the exigencies of physical laws and available resources. To ‘do’ inevitably brings a deeper, more nuanced understanding than to ‘imagine’. This is not a simple or straightforward process: it brings pain as well as pleasure, and often what I discover seems neither fair nor friendly. Nevertheless, I am not so eager to leave behind my cross-eyed, bow-legged body. I love this life, and I am certain that what I have to learn or discover can only be manifested through my body.
We define our living bodies in multiple ways: as material (flesh, blood and bone); as process (respiration, circulation, electrical impulses); and as vessel (of experience and consciousness). It could be argued that our senses are what constitute our bodies. We associate our senses most directly with ‘sensation’, the domains of pleasure and horror, but our senses also play a larger role in connecting us to the world and shaping our identities. They are how we apprehend the world—the points of intersection between our individual consciousnesses and the actuality of time and space. It is through our senses that we undertake and negotiate our relationships to each other and our surroundings. Human senses have developed over time. Each sense provides us with a different set of information, evolving, if we believe Darwin, according to what best allows us to survive and prosper as a species. As conditions change, and as our bodies adapt in other ways, presumably our senses could also change. Five Holes provides artists and audiences with an opportunity to test their senses as they are now, informed by both history and imagination.
Five Holes brings us together in this time and this space to see, touch, smell, hear and taste. These varied projects are united in their search for the possibilities—not only for pleasure, but also for knowing – that the senses have to offer.
Five Holes was a multi-year, multi-event series curated by Paul Couillard. Spanning the years 1995–2006, each iterative event highlighted one of the body’s five senses.
Five Holes: I’ll be seeing you (1995)
Five Holes: Touched (1997)
Five Holes: reminiSCENT (2003)
Five Holes: Listen! (2004)
Five Holes: Matters of Taste (2006)