Amy Chiao - Body Pressure Update

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Bruce Nauman - Body Pressure

In terms of what digital art has developed into today, I am very interested in taking the digital medium/internet out of the virtual realm bringing physicality and materiality by referencing performance art that developed out of the Dada and Fluxus movements. Bruce Nauman’s 1974 performance piece Body Pressure, which was also performed by Marina Abramovic in 2005, instructs the performer to press his or her body against a pane of glass or wall. Here is the link to Bruce Nauman’s instructions.

What drew me to this piece was how simple yet evocative this action was. Bruce emphasizes at the end of the instructions that “This may become a very erotic exercise.” The performer presses against an inanimate, flat object yet begins to possibly experience erotic senses enhanced by the fact it is a performance, an art piece. The performer not only feels this body pressure but also should begin to think about their body’s physical limitations and relationship to their thoughts. 

Update Proposal

In my update project, I’d like to recontextualize the glass panel as a computer screen or an object made to look like one, possibly oversize to interact with the size of the body.  Pressing against the computer screen would speak about the intimacy and interaction with the virtual world in today’s society. What I think is so compelling about Bruce Nauman’s piece is the slow and methodic action and atmosphere it takes place, which enhances the senses. Today, from television and the computer, our senses are much more fast-paced and require a lot more shock factor for people to truly begin to notice those senses. I’d like to use this idea of the sensory overload in pop culture with sound, text, and images in a fast rhythm to enhance the experience in this performance. Possibly having Bruce Nauman’s instructions spoken as part of the sound and having text/images of bodies projected on the glass. In Bruce Nauman’s piece, he instructs the viewer to imagine an image of himself or herself pressed against the opposite side. I could change that image to be a reflected projection of whoever is pressed against the panel to make it more interactive. This would give the spectator more incentive to approach it and become the performer.

The Update Project

In my final update project, I wanted to focus on Body Pressure's conceptual aspect of being intimate with an inanimate object. I used my IPad and downloaded an app called Touch OSC. With this app I could design my own layout of buttons used to control sound like a musical instrument/Monome. I created a patch on PureData to control the Touch OSC buttons to play my own WAV files from my laptop. I repurposed sound clips from Skype, Facebook, Nyan Cat, Charlie Bit My Finger, and from Tube8 (a porn site).


I had someone in the class volunteer for the performance. The volunteer sat in a chair with the IPad on a desk. Using a black belt, I strapped the volunteer's hands to his feet. I instructed the restricted volunteer to try to push the buttons. One push would play a certain sound file and a second push on the same button would stop that same sound file. There were duplicate buttons for each sound file.

The volunteer used his nose to push the buttons which played the audio WAV files on my laptop.

The purpose of the sound was to encourage interaction with the piece. If there was no sound or gratifying result of touching the IPad the piece would fail to keep the volunteer interested in participating/performing. The sound clips also expressed the sensations of the the individual's relationship with their laptop. The ridiculous act of the performer pressing his or her face while being strapped a belt to activate the sounds created a very funny spectacle. In comparison with Bruce Nauman's piece, my intention was to critique how media, pop culture, and the internet has affected our senses and level of intimacy.

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