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Ennoia, 2002; courtesy of the artist and Diapason Gallery. Photo: Hermann Feldhaus
1. Limen/Meadow (Achea Rheon), 2004

Sound in collaboration with Stephen Vitiello

performative installation: newsprint paper, crayons, charcoal, paint, dry pigment, water-filled containers, artist's body, sound, video projection.

The word "limen" (threshold) derives from Greek leimon, "meadow", and is inspired by the artist's on-going interest in surface and boundary as represented by human skin, paper, and the surfaces of earth and water. Achea Rheon ( River of Sorrow ) is one of the five rivers dividing Hades from the world of the living.

Most of the floor surface in the gallery is covered with a large rectangular, three-dimensional plain - or "meadow" - made from layers of newsprint paper. Several small containers with water are scattered throughout the plain. The artist lies curled up on her side in the middle of the structure, a black crayon or charcoal in each hand. She outlines her body on the paper and slowly crawls along it. But since newsprint is a vulnerable material that becomes brittle and easily crumbles over time, the surface of the meadow gradually, layer by layer, becomes torn, darkened, and destroyed. The drawn lines become disconnected and dispersed. During the performance, others are welcome to enter the meadow and outline their bodies. People's energies merge with the energy of the paper, creating a sculptural environment in a constant state of becoming.

A video camera is suspended from the ceiling and the live performance is simultaneously projected directly onto a wall. During the subsequent four weeks of the exhibition, the installation displays the scattered traces of the drawing action and a recorded image of the performance.

Microphones are scattered throughout the space and underneath the layers of paper. The sounds created by the movement of bodies crushing paper and the sounds of charcoal sticks scraping the delicate surfaces of the "meadow", along with the voices of other participants in the performance, are all mixed by the sound artist Stephen Vitiello with the sounds of an immersion in water recorded earlier, and the whole live composition is played back throughout the gallery.

"The meadow idea arises from my recent on-going investigation of interactive space as a drawing in process, where everything is alive, changeable, plastic, defined only by the borders of the gallery space. Limen/Meadow is meant as an experience both solitary and interactive, in which human bodies eventually join the sculptural, ever-moving space of the drawing." - Monika Weiss

2. White Chalice (Ennoia), 2004

installation: white polypropylene chalice, water, video projection, sound

In Greek "ennoia" is "concept", "consciousness" - for Gnostics a word or name signifying the edge of consciousness (or light) which collapsed into this world, into the darkness, into body, into death.

An octagonal semi-transparent chalice is filled with water. Standing in front of a dark-red brick wall, the chalice seems to glow, its skin-like white color contrasting with the background. An image of the artist's curled-up figure, recorded earlier during several hours of actual immersion, is projected onto the surface of the water, suggesting the virtual presence of her body. Approaching the chalice one hears the subdued sound of the artist's recorded voice along with the gentle overlapping sounds of her immersion in water that gradually obscure her voice the way the translucent chalice obscures the projected image of her body.

"In 1996 I discovered an octagonal medieval baptismal font in a church in Wroclaw , Poland , which inspired a series of sculptures, installations, and performances. Koiman (1998) included a baptismal font of cast-concrete overflowing continuously with eighty gallons of used motor oil, creating on the floor a river of oil that reflected a video projection. In 2001 I began a series of performative installations that included a similarly sculpted font filled with water, my own body, a video projection, and sound." - Monika Weiss

3. Ennoia, 2002

Ennoia, 2002, charcoal on paper; courtesy
of the artist. Photo: Hermann Feldhaus

Ennoia, 2002; courtesy of the
artist and Diapason Gallery.
Photo: Hermann Feldhaus

video documentation of performative installation: cast-concrete vessel, water, artist's body, video projection, sound; courtesy of the artist and the Diapason Gallery, New York

In a large octagonal vessel on the floor of the gallery, reminiscent of a medieval baptismal font, with an interior diameter of about 40 inches, and filled with water, the artist immerses herself from time to time, lies almost motionlessly, curled to the vessel's interior shape, and re-emerges, eventually to return again. A camera overhead translates the vessel and the immersed figure in it through video projection into a flat, painterly image on a screen, with only subtle movements, and with sounds picked up by a microphone in the basin. As the artist's "live" figure periodically enters and leaves the water-filled basin, the uninterrupted image of her immersed body begins to seem more real than the ghost-like figure that comes and goes.

4. Elytron (dusza i cialo to tylko dwa skrzydla), 2003

Elytron (dusza i cialo to tylko dwa skrzydla), 2003; courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum. Photo: Hermann Feldhaus

video documentation of performative installation: cast-concrete vessel, liquid make-up, water, photographic backdrop paper, artist's body, video projection, sound; courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum

Elytron: either of the leathery or chitinous forewings of a beetle or related insect that serve to encase the thin, membranous hind wings used in flight. In Greek, elutron signifies "the body as a casing for the soul," among other meanings. The remaining part of the title - spirit and body are only two wings - is a quotation from the nineteenth-century Polish poet, Zygmunt Krasinski.

The artist is immersed in the octagonal vessel, which is filled with black paint mixed with water. She remains curled up on her side and moves gradually within the font. At times she leaves the vessel and crawls meticulously on the floor covered with white paper, rubbing against it with the surface of her skin, the paint leaving traces of her body on the paper. A system of video cameras and parabolic microphones records the action repeated several times during a five-hour period. A video image is projected on one of the walls showing the view from a camera suspended above the vessel. One can hear the sounds of the body immersed in fluid or brushing against the paper, through speakers placed throughout the gallery space. The light gradually changes as the space gets darker, just as the paper becomes increasingly covered with the black marks left by the artist's body.

5. Drawing Room (Achea Rheon), 2003

video documentation of performative installation: Photographic backdrop paper, crayons, artist's body, children age 4-10, video projection, sound; courtesy of the artist and Whitney Museum of American Art.

Drawing Room (Achea Rheon), 2003; courtesy of the artist and Whitney Museum of American Art. Photo: Tanya Ahmed

The artist lies curled up in the center of the gallery floor covered with white paper. With black crayons in both of her hands, she draws around her body. There are crayons scattered on the floor. Children gradually join her as they move over the space, drawing around their own silhouettes. Observing the slow, silent, and focused performative action, some of them decide to imitate her circular movements, drawing with both hands simultaneously while their heads are touching the floor. Others draw other shapes and images of their own choice. A video camera is suspended from the ceiling above the gallery's floor, and positioned centrally in the gallery space. The resulting footage is projected on the wall. The three-dimensional world seen from a bird's eye view is translated into a flat, painterly projection, resembling a map, with the silhouettes of people and the shapes of the drawings continuing to change, impossible to predict. The sound permeates the space and consists of a recording of the act of drawing, mixed with underwater sounds recorded during the artist's immersion in her studio, and with the sounds of children playing outdoors. This sound, coming from a past reality, mirrors the children's voices in the room during the five-hour action, the way the projected image mirrors their bodies. The space of the "drawing room" becomes a living organism, contingent and dependent upon the flux of the children's energy. The silhouettes become a part of the sculptural material, moving through the space of paper like the quietly floating waters of a river.

6. Dwie, 2003

charcoal on photographic backdrop paper, 85 x 105 inches; courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum.

The large-scale charcoal drawing representing two black figures immersed in an empty white space, which resemble traces of themselves, corresponds formally and symbolically to the installation Limen/Meadow with its layers of drawn marks and papers. The interplay in the act of drawing between leaving a trace and composing a meaning culminates in the artist's ongoing investigation of presence/absence through drawing and performance, combined with video and sound recording as yet another form of tracing, just like the drawn mark itself.

7. Skulenie, 2003

charcoal on photographic backdrop paper, 85 x 105 inches; courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum

Skulenie, 2003; courtesy of the artist. Photo: Hermann Feldhaus

"Weiss makes drawings with her body, leaving a trail or trace of her movements. The charcoal marks speak of the body stretching across the paper. Skulenie and Dwie are two large-scale drawings in a series of representations of her body in curled-up or standing positions, represented in a very darkened, abstracted way, calling to mind an evidence of circularity in the way she works, and revealing the presence of the living body of the artist."
- Pennina Barnett, London, 2003

8. Six drawings from the Achea Rheon series, 2003-2004

charcoal on paper, 30 x 23 inches; courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum.

Achea Rheon ("River of Sorrow") is a series of individual drawings and communal drawing actions. The six drawings reflect and investigate the ambiguous states of being curled up, immersed, or in a state of suspension, creating a rhythm of fragmented black silhouettes that recall shadows or marks of presence, drawn without any attempt at specificity, but representing the presence of a body in space.

9. White Chalice (Ennoia), 2003

White Chalice (Ennoia), 2003; courtesy of the artist. Photo: Hermann Feldhaus

charcoal and wine on canvas, 56 x 100 inches, courtesy of the artist and Chelsea Art Museum.

Weiss's interest in containing and overflowing is best exemplified in her interest in working with water. Its mirror-like transparency seems to attract the artist the most in time-based or sculptural projects. Like water and oil, other fluids appear in the artist's other works, especially her drawings. In her ongoing series incorporating a semi-architectural drawing of a baptismal font and the stain left by a red-colored substance, such as hair-dye or wine, the charcoal or pencil marks seem partially dissolved by the stains. Wine, as both a symbolic and a visceral liquid, has the properties of paint, yet at the same time retains its beverage-like quality, hence immediately bringing to mind a large, unwanted stain left on the canvas.

Monika Weiss: Vessels was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Chelsea Art Museum . Additional support was provided by Experimental Intermedia Foundation and the Polish Cultural Institute, New York . Special thanks to Dr. Dorothea Keeser, Chelsea Art Museum 's founder. Additional thanks to Brendan Atkinson, Carlton Bright, and Matthew Griffin.

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