© 2014 by Joanne Herbert.  Proudly created with Wix.com

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My art practice explores the relationship between the body as object -the biological body- and the body as subject - the lived, experiencing body. This duality is exposed under the "medical gaze." In parallel to the "male gaze", the body is objectified and fragmented into different parts, such as systems or organs, and consequently, subjectivity is depleted or lost. In recent times this gaze has been greatly supplemented by imaging technologies which permit an ever more accurate and penetrating view of the body. 

Through my practice, I incorporate ideas from the phenomenology of illness in order to challenge the dominant, therapeutic narrative of medicine, while exploring subjectivity in illness. Life threatening or debilitating illness can be said to create a rupture in the psyche which results in an alienation, or sense of "otherness" of the failed body. Agency tends to be diminished as the body is subjugated both to the illness and the scrutiny of the medical profession. Paradoxically, however, this ultimately may lead to an enhanced sense of agency through creative adaptations, producing a new identity. My work explores this transformative potential of the experience of illness.

 

My practice is situated in the space where medicine meets contemporary culture, where we are increasingly exposed to images of bodies which are not only idealised but augmented, either through surgical or digital manipulation. These "impossible" bodies create a new "normality." Aggressive marketing strategies by the growing cosmetic surgery industry further fuels the desire to attain the "perfect" body.

 

The world is experiencing a rapid technological advancement in science and medicine, which is unprecedented in history. Medical intervention can not only postpone death, but also alter the way we feel, look and even our genetic make-up. This forces confrontation with novel ethical, political and social concerns. My practice aims to address some of these issues.

My practice relates to the body and mind, and the dynamic interplay between the material and the immaterial. My past experience in the field of medicine and engagement in neuroscience theories  gives me a platform to attempt to break down Cartesian dualities between the immaterial mind and the material brain/body. My interests extend into psychology and psycho-analysis. I have explored Sigmund Freud's theories of repression and as a result my practice often embodies the abject, the uncanny and the fetishistic, as the hidden is brought to the surface. 

 

My work also attempts to deconstruct dominant themes by exploring some of the ideas of Michel Foucault, particularly the relationship between knowledge and power - a relationship illustrated by the doctor-patient dynamic. I am interested in Foucault's ideas around normalisations and how differences become deviances, leading to the creation of "The Other". 

 

Information and material gathering is an important part of my practice. In a formal sense this involves research around ideas, theories and materials, but can also be informal, as in jotting interesting facts in a notebook, or collecting found objects. In my film work I regularly record short sequences of anything that catches my attention, for use at some unknown time in the future. Conceptual elements are central. I frequently employ narratives which are often complex and overlaid. Experimentation is another key aspect of my practice.

 

The process is more important to me than the end product. This idea is visible in some of my installations, which depict processes or reveal their inner mechanisations. In addition to  installations, I have made my ideas manifest through the medium of film, as well as conceptual art.  I am also beginning to bring different facets of my practice into single pieces of work, for example combining sculpture/ installation with film, animation, poetry and dance.