The human anatomy is a collaboration of systems and infrastructures constantly working to keep us as healthy both mentally and physically as possible. Multiple processes take place, silently, and no matter our whereabouts in the world, our bodies are our homes.
Shabnam Shabazi scratches the surface on our bodies being our homes in her explorative piece Body House. A part art installation, part performance piece, Body House initially whips up an atmosphere of intrigue. Prior to the performance, Shabazi stands incredibly still, on a platform, wearing nothing more than underwear and a hat made out of cling film. Her arms folded to cover her chest, a statue ready to unleash her message.
Shabazi’s stillness is the evening’s trademark, her ability to hold focus for 90 minutes without even shifting position is a marvel. She is the evening’s focal point, projecting a power onto her that leaves the audience wanting to know more about the world she inhabits and her ideas. Throughout the 90 minutes, life casting artists Hannah Bamford and Vivian Chinasa Ezugha gradually cover Shabazi in plaster of Paris bandages, Shabazi transforming before our very eyes into a emotionless blank canvas. The transformation is admirable, however as Shabazi begins and concludes as an enigmatic presence, there is no emotional attachment to be had, and this is a powerful opportunity missed. Bamford and Ezugha’s sole purpose is to adorn Shabazi in bandages, it’s as if they are a silent chorus – a chorus that the audience would like to learn more from. Choice words are called out by Shabhazi, this having the potential to offer a further insight into the performance’s motivations however it doesn’t.
Video mapping by Blanca Regina reiterates Shabazi’s honouring of the elements, images of the sea are one of the evening’s crucial images, a symbol of continuity, serenity, purity, power. Shabazi is now a human screen, ready for images to be projected on her ‘new’ self. Inventive in its ambition to portray big ideas such as identity and nature, this fusion of video mapping and performance doesn’t quite marry as seamlessly as it could. The performance is in need of clarity, why is Shabazi being covered? Why have these certain images been chosen to be projected? What is Shabazi trying to say with this performance? The evening is repetitive hence its running time feeling longer than it should and it only scratches the surface. 2/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Body House was shown on Friday 8th September at Richmix as part of this year’s Certain Blacks Harlem Festival. For more information on the production, visit here..