Body as Border

Traces and Flows of Connection

A 32-minute immersive, large-scale generative video projection created specifically for the Urban Screen at Surrey Art Gallery in response to the global crisis of Covid-19, and how it draws attention to the idea of the Body as Border.

Much as borders represent the ways that state powers assert control and sovereignty over territories by defining the relations between ‘us and them,’ so too the human body, in the context of the pandemic, has become an object of state and bio-capitalist interest, and fear and division has resulted as a consequence. Within this context, the connections between the macrocosm of global politics and the smallest of all microbes, the virus, are played out in the borderland of the human body. In this way, the body becomes both a statistic and a borderland space for the meeting of macro and micro.

The artwork was created over 3 months with the intent of generating expressions that seek to unite, rather than divide. We ground this exploration through our reference to some of the histories of Surrey, situated on the Fraser River and adjacent to New Westminster, one of the first sites that British settlers colonized in the mid 1800’s. Using the water of the Fraser River as both a physical and metaphorical substance of connection between these local histories and our current global crisis, we tease out connections between the movements of those early settlers and our histories of migration to the region which are entangled and complicit with colonial and settler histories. We also reflect on the ways in which the covid-19 virus has colonized countless human bodies across the globe.

Much like the pandemic reminds us that we are all connected, the water that we draw attention to acts as an agential carrier; part of the perpetual recycling of a system that sustains us all, carrying memories of the human and non-human bodies that it has travelled through.

Body as Border employs AI-built poetic stanzas, sonic decay, and narrative iteration to explore the female body as a multispecies animal in relation to machine-learning processes and how acts of care can facilitate kinship. We also employ Steve DiPaola’s costum-built generative tools to create images with different levels of abstraction and styles. These images are generated by systems that learn from existing digital images and/or to texts.

AI painting and poetry Steve DiPaola
video editing Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda
soundscore Freya Zinovieff and prOphecy Sun
camera, photography Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda, Freya Zinovieff, prOphecy Sun and Getty Images
performance Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda, Freya Zinovieff and prOphecy Sun