A new site-responsive installation by Toronto-based Laurie Kang, A Body Knots coalesces several threads of research and creation, animated by the artist’s deep curiosity with science studies, science fiction, feminist theory, and personal and cultural history. As a twin, Kang considers these discourses and their combined impact on understandings of bodies as individual and specific, while also imagining possible shared micro-level blueprints. Most recently, Kang’s attention has turned to epigenetics—the study of how one’s genetic makeup is expressed or suppressed in relation to environment. The blueprint itself doesn’t change but how it expresses itself is mutable. The field is a groundbreaking rethink of the old nature versus nurture binary, speaking to an interrelation of the inherent biological code of an organism and how, through wide-ranging environmental factors, that code is amplified or repressed.
Applying such framing to the life of all matter, it’s possible to ask if photography has a genetic blueprint of its own. Do photographic materials have their own inherent codes of expression beyond how humans use them? Pushing at this question, Kang’s work highlights the inherent expansive nature of photographic materials by misusing and thus freeing photographic processes from the medium’s structures of control. Most known for her camera-less images, Kang uses light-sensitive photographic papers brought into relation with organic materials, darkroom chemicals, and uncontrolled natural light. Each image is produced without fixative, allowing her abstractions to remain continually sensitive and perpetually evolving in relation to their environment. Interrupting the depictive role of photography traditionally used to fix vision and memory through the capture of an image, Kang’s abstractions work to unfix, allowing photographic materials to metabolize their environments at their own pace.
With A Body Knots, photographs become skins in relation to material forms of both intimate and architectural scale, turning the apparatus of presentation—the physical frame, the hanging mechanism, the space within which images are presented—into felt evocations of skeletal structure, fascia, muscle, and flesh. Materials such as rubbers and metals become gentle industrial bodies to carry Kang’s responsive skins. Combining the photographic with the sculptural, Kang intuitively collaborates with matter to expand her thinking about what constitutes a body. What further expressions these images take on remain to be seen, as their inherent sensitivities entangle with new environments—an ongoing performance of coexistence.