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Whose body? Nicholas and Sheila Pye's 'The Coronation'

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Title: Whose body? Nicholas and Sheila Pye's 'The Coronation'
Author: Lawrence, Toby Katrine
Degree Master of Arts - MA
Program Art History
Copyright Date: 2012
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2012-10-02
Abstract: In 2008, Canadian artists Nicholas and Sheila Pye travelled from Toronto, Ontario to Graz, Austria for a six-month artist residency. Working within the Austrian landscape and drawing from an influence of Northern European Medieval and Renaissance art the Pyes produced The Coronation, a twelve-minute, three-channel video installation enmeshed with art historical references. Their deliberate appropriation of the triptych format and the Adam and Eve imagery of the fifteenth-century Ghent Altarpiece by Jan van Eyck place the Edenic narrative of the side panels in The Coronation in conversation with the shifting seasons and ecological processes in the centre panel, providing numerous entry points for contemplation. While this video installation suggests an exploration of the iconographic body, it is also indicative of the Pyes’ complication of the notion of the autonomous human body, its engagement with the environment and, furthermore, an emphasis on the instability of identity. Previous writing on the collaborative practice of the Pyes has taken the form of exhibition reviews and curatorial essays, concentrating on a sustained narrative that prioritizes the Pyes’ relationship. Shifting away from the specificities of a biographical framework, my research focuses on The Coronation’s attention to the interrelationality of life. Furthermore, the Pyes push their artistic practice beyond one that assumes the specificity and autonomy of an individual human body, reconstituted in the intersecting body and earth. This informs our understanding of corporeal signification as comprised of embodied social and ideological performativity. Framed by a broad ecological lens and with Judith Butler’s notion of performativity in mind, I demonstrate the capacity of the Pyes’ work to problematize the stability of physical and enunciated boundaries that demarcate the human body.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/43317
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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