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Jude Walton: movement's third eye

Philipa Rothfield

How do we know where we are and what our bodies are up to? To what extent do we rely upon how our bodies feel (proprioception, kinaesthetics), and to what extent do we depend upon a sense of how they look? Whilst some dance forms privilege visual display, and others the felt experience of moving, clearly both factors are at play in the art of movement. Jude Walton’s recent exhibition, Looking for Pierre, part 1, is more than an investigation of these matters. It is an intervention, a Darwinian leap into a possible future, through which Walton is (modestly) able to play God.

It all begins with the question of perspective. Perspectival drawing systems sprang from the Renaissance drawings of Alberti, who is credited with the discovery of artificial or scientific perspective. Walton’s exhibition begins with a room lined with a series of computerised, perspectival drawings, twisted and warped in myriad ways. You begin to wonder whether the objects presented and re-presented are real or not. Are all those oblique lines of perspective how we actually see objects from various standpoints, or have we been trained to see these lines as reality?

Room 2 contains another kind of ‘discovery’ on perspective, this time our perspective upon our own bodies. Through the use of equipment (courtesy the biomechanics laboratory, Victoria University of Technology), Walton has been able to fiddle with our means of bodily perception. Room 2 is an empty space, containing a set of video goggles that can be strapped on. The headgear has little screens a few inches from the naked eye. These screens provide an external visual perspective on your own moving body (a camera linked to the goggles has been set up in the corner of the space). Visitors to the gallery are invited to experiment with these goggles.

It’s quite extraordinary to see the back of your body as you dance, to watch yourself moving from quite alien points of view. I spent some time, dancing, whilst watching myself dance, combining my feelings of movement with this external visual information. Walton moved with me to offer the experience of moving with another person, and also videotaped my activities just to offer yet another perspective on the experience.

Not everyone deals with this ‘new set of eyes’ in the same way. Some felt that they were seeing themselves from the point of view of the camera, that they were outside their own bodies. Others tried to maintain their regular field of perception. I found myself flipping between my usual feelings of movement, and this ‘other’ visual look which enveloped those feelings. Then I started to wonder what I looked like doing this, what others would see of me, yet another perceptual take. To see oneself live is different from viewing a recording; the virtual feedback is immediate, thus, there is a sense that one can respond to the information within the ambit of the event itself. The usual closure of time is absent here.

By providing a new organ of sight, as it were, Walton has been able to provoke something like a new body, a new structure of perception. I remember one of my philosophy teachers asking us whether we thought Martians would perceive the world just like humans. It’s clear that animals have different perceptual structures. What I find interesting about Walton’s experiment is that a changed perceptual structure does not lead to the same experience for all people. It just goes to show that even God cannot anticipate the quality of individual perception.

Jude Walton, Looking for Pierre, part 1, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, February 5 - 23

RealTime issue #36 April-May 2000 pg. 41

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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