notes about dealing with franko-b’s I Miss You!

A friend introduced me to the work of Franko-b and I’ve put off posting about it as I’m unsure about my reactions to it.

Wait, perhaps that’s a bit disingenuous. I know what my immediate reaction was. What’s taken time has been trying to put that reaction into words and work out it’s relevance.

On the one hand, I’m not good with blood, so inevitably I found the video of I Miss You! quite difficult to watch. On the other, I get a vicarious thrill from the whole practice of cutting and blood-letting, in the same way that I find many types of body modification attractive.

While watching this video I couldn’t help thinking about the beauty of the way the video was distorted by the compression – when it’s viewed full-screen especially it created abstract washes of golden colour, with regions of smooth colour gradients merging into more detailed, pixelated areas.

I was considering capturing some of the footage and isolating those parts as a work of art in itself. I thought that this would serve as a new piece of work to show my reaction to Franko-b’s work. But then I thought, hold on, why would I want to do this? Is this just me avoiding my real issues with the piece?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Gertrude, III.ii)

My reaction to the footage, and my subsequent ways of dealing with it, gives me away. Blood-letting causes a visceral reaction on my part, I would go so far as to say a revulsion, and my coping strategy is to transfer my attention away from that aspect of what is being shown to an aspect of the video that I am comfortable with, in this case the aesthetic of the semi-random pixel effects. This sounds like trauma to me, but I am not well versed in its extensive history, so wouldn’t like to trivialise the subject. The following comes from a text that I happen to have just read, but I should go back to the primary sources, whatever they may be:

…trauma can be experienced in at least two ways: as a memory that one cannot integrate into one’s own experience, and as a catastrophic knowledge that one cannot communicate to others.

Avital Ronell, “Haunted TV” Artforum, 31, 1 (September 1992), pp. 70–3.

And here I am being completely distracted from the work itself by my own reactions to it. Have I nothing to say about the piece or the artist in themselves? I should consider whether this an intended effect of the work*. Can I judge the work separately from it’s effect on me? Can I/Should I be objective about it?

The work asserted the body as a site for the representation of pain and fear, intrinsic to the human condition.

* This point reminds me of another of Franko-b’s works Why Are You Here (Aktion 893)