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Sara Masüger’s sculpting revolvees around the representation of bodies and body-fragments in tin, aluminium or acrystal- a composite material that results in a plaster-like appearance. Her sculptures are never preceded by drawings or preparatory sketches, for the simple reason that the source of her artwork of her artwork is her own body, and the casted body-parts – hands, face, ears, fingers, etc. – from the molds out of which the works are created.. The legacies and filiations are quite obvious, and the artist has overtly expressed her admiration for the work of Alina Szapocznikow, Louise Bourgeois and Mendardo Rosso. Beyond the conspicuous formal analogies between these artists and Sara Masüger’s practice, it is undeniable that her sculptures also pursue other routes – or to put it more aptly and consistent with the French homonyms voie/voix, “other voices”, seeing as language is pivotal in her works. The corporeal representations set up echo chambers inside of which words reverberate, and the body is merely an emanation. The omnipresence of language is significant, and comes across in the choice of titles, such as I talk to you later, Dictation, or Longterm Translation which achieve the reunification of body and mind via an ongoing oeuvre that projects countless organs into space. These organs are repetead and ricocheted within a flow that has much to do with stammering and babbling as with brouhaha, interference, discord and dissonance. And although the body is sometimes represented in its totality, this is merely as a transition from stillness to motion, as indicated by the ambivalence of the titles used to designate the works where the body is seemingly motionless: Gehende (“walking”), Stehende (“standing”), Liegende (“lying down” in both the active and passive sense). The body, as expresses in Sara Masüger’s sculptures, is a body of language, a body in flux, a body in repetition, with its own rhythm.
Sara Masüger’s works underscore the rift between body and mind that occurs in the history of philosophy as well as in how, more prosaically, our intuition recognizes the challenge of delineating what defines the very essence of our own body, or our corps proper (“object body”). The expression corps proper appears late in the history of philosophy. It was coined in the early 19th century by the little-known French philosopher Pierre Maine de Biran, who paved the way to the phenomenology of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. Maine de Biran affirms, contrary to Renè Descartes’ cogito ergo sum, the primacy of the body as an essential site where the self is aware of existing.
Masüger’s sculptures are always spatial projections of sculpted organs and lay emphasis on the body’s sensorial dimension. The sensorial dimension is simultaneously conveyed by the sculptures themselves, by the organs they embody, and by the centrality of language as indicated by the titles: Longterm Translatation, I Talk to You Later, Dictation convey this sense of wavering between duration, memory, memorization and reminiscence, which are the basis of the sensorial world. It thus becomes clear that Sara Masüger is by no means seeking to focus her practice on any sort of pathos, but rather to tackle her own body, to delimit its resiliency, to experience it as pure sense-perception, like the embodiment of a set of potentials, like the site for an action mingled with intellect and language. Consequently, when viewing her sculptures, one must take into account the processes by which they were made. For instance, the tin ear, or the aluminium hands arranged in a cluster, or the agglomeration of black acrystal arms, should not be regarded as strictly arising from the sculpture work, but as outcomes of a series of performative acts. The body is in action, as a preliminary to all of the sculptures. The body twists, knots, grisps, clutches in order to take its own imprint. The face is coated into a viscuous substance so as to be molded and reproduced, cast in rubbery material, in tin, in acrystal, and during the duplication process loses the features correlating it to the original model. However, the performative aspect is not rendered visible, but remains confined to the intimatesphere of the studio. Sara Masüger has never sought to publically enact this practice. The performance which comprises the set of gestures required for the casting process and by the phisycal constraints she applies, can only be grasped a posteriori, when her sculptures actually go on display and are exhibited to viewers. The performance is thus relegated to its repetition, like theather rehearsals which take place away from the public eye. The hidden performative aspect inevitably elicits a notion that, beyond the boundaries of intimacy, connects to ceremony and ritual.
My body is not another0s body and if, paradoxically, Ican perceive another’s body with relative clarity, I can never fully grasp my own body; it remains an enigma, both joined and foreign to myself , even if I have no troble perceiving myself as a thinking subject. Sara Masüger’s sculptures highlight the inevitable gap, the irreducible distance that overrides any attempt to understand and delimit one’s body. Our own body is always the starting point towards understanding it, and this observation stumbles across the opaqueness of how what constitutes us remains irremediably distant from us. It is both from and with my own body that I attempt to grapple with it, and this operation requires setting up a distance that undermines the entire venture. The endeavor to understand my body is always accompanied by an outwards motion: I view my body as if it were another’s body, and this distance – a sort of mirror duplication – inevitably leads to an impasse: my body is not quite my body if it is envisaged as being analogous to another’s body. In line with Jean-Paul Sartre, instead of “I exist in my body” one should say “I exist my body”. This implies that although Sara Masüger’s artwork consists exclusively of body-parts molded from her own body, her oeuvre is not an enterprise based on self-portraiture nor an inner exproration with psychoanalytic intentions, and even less so a realm of pathos. Rather, it entails a contortion act that seeks to bypass the paradox of grasping one’s bodily self, and to find the linkage between corporeality and thinking subject. The challenge ampounts to reducing, as far as possible, the zone of alienness and indiscernibility separating the artist from the very body that belongs to her, “so enmeshed and intermingled” as Renè Descartes puts it in Book VI of his Metaphysical Meditations.
Sara Masüger attemps to straddle this incongruity about the body – neither utter inwardness nor a simple interface with the world – while avoinding representation of bodies other than her own.