Phila Primus has opened the doors to a major investigation. An investigation into the contemplative body, the body in its variable relation to space. She observes and visualizes the body’s possibilities in the spiritual dimension. The corporeal and the spiritual do not stand in opposition here. On the contrary, the body is a device of the mind. The senses and experience are the instruments and the method employed to investigate this field. A field of variable dimensions of the body, space and things.
There are several essential aspects of the body. One’s own body with its internal emotions, the body as being-for-itself; the body that is conscious of another, the body as being for others; and the body as existing in the world. The artist focuses on each dimension in turn, and the perceiving observer may take this journey with her.
In one dimension, there is the naked body, the body born in the womb. The womb’s primordial space, an enfolding, natural shape – warm, protective, comfortable – a space experienced emotionally, an emotional experience. This is the body with which we entered this world, bound to the mother, family, nourishment; an intimate body, sensual and sexual, instinctive. From the natural internal place it arrives in the space outside, initially alien, uncomfortable, cold, artificially geometrical, full of sharp edges and gaping like a chasm.
Can one govern oneself? Compos mentis – a toddler recognises his or her body and explores how far its power extends. It encounters a system that is both physical and symbolic. It moves from having command of its appendages to being able to grasp its position in the world, locating and understanding its own place in the grander scheme, which is the starting point of the journey. It identifies with its social womb. The world inscribes itself upon the body, the body uses tools, makes certain attributes its own and develops corporeal techniques. But it is not only the body that must be mastered, but also the mind. Like the Stoics, it must achieve a state of calm. Arrest its frenetic movement, volatility. Find its locus of power. Determine its own coordinates. First one must govern oneself, to be able to govern the city (Alcibiades I).
Beyond the human level, however, lies the planetary dimension – the world is the womb of humanity and the body resides within it. The space of the maternal planet is the womb where our body is located. We become aware of the body on a planetary scale. The circularity of the heavenly bodies is a reference to the primal experience of the oval space of the womb. The planet and its lunar cycles are tied to the mother’s bodily cycles. Natural cycles, cosmic and terrestrial, take place within the body and its consciousness. We extend beyond parts of our body in both these dimensions. The moon awakens the imagination with the same power with which it raises the tides.
The world pervades the body – it inscribes itself upon it, the body undergoes metamorphosis and metastasis. The body does not wander aimlessly through an alienated world. The body is pervaded by the world. My body. “My” body? In the end the body is only mine as a device for being interconnected with the world of things, the seat of my incorporated consciousness.
And the body encounters the bodies of others – they touch, they intertwine. The blind lead the blind, the sighted allow others to look. The body is not resigned, hopeless. In places it may be huddled, biding its time. But it is an energetic body, dynamic, a body endowed with power, a joyful body, dancing, heading forwards and upwards. With its head in various worlds and bodies, moving in the dance of the world, a dance pervading worlds…
Bodies inform each other about the external world by touching – like ants with their antennae. Where are we? In what dimension, at what scale? What is our adequate size? Or, what dimensions should delimit our existence? How do we get to various dimensions and what can we do there?
The figures of Phila Primus are constantly in motion, dynamic, but at the same time they give the impression of rigidity, petrified, they’re faceless, depersonalised, programmed, influenced genetically, cosmically, socially, culturally, pervaded in many dimensions by the external environment. They bring us to the question of freedom, the power to be oneself. All those borders and intersections. Is it possible to break out, extricate oneself from our predestined existence? How can we orientate ourselves in our given context so as to attain at least an acceptable condition? I pass through spaces, but where is my free space and where are its boundaries? Where are the limits of being free?
“Freedom does not exist. There is only the process through which we become ourselves. Nothing happens just randomly, for arbitrary reasons. No error seems to have occurred. Everything appears to be predetermined. Atoms connect and disconnect, and it all depends on the conditions influencing their movement. We are the resultant of this world. We are assigned to our parents, who hand down to us their genetic information, but also to other authorities, strange individuals, who co-create our understanding of reality. Under a certain constellation of planets, we are cast into a place where a strange culture and a suspicious political situation have been cultivated since ancient times. The world is dirty. (…) If we are to deal with freedom, does it not lie in purification? When we are born, we are pure, we are anarchists. We revolt and then we grow tired and opt to succumb to external pressure. We do not think about returning. We simply go with the flow. We are condemned to be something we would often not even have chosen to be. (…) We want to vent ourselves, turn the negative into the positive, to purify ourselves. An immense mystery awaits. It is the mystery of love, a public declaration of love. Love is our sole gift, our only hope for rebirth. We must not stagnate on the way to freedom.” Phila Primus
The human mind is part of the body – and a characteristic of the human mind is that all thought and perception begins in a binary state. It is corporeal in exactly the same manner that we have a left and a right hand. The ability to differentiate between left, right, up, down, fundamental spatial symbolisation comes from the experience of the body. A place is delimited from space, “here” defines itself in terms of “there”, the body circles the horizon. Here, between the horizons, is the place where I am located. Me as opposed to not-Me, the self is always binary.
A meeting of bodies and minds – brainstorming is not just an appealing creative method. It can refer to a real mindstorm, rattling even the body. Dark clouds can gather in both the intimate and the social sphere, tensions may rise. A sense of foreboding, the dreadful calm before the storm. Turbulent times ahead: military manoeuvers, airplanes, presentiment of death. Lightning strikes the sky…
Skin feeling, the sensation of fabric upon the skin, the feeling of bare skin – imagining how it feels to be in someone else’s skin. The saying goes: “under my skin; get under someone’s skin.” We can also be someone else entirely, as in “Being John Malkovich”. The skin is a membrane between the body and the world.
Spatial dimensions – sensations in space and sensations of space, sensing internal spaces and external spaces, their mutual interpenetration, one overlapping the other. Changes of proportion. Mentally, the body extends over the entire city, the entire city is concealed within the body. There are crowds of people in my body, the entire external world is in my body. My body in the external world. Lost, insignificant. It is intertwined with the network of things, the body is enormous, it contains the universe. In the end, my body is assembled from the basic building blocks of the universe. The entire universe is a giant womb. And in the final dimension: “we are such stuff as dreams are made on”.