In Ellen Sleeman-Taylor’s latest body of work, she argues that our mind is held within and is inextricable from our bodies. Our entire physicality contributes to the production of thought and our physical sensations are essential to forming, storing, and recalling memories. Despite the universal human experience of the mind being a separate entity to the body, there is no place the mind can go without the body, no way to transcend our physicality.
This idea of ‘overcoming the limitations of the body’ the brings to mind the floating gaseous minds of science fiction and recalls the early theory of internet scholars of the 1990s. But to transcend flesh, skin, embodiment, would be to erase the ties to place and culture held in the body – to erase difference and the bodily expression of the self.
It is because of the important role of our physical body and its inextricable link with the mind that we collectively struggle to see the online space as “real”. These are space largely without form. Yet our bodies populate the online space through not only the images of it we may share, but through the expression of our physical wants – food, sex, clothing, and shelter – these could be seen as desires of the flesh, and they preoccupy our online activity.
Ellen’s work is a result of a longing for physical touch that’s been denied, and a complicated relationship with what it means for her to desire fem and queer bodies. Online spaces have the dual qualities of allowing for unprecedented connectivity as well as being spaces that evoke feelings of profound isolation and dissatisfaction. It is through these spaces that Ellen finds herself admiring women, especially famous and accomplished women, experiencing a niggling sense of unease with the voyeurism she can recognise within her own gaze
Ellen’s work begins as a Photoshop image, through the repetitive action of copy and pasting she creates rich detail. The capacity for detail in a digital image is immense and quick to achieve, this high level of detail can become a barrage of relentless input as the image builds. The digital tools allow for endless layering and complete modularity. Rendering the image transforms the work from its previously changeable state to one more static. This rendered image is a frozen moment of finality necessitated by the printing process, a bridge that the image travels from the non-corporeal to the corporeal realm. The passage from digital to object demonstrates how these different states of being operate, the digital with the benefit of being endlessly editable, remains unsatisfying without form, and the physical object no longer contains the multiple potentials of endless change. The final form of the images attempts to replicate a feeling of ephemerality through the ghost-like images on the silk surface, and the result of the many-layered images is a patchwork of symbolic imagery. Some of the symbols share global meaning, such as the emoji; others hold culturally specific or personal meaning, understood through the new context they now inhabit.
In the exploration of these ideas through digital imagery, Ellen wishes to find alternative routes to understanding ourselves, body and soul.
Presence creates spaces of autonomous self-reflection and explores how these spaces are navigated by the body. The body becomes the point of departure; its dimensions and the space it occupies, the narratives it holds and how these unfold around it. The reinterpretation of bodily presence evokes the queer or gender non-conforming body, allowing for a tender consideration of how we perform gender and identity.