Achillia at Tempting Failure, reviewed

/Traumata/Bobby Whittaker

Image by Bobby Whittaker

Hellen performed in the white isolation space; harsh unsympathetic light and blistering sound preempted her arrival into the space. Through a door marked “no entry” she walked in, stood in the space and carefully wrapped her wrists in white bandages. Her torso was naked and she lifted the long white skirt, already showing traces of blood, revealing eight long pins penetrating the flesh above each knee. No one moved or looked away. She walked to a wall in the space; I could see her back against the wall, arms raised and legs bent in a seated position. Her muscles began to shake as she exposed her body’s inability to sustain the pose. At the point of exhaustion she fell and returned to the centre, removing a pin from her flesh and dropping it into a metal bowl containing a white liquid. This sequence of physical endurance was repeated until all the pins were removed. I found it hard to watch. The piercings were brutal, muscular and un-cosmetic. I could imagine the unseen encounter and force required to push the sliver of metal through her tissue. However, I was compelled by her strength, determination and presence, the power in her body her refusal to stop. Commanding the audience to watch, to witness and support her through until the end and she left the space.

Looking Back: Tempting Failure 2013, Helena Sands for Exeunt Magazine.

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