Physical interaction and artificial simulation of intimacy

Marie Munk is an interdisciplinary artist, working with sculpture, installation, video and performance. She examines the materiality of physical interaction and artificial simulation of intimacy. Using silicone as a metaphor for the bodily, Munk creates alternative realities, which questions current tendencies in society.

Richard Bright: Can we begin by you saying something about your background?

Marie Munk: I was born and raised in Aarhus, Denmark. I moved to London in 2014 when I started my MA at the Royal College of Art. I live and work in London now. Before RCA I did a BA and half an MA in fashion design at Kolding School of Design in Denmark.

RB: Have there been any particular influences to your art practice?

MM: My fashion background has definitely influenced my practice. I started studying fashion with the belief that I would become a fashion designer. I quickly realized that my approach was very conceptual and related more to the body, the tension between the body and the mind and the social constructions around the body. Having to make creations for the body really forced me to work with or maybe against the body. It was an interesting challenge to always work on the body and it often caused huge frustration. At RCA in the Mixed Media course the frame was freer and I allowed my self to explore the body without the body being the final context. The body became more an abstract material for me. This was when my love for silicone really kicked off. It became a body mass that I could sculpt freely like clay.

ONESOME – fits all, 2016

RB: What is the underlying focus and vocabulary of your work?

MM: Exploring the boundaries of the body and the mind, and over the last years – how technology has affected this relation.  My work examines the materiality of physical interaction and artificial simulation of intimacy. Using silicone as a metaphor for the bodily, I create alternative realities, which questions current tendencies in society.

ONESOME – fits all, 2016

ONESOME – fits all, 2016

RB: What do you aim to communicate to your audience through your art?

MM: I hope to give the audience an experience out of the ordinary. Also there is so much impressive stuff to look at already on Instagram and other online platforms. We almost get visually over-stimulated. I am interested in affecting more senses with my work. For my last couple of projects the sense of touch, physical contact and presence, has been in focus. It has therefore been an essential criterion for me that visitors would be encouraged to take further part than just looking. I wanted them to explore the art with their whole body. Visitors dedicate themselves, spend long time with the artwork and get a deep and thorough experience that hopefully leaves them with wonder and curiosity and what they just experienced. I want to shake up people stand point and encourage them to question to routines and tendencies in the society they take part in.

RB: The theme of this Interalia Magazine issue explores imagining the embodied self and inhabiting and sensing the environment (both real and imagined). How does this resonate with your own work?

MM: Our body holds our mind, which constantly pushes the boundaries of the body and explores new territories for the extension of the body’s identity. This tension has only been reinforced in the virtual world where our minds can go wandering, without the flabby gravity of the body to hold it back. With the digital universe we enter a post-human approach to the human, which challenges our carnality. The body has become liquid and editable, dissolved into carefully selected and vehemently retouched fragments.

Do we feel trapped in our physical form in a world where it seems more natural to represent ourselves through a digitally edited version of our innate appearance? Is our biological form holding back our freedom?

‘Magic Wand’ performance installation (Annka Kultys Gallery at Code Art Fair, Copenhagen, 2017)

In the performance installation ‘Magic Wand’ which I made for Code Art Fair 2017 in Copenhagen, people are drawn away from the physicality of things, entering a sterilized digital scenario covered in gray and white check pattern. Routinely bodies are walking around as if as usual, though only in fragmented presence appearing through the walls of digital “nothingness”. Dotted lines mark attentively selected areas of the living bodies hiding the rest, as a fulfillment of the human desire to eliminate the unwanted. Distanced from their biological form and the humanity of their bodies, they continue together with the digital existences in routinely harmony.

In this world the gray and white pattern, in Photoshop describing “nothingness” becomes a symbol of the human ability to eliminate the unwanted and create a blank canvas for shaping the body. The dotted line in Photoshop, to select an area to edit, appears like the image on our urge to opt and opt out: our mind’s wonderful utopian control of our body representation.

‘Magic Wand’ performance installation (Annka Kultys Gallery at Code Art Fair, Copenhagen, 2017)

‘Magic Wand’ performance installation (Annka Kultys Gallery at Code Art Fair, Copenhagen, 2017)

‘Magic Wand’ performance installation (Annka Kultys Gallery at Code Art Fair, Copenhagen, 2017)

RB: Following on from this, how do you imagine the human body will interact with the digital and online environment in the future?

MM: The digital and online environment will inevitably have an increasingly larger role in our life in the future, but where it is now entered through devices it will become a much more invisible interaction between real life and digital life. They will merge more and more until we won’t even think them as two separate universes. Perhaps this will make the interaction more bodily and less fingertippy. The way the human body interact now is so simple and limited. Hopefully this will change. If the digital and online life is becoming and increasingly larger part of our everyday life it really needs to take the whole body much more into account. I hate the current experience of the digital, so screen and finger focused. In this sense the future is bright. But how the increasing engagement or merging with the digital will affect our human body and our perception of having a biological body is maybe concerning – or at least something we as humans should remember to care for.

Synthetic Seduction. A collaboration with Stine Deja (installation view, Annka Kultys Gallery, London, 2018)

RB: Can you say something about Synthetic Seduction, your collaborative exhibition with Stine Deja? What issues do you want to address in this exhibition?

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