BodyStories: painted body storytelling.
Telling a story on a painted body through sequential illustrations and choreographed movement.
Unique performance art for live presentations and video.
The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was an experiment for a class presentation at the Face and Body Art International Convention in 2012 (FABAIC). For my class on storytelling I tried out a new idea (new for me – see below) of taking the methods I use for telling a story via facepainting onto a painted body — using a fully painted body in choreographed movements to accompany my narrative. I had done this with several performers and much assistance to perform the story Li Chi Slays the Dragon as part of our Bodies Alive! production at FABAIC 2008, but that felt more like a theatre piece and this was meant to stay closer to the stylistic quality of storytelling.
The Peacock and the Sun Goddess BodyStory was conceived and presented as a live performance. As the concept seems well designed for video I took the fotos and video we’d made as documentation and created this video in iMovie. (The wonderful music is Indian Fever by David Starfire, which I found on the album “Six Degrees Free Indian Music Sampler” on Amazon. The model was a non-professional, so I’ll withhold her name) The next step in the video experiment will be to create a BodyStory design specifically for video, and explore what is possible without the design limitations inherent in a live performance.
Available for Commission: “Is this the first story?”
I’ve begun a new BodyStory experiment based on one of the most remarkable examples of ancient art. This project is waiting to be developed for performance in an appropriate art or educational venue, or as a collaboration with a video artist.
Nearly 20,000 years ago on a cave wall in Lascaux, France, a painting was made that may be the earliest extant illustration of a “story”. Paleolithic cave paintings in southern France and Spain include realistic depictions of animals, enigmatic human/animal transformations, geometric markings and symbols — the meaning of all of which we can only guess at today. Amongst this most ancient art, this cave painting stands out. The juxtaposition of what appears to be a bird-headed human figure beside a wounded bison suggests there is a story behind this painting. That is my starting point as I write this “first story”and develop bodyart illustrations based in cave paintings, incorporating theories of anthropologists such as David Lewis-Williams and Jean Clottes regarding the possible shamanic or ritualistic significance of cave art.
Before the Peacock story at FABAIC, I painted a body in demonstration for Kryolan at IMATS New York to illustrate a folktale I’d written based on a fragment of a Japanese legend: The Irabaki Demon. The source of the legend was an illustration I’d just seen in the exhibit Storytelling In Japanese Art, which included several emaki (illustrated scrolls that tell a story through a sequence of images, like as comic book does) and I had that technology in mind when I designed the body for IMATS. I’ve always had a context, a story, for the imagery I paint on bodies, as most body painters do. The Irabaki Demon design felt like something new for me because, since the images on the body were a sequential illustration of the legend, I could tell the story to a viewer while progressively showing them these illustrations on the model. A printed text of the story was also available to viewers: The Legendary Watanabe no Tsuna Battles the Ibaraki Demon at Rashomon Bridge. (My very talented model at IMATS was Lisa Greenberg).
To be clear, nothing in art is ever truly new—especially in an art form as ancient as bodypainting. In saying that these experiments feel “new for me” I’m not saying that I’ve invented something here. Aboriginal Australian bodypainting may go back 40,000 years in a continuous line and in some cases, particularly in the context of ritual initiations, their bodyart tells complex mythological tales (to name just one precedent). Nothing is new.
Learn about all of our performances and programs at www.agostinoarts.com