Catherine Street’s installations are pervasive and dramatic. Layering elements of video, sound, drawing, collage, texts, and performance she creates potent and atmospheric environments. Street’s own body is often present on film and in actuality, undertaking tasks of endurance and repetition. A viewer entering such environments, and encountering this body, is liable to feel a strong emotional response: of unease, repulsion, fascination, surprise, exhilaration, even hilarity.
Continuing her interest in the complex relationship between mind and body, for this new work Street began by exploring the area of sports psychology. The concept of ‘flow’, a mental state which, although experienced rarely, is thought by some to be the optimum state for athletic performance, is a thread that runs throughout the work. This elusive state of mind is sometimes described in almost mystical terms, and apparently emerges from activities that may be repetitive or involve extreme endurance or concentration.
Whilst the physical and psychological limits of many people are only ever tested in situations that are not of their choosing, sport is one of the few public arenas where the voluntary exposure to pain is accepted; at the same time, punishing training regimes often involve mundane, repetitive routines. Street is interested in the way in which people test their physical and psychological limits, and the situations in which we may witness them doing so. In much of her work she is also thinking about the limits of representing or speaking about the experiences of others, or even of ourselves.
About the video: Stress position/Ski sit
The ‘wall sit’ or ‘ski sit’ is a strengthening exercise for the quadriceps. The legs are bent to 90 degrees and the back is kept flat against the wall. The lower legs should be perpendicular to the floor. Street is thinking about the awkward role of the artist who carries out a physical or psychological task for the purpose of making his or her work.
About the drawings
The drawings were made in groups of four, with each individual drawing taking three hours to complete and the whole set of four executed in a twelve hour period. They are a record of the repetitive making of tiny marks over a specified period of time. The drawings are shown alongside sound recordings that include a description of the experience of flow.