And the space like a root Linder Sterling

Courtesy the Artist

Partially clothed bodies come in and out of view, peered on voyeuristically by the camera, only
to be concealed by brightly coloured daubs and stains. In this new video work (entitled And the
space like a root) Linder takes vintage softcore pornography as her raw material, activating and
obscuring it with a mark-making process called ‘mantic staining’. The original footage, filmed by
the 1960s ‘glamour’ photographer Harrison Marks, observes young women in a domestic
settings. Shot on Super-8, a medium associated with avant-garde filmmaking as well as early
pornography, the footage was originally without sound; a moving portrait with a lingering gaze,
interrupted by Linder’s application of paint. Linder’s treatment of the material is Burroughsian in
that it is concerned with using cut up and interruption for occult ends.

This ‘mantic staining’ process is informed by the artworks and writings of the British surrealist
painter and occultist Ithell Colquhoun, who articulated the approach in two treatises published in
1949 and 1951. As Colquhoun specifies, the mantic staining should be applied unconsciously,
without premeditated control. With the word ‘mantic’ linked to divination or prophecy, this was
not intended as an act of randomness, but as a spiritual practice: overriding the ego to attune
one’s energies not only into the subconscious, but to a greater power or universal connector.
Though she formally joined the British Surrealist Group in the 1930s, Colquhoun was dismissed
from the movement for refusing to give up her studies into occultism and mysticism, deemed
unacceptable by André Breton by 1939, as the group tried to pivot away from its more mystical
early phase.

Applying the ‘mantic staining’ technique to vintage softcore and ‘glamour’ footage, Linder
conjures the spirit of Colquhoun and her excavations of the unconscious psyche. There’s an
immediacy, a vitality to applying paint in this way: bright shots of colour layered on black and
white footage, it presents an eruption of active and expressive 21st-century female energy onto
an otherwise ‘vintage’ image. And as pornographers like Marks knew, the partially concealed
body can carry even more erotic charge than the nude, which instead evokes classicism and a
naturalist purity. Linder’s playful smearing of painterly fluids, then, becomes not just an act of
erasure but also embellishment, entering into a dialogue with male auteurs and overwriting their
depictions of female bodies with a spunky, virile, but feminine form of mark-making.

Text by Rosa Abbott.

- This work was shown during Brandstof, an in-depth program that expands upon The Great Invocation exhibition. Saturday October 2nd at Garage Rotterdam.

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