Existential Exercise - Six Feet Over by Heesco
“The task of painting is defined as the attempt to render visible forces that are invisible. This is evident. The force is closely related to sensation: it is enough that a force be exerted on a body, that is, on a specific point of the wave, for there to be sensation.” - Gilles Deleuze
Pull up. The artist hangs as he lifts his body up. He carries his own weight. The force of his suspended weight, the pressure, is rendered visible on his face. His cheeks expand, his jaw clenches and his eyes and brow scrunch up. His body descends. He lifts himself back up. Tightening. Then releasing. The artist moves but remains static. Dangling there he lifts his head high for a moment before dropping down again. He stays there in that same place. Struggling.
Why does an artist paint a self-portrait? I propose it is a form of resistance training. An artist creates, renders something visible, and that creation then exerts force upon the viewer. There is a sensation. An impact. But when the artist’s creation is an image of the artist themselves, the force of the artists own symbolic body impacts their physical body. The imagined self feedbacks onto the physical self. The act of painting self-portraits becomes an existential push up, or in Heesco’s case, a pull up. Heesco pushes his image away from himself , projects it on to paper, and then pulls his image back to himself, through the sensation of seeing his own projected image. The repetitive nature of Heesco’s series of self-portraits also enforces the idea that his painting is a form of existential exercise:
I am / I show that I am / I see that I am / I am : 9 Repetitions
It is evident from Heesco’s previous work that he considers existence as a choice. An exercise that one chooses to undertake.
Heesco left Mongolia in controversy. He had self published a book with a friend that had the Mongolian press claiming as a guide to suicide. Only 150 copies were printed and were distributed mainly among friends and university students, but copies of the book found their way to government officials, and Internal Affairs, the equivalent to ASIO, started an investigation into Heesco.
The book was called ‘Caffeine Deficiency’ and was a collection of short stories, poetry and illustrations about a group of teenagers coming to terms with a post-communist Mongolia. It reflected a disaffected and depressed generation that Heesco belonged to.
“It didn’t say go and kill yourself really. It just portrayed our state of mind at the time, which was pretty bleak,” Heesco said.
Francesca Alfano Miglietti writes that existence itself can be a form of artistic expression. The title of the series ‘Six Feet Over’ as opposed to ‘Six Feet Under’ demonstrates that Heesco views these works as representative of his survival, of not being pulled under. The works show the artist struggling against the weight of his own body, the weight of his own existence, dragging him under, into the darkness. An exit sign glows in this darkness, offering an escape, but the artist continues to hang. His face scrunches up and he lifts himself up. He continues with this exercise of existence.