Aspen I, 1970

U-matic, NTSC, muet, n/b

Denis Oppenheim originally became famous for his Earth Works, his interventions within natural sites that marked a radical shift away from the art object and work in the studio. From 1969, with Body Works, he inaugurated another form of investigation into matter and energy, on his own body, which he used as a mute instrument, an element, landscape, and site of mental and physical experimentation. Aspen 1 introduces this body through fragments in nine sequences, nine segments (shot in Super 8, then transferred to video) that work within a suspended time and space, in a disquieting suspense, involving a threat to the future of the art and the artist – a threat that is impossible to locate. The expectation and suspense nonetheless give rise to movement, to an uninterrupted flow between two elements: nature and humankind, the organic and the inorganic. Everything moves, meets, and overlaps and this friction induces a transformation that emerges onscreen like an imprint, like a wound. In this sense, Dennis Oppenheim observes the transitions and discontinuities, testing the conflictual movement between the body and the environment, the body and thought. With the fixed nature of the shot, awaiting accident, human members (most often the hand) are extracted from their whole and meddle with matter, dead leaves, stones, and glass debris, while retaining the trace of the conjunction, of the overlap or immersion.

Stéphanie Moisdon
Translated by Anna Knight