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DEEP
SEA DIVER

Reproduced from the catalogue for the exhibition, "Visceral Forms", Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, 2012
Amita Kirpalani , 2012

To construct is to omit. And experience like material processes
(such as braiding and knitting) are manipulated by deft fingers
working beyond the body. Known and honed practices, genealogies
of gesture. Unreliable memory is also muscle-based, so we trip
and we stutter, falsehoods are woven into narrative, and dreams
and actual events blur.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done

These lines from Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving into the Wreck"
(1973) describe the process of reflecting on past experiences and
memories and examining them, diagnosing them, of stepping
inside the structure of recollection. Here Rich visualises herself
as deep-sea diver, exploring the familiar known parts as well as
the unfamiliar, with necessary trepidation. Rich's watery wading
through the partially lost, forgotten and unexplored are visualised
through remnants of structure. The metaphors she employs are
burdened, encompassing sometimes, several dissonant truths. So
perhaps beyond past experience, the wreck is the poem itself.

And here are more. Tubular enclosures, cellular drawings and
sculptural sacks or cavities, by Berkowitz, each a wreckage to
unpick. The circular forms that connect these objects are made
from off-cuts of leather cricket balls, in lurid pinks and oranges,
individually imitating cells or perhaps air bubbles. They are both
a conversion and complication of organic processes through
constructed forms, a paradox that is integral to Berkowitz's
practice. Each component, a 'wreck', speaks of the once held,
the no longer held, the fallible, the weak and incomplete. And
the wreck is always, a direct template of the original structure,
bearing remnants of memory, experience, construction, decay,
allowing them to drift apart: a disassembling of the self.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

Berkowitz's sculptures are ladders, not just formally, but as
transformative sensory experiences. We can step inside the
hanging forms which confuse with their sense of interior. Is this
inside the body or inside the method? Are these frameworks for
organic processes? A kind of measuring out of the hand and
the body and its enclosures? Berkowitz's materials have been
repeatedly manipulated for their potentiality and worked to the
point of irresolution. Seeking full circles to be endlessly paired
with full circles, but there is no infinitude or perfect full stop to
be found here.

Making sense of shapes, hands need this work just as these
particular irregular circles need their counterparts and
inconsistencies, as a register of what has been omitted.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

Once arrived, the pristine quality is at odds with a bodily
identification. Like the way hair in water becomes loose,
untangled, weightless and too perfect to be human. Here also
Berkowitz's synthetic fibres glint and dull as hair might, both
unworldly and human. Caught in the act of unravelling, the
wreck - its decay and its clarity - drag the subject as it
struggles to keep pace with its parts.

Amita Kirpalani  
Assistant Curator, Australian Centre for the Moving image, Melbourne

Copyright © 2012, the author