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Mary Coble

Mary Coble is a performance artist and photographer. She often uses her body as a metaphor and site for questions that involve, as well as move beyond, corporeal matters. Through these performances Coble challenges herself and others to critically consider their reactions and interactions with social issues of injustices. She strives to confront violence, bigotry and poverty that she sees a as threat to society both physically and mentally.

Coble meticulously documented the inscriptions from her previous three Marker (NY, DC and Madrid) Performances and compiled a list of over 200 hateful words and phrases written on her in various languages. For Blood Script, the artist has 75 of the most common words tattooed onto her skin, without ink, in a very ornate script. Using decorative letters, Coble creates a dichotomy between the beautiful visual form of the words and the ugly meanings they convey semantically.

The words appear in blood as the tattooing needles penetrate Coble’s skin. Blood Paintings are made of each word by immediately pressing watercolor paper against the fresh incisions. The mirror image of the word is imprinted on the paper in blood. As each Blood Painting is created, it is placed on the wall during the performance. The number of prints on the wall expands proportionately as the artist’s skin becomes increasingly infused with hateful epithets.

The elaborate script initially engages viewers in the optical challenge of identifying each tattooed insult. The recognition of each word stimulates viewers to reflect upon the significance of what the insult means to them. This dynamic process mediates a silent dialogue between the artist and her audience as the performance progresses.

Note to Self is a performance that deals with gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people who have died due to hate crimes committed against them. Coble compiled a list of 436 names of these individuals, through research on various websites, news reports and official and unofficial documentation. The list started and ended with the word “anonymous” to acknowledge the many lives that were taken that my list didn’t include.

During a solid twelve-hour timeframe these names were tattooed, with no ink, onto the surface of Coble’s body. She had these names inklessly tattooed on her body as a reference to the brutality of these murders; many of the victims had slurs such as dyke or faggot carved into their bodies.

After each name was completed, a Blood Painting was made by pressing a sheet of paper directly against the fresh abrasion. These prints were then places on the walls of the gallery. As the list of name compiled on her body the same list was mirrored on the gallery walls.
The first three hours of this performance was open to the public while the last nine hours were webcast so the audience could watch via the net.

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