In search for lost pain
The end of 18th century and the beginning of 19th century is a time of reforms in criminal justice, to which torture was previously inherent. The cruelty show disappears. Mutilated bodies in public places are no longer a part of everyday life. Law is enacted upon the actual body no longer. It is “…encompassed by a system of enforce-ment and depriving, obligations and prohibitions. Physical suffering, the actual body’s pain are no more consistent element of a penalty. From a craft of inducing unbearable sensations, punishment has transformed into a rights-depriving economy”, says Foucault. The body is acted upon in a much more sophisticated way. It is removed from the crowds and taken into the specialised institutions where it is submitted to discipline: prisons, hospitals …
Pain, torment, show, mutilated body — these are elements present in the art of Norwegian fakir and artist Håvve Fjell, where pain func-tions as a form of transfer. With the help of pain Fjell does not introduce but rather but throws the spectator into contemporary issues of relation towards body and soul, “the body-dungeon” and various forms of social repression. (“The body becomes useful only if it is at the same time productive and subordinated…” Foucault again). The subject of repression i.e. limitation and inhibition is in-tegrated in a series of his performances entitled Quintet where he inhibits his body by plaster, needles and thread, hooks and a cage, and hurts himself with pieces of broken glass or employs traditional torture techniques.
In his performance Drops Håvve Fjell deals with torment using the Chinese method of contant dropping of water on the head for the purpose of making one insane. But Fjell introduces an interesting twist. He cruelly tortures himself without letting us know whether he is in pain or not. In that way he denies torture its’ “surplus of pleasure” — the suffering — therefore removing the very meaning of its’ effect. His fixed, cage-imprisoned body becomes a remarkable sculptural sight, making it even more difficult for the viewer to imagine or accept the process of torment without pain which is, in this case, both physical and psychical.
Using the strategy of torment Håvve Fjell does not discuss only phy-sical torture, but rather — with the help of “difficult images” — he makes visible the techniques, principles and strategies that various power structures employ to rule over the individual. Fjell’s represen-tation of these processes is as much metaphor as it is reality.