Body as Archive: An Interview with Fungai Marima | Hosted by Millie Norman

Multidisciplinary artist Fungai Marima's work centres the body, treating it as a space that absorbs emotions and actions to compile an archive of our personal and collective histories. In this interview, Marima shares her thoughts on how we might look to anthropology for ways of understanding trauma, the centrality of material to her practice and how her work makes tangible the intangible.

Body I, Etching, 2019 - Fungai Marima

MN: You are a multidisciplinary artist - how do your approaches with each medium intersect or differ?

FM: My approach is based on how my ideas respond to or are communicated through exploration of material and process of making. I’ve come to the realisation that my work has a performative element to it, and that is how I view and practice printmaking – specifically etching. I then believe my process of making requires documentation through photography and film to help me understand my process, as well as to help find other ways to articulate ideas. I have found this useful, as I’ve opened myself up to other ways of making; it helps me understand my intentions and assists in focusing my energies on the reasons why I make artwork.

MN: You’ve often mentioned that your practice treats the body ‘as archive’ - how does this intersect with your exploration of trauma? If, as theorists like Van der Kolk have said, trauma lives in the body, is materialising trauma/making it tactile through your work, in part, a process of healing?

FM: I often think about how our experiences influence our understanding of the world. An archive acts a place where history, personal and collective narratives are kept as a means to reveal personal and cultural identities. So in looking at the body as an archive within the theme of trauma, I am aware that the tangible and intangible traumas that our bodies experience are kept within both our emotional bodily space, as well as the boundaries of our physical bodies, such as skin, and, therefore, we are able to learn about the effects of such happenings through looking at the body as an archive.

Making my work tactile whilst materialising trauma is a process which I am attempting to understand: I’m too early in this exploration to think of it as a process of healing, but it is a process which calls for contemplation and reflection upon my thoughts and experiences with trauma. Healing is a path that takes a while to recognise and accept and is subjective on an individual basis too; therefore, my work attempts to give a glimpse of what the beginning of that journey can look like - which, in my case, is facing and revealing those events that imprison us.

Body Print I, 2019 - Fungai Marima

MN: ‘Archive’ also alludes to ideas of community and history - to what extent can your work be understood as a dialogue between the personal and the social/collective? And further, historical archives often require permission to be accessed - what role does access play in your work?

FM: I attempt to create this dialogue between the personal and collective through addressing issues that affect the emotional and physical contact our collective bodies have to the environment, especially when looking at social issues. Documentation of these lived experiences is where the archive within my work lives - through photography, performance, film and the printed object.

The notion of accessibility is one I am trying to find a balance with, hence the material I am initially interested in: the body, a material that we all inhabit and can access through our senses of seeing, feeling, tasting and sound. I recognise that although I hope my work will be accessible to all, as my work doesn’t look at a singular narrative, unlike historical archives, the nature of my art making requires a dialogue between the artist and their work and with whomever encounters it. It is, therefore, left to interpretation.

MN: In your artist statement, you mention you’ve been influenced by 'Knowing from the Inside' - could you tell us a bit about Ingold’s research and how it informs your process/practice?

FM: I’m interested in the relationship between Anthropology and Art. Anthropology uses ways of revealing that can be adopted within my process of making - a process of thinking through pulling from the body's experience. Ingold talks about how if one wants to understand a society or culture, one has to immerse themselves in it to more completely understand how we understand others around us and how this informs ideas of the self.

In my practice, my work is often self-reflective, and currently looks at finding ways of exploring themes within trauma based off the psychological traces that have been left on my body from my own experiences. This research underlines my understanding of how the ways we deal with trauma influences our personal and cultural identities. I am also aware of the history of the imbalance of power and authorship in Anthropology; however, within my practice, the understanding of our experiences is from a place of challenging these systems that silence and undermine.

Hair I, 2019, Screen Print - Fungai Marima

MN: You also mention being inspired by Ana Mendieta, who said ‘My art is grounded in the belief of one universal energy which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant from plant to galaxy.’ To what extent is your own work informed by this idea of connectivity?

FM: I think of the material of the body as a space upon which emotions and actions are imprinted. The body in my work responds to its surroundings. I think of how the body is the first point of reference: the skin allows us to feel and it also acts a threshold that expels too. I resonate with her work as she immerses her body into various environments, specifically in the Silueta Series, and is influenced by matters that relate to the interaction the body has to society and environment. Although my work does not directly link to natural environments like Mendieta, I seek the energy that the body draws from, and am interested in how our emotional state is influenced by internal or external elements which connects us as human beings.

MN: Your projects Kumba and Stay at Home Save Lives both question ideas of home - how does this interact with your body-focused practice? Does understanding the body as home allow you a conduit through which to interrogate other notions of home?

FM: The Kumba and Stay At Home Save Lives projects have centred around notions of displacement of the body, and ideas around the expulsion and thresholds of self in an environment. My exploration of the body in my work centres itself as a space that holds information, biologically and emotionally; the home presents itself, as such, similarly, as a place that expels as well as protects. Both series act as a way of understanding our physical and emotional selves through events that happen along the margins and thresholds of the body through social and gendered politics.

TOP: Body Print 8, 2019; BOTTOM: Body II, 2019, Etching - Fungai Marima

MN: Where do you want to take your work next?

FM: I often think about how different materials respond to my ideas, so I am looking towards systems of archiving, and thinking of how my work can be accessed and viewed as an archive.