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"Bodies of work get a whole new meaning"

August 16, 2000
By Jolene Thym

IGNORE the nude bodies flying across the room. Don't stress about the mechanical creatures that seem to follow your every move. And don't freak out when you meet BucketHead. a guy who walks around with his head stuck inside a bubble of water. All of these characters are merely the products of the nine Bay Area artists invited to be a part of "The Future of the Body" at the Richmond Art Center. an eerie, body-conscious experience that opens Saturday and remains up through Aug. 19.

The exhibit, curated by Rachel Osajima and Tim Jag, features art and installations that explore the subject of flesh and blood through electronics, paper, water, soap, plaster, fur, medical equipment and plastic. The idea of the show, say the curators, is to get people to think about how our percepbons of our bodies change with the arrival of each new technology. "A lot of the artists question science, or create high-tech versions of themselves," Jag says. "This show is about exploring . . . how we adapt to the new tools of technology."

Among the most bizarre works in the show are "BucketHead" and "WaterBoy," wearable devices designed by San Francisco artist Marque Cornblatt. The most elaborate piece, "Water Boy," consists of a seethrough plastic suit, complete with arms and legs, suspended from a rolling frame. Cornblatt or one of his assistants completes the suit by jumping inside, then filling it with water. The water level is about six inches over his head.

"You have a mouthpiece to breathe with, so you really can't talk much. But you can move," he says. "I designed this for the Burning Man (an annual art event in the Nevada desert. ) We bring 75 gallons of water with us and we take shifts being inside." Two hours is the maximum, he says.

Designing the suit to be strong enough to hold water without leaking was tricky, Cornblatt says, but making it user-friendly has been an even bigger challenge. You can get out of it. It's a little awkward. but you can do it. But the hard part about it is that it is really cold. The water is about 75 degrees. so you lose a lot of heat being in there a long time. There is a serious chill factor when you get out. even in the desert.

More comfortable&emdash;for those used to scuba diving&emdash; is Cornblatt's "BucketHead," a contraption that flts over the head and snugly around the neck. A breathing tube is placed in the mouth before the globe is filled with water.

"This is really fun because the person can walk around in a party and get reactions from people." Although the piece looks like a claustrophobic's nightmare, Cornblatt maintains that it is totally safe, because all you have to do is bend over to spill all of the water out of the bubble.

"BucketHead" and "WaterBoy," both humorous and disconcerting, share company with the more somber, quiet art installations.