ephemeral: a live body painting video installation

Project status

    We’re working to obtain: 

  • Space to exhibit this piece.
  • Financial support to fund the logistics (video screens, printing and framing of image, etc.)
  • A core team of supporters to help set up the exhibit and promote it
  • If you are interested in being part of this project, please contact us describing the role you want to play.

About this project

This installation investigates the ephemeral nature of the human experience, and how we construct and re-construct ourselves (and each other) as subjects.

The installation has 3 artifacts:
1. A photograph that documents a finished body painting.
2. Two video pieces that reveal the bifurcated and ephemeral nature of the body painting process: one from the perspective of the model and one from the perspective of the painter. View video demos
3. A live performance wherein the same image is reproduced/re-enacted in front of a live audience

By allowing the audience to experience the art creation process and the finished product in the same physical space, this piece allows the audience to experience both the orderly, Apollonian element in the finished image, as well as the Dionysian immersive irrational self-disintegration in the artistic process; achieving what ancient Greek tragedies do to bring together both Apollonian and Dionysian elements into one to experience the full spectrum of human condition as discussed by Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy.

Finished image: Crucifixion after Grünewald

The finished image on the wall and the painting painted on the model is a reproduction of a Crucifixion scene from an altar piece at a monastery in Isenheim, France. That monastery is known for their work in treating people with skin diseases. The rendering of the Christ figure in the painting shows a body inflicted by those diseases to give way to patients treated there to project their ailments onto the Christ, agreeing with the verse in the Bible that says that Christ takes our infirmities when he suffers the brutal death on the cross.


Showing the painting process through the perspective of the model and painter allows the audience to project their body image onto the model, giving them the opportunity to deal with the body image issue that they may have. Like the chorus in Greek tragedy, the videos show the audience the ideal response to the piece.

One powerful effect of painting on the body is that after the painting is finished, the model does not feel naked or exposed. When people look at her body, she does not feel like they are judging her body. She feels beautiful and accepts her body that’s covered by the paint. This powerfully symbolizes the Christian faith of justification through faith in Christ. When a person believes in Christ, she is “hidden” behind Christ. The cross, which was an instrument of death was transformed into the symbol of hope and love. In the same way, I hope that the taboo and connotation of sexual exploitation associated with body painting will be transformed into something that is healing and inspiring through this project.


Video: Keith Hopkin
Concept and body painting: Danny Setiawan