“Body Art (or Body Sculpture, Body Works, Corporal Art): An international trend in art, dating roughly from 1967, associated with sculptors who had previously worked in the mode of Earth Art. Amongst the arts sculpture in particular has a special relationship with the human body: sculptors are acutely conscious of ‘body ego’ and the appreciation of sculpture depends to a large extent on a physiological empathy between spectator and artwork; hence it was a logical step for sculptors to turn to their own bodies as material for creating art, to treat their bodies as both object and subject. …Since the activities of Body Art are transitory they are recorded for publicity and exhibition purposes in photographs, or on film or videotape.” John A. Walker
Masi’s body works are in a sense a framework for exploring the concept of distortion in its many forms (ie to deform, distort, contort, misrepresent, and perhaps warp or gnarl). These works also kick start the concerns and recurrent ideas running throughout Masi’s later work demonstrating his underlying interest in the shared human experience of questioning and resisting.
Deform carries a slighter implication of twisting, but the suggestion of pulling out of shape is usually present. Distort clearly implies a twisting or wresting from that which is natural, normal or true. Contort suggests a more involved twisting and usually a more grotesque or painful effect than distort. Misrepresent, this refers to the concept of representing wrongly, incorrectly or improperly, to give false account of, improper or imperfect representation or to fail to represent adequately. Warp, which literally suggests a drying and shrinking out of shape, this figuratively applies that which has been given a bias, a wrong slant, an abnormal direction or mental twist. Gnarl used both literally and figuratively suggests contortions induced by old age, weather, heavy work or misfortune.
Masi’s central interests in these works are personal and public distortions as represented and manifested through the use of body as media/medium and motivated by physical contact. It is important that this distortion should operate in both form and content. The use of the body as medium seems to be a very simple and logical decision. Usually first consciousness is inherently associated with one’s own body both in a phenomenal and intellectual or intuitional experience.
Other of his interests include the aesthetic possibilities of a particular type of restricted and structured body psychology; a celebration of the body; an intrinsically symbolic usage of the body to reflect intentional but hidden inconsistencies.
It is important to understand and consider that he proposes that the content is consistent ie distortion of the body (the use of the artists own body or parts of it and/or the use of one or two other persons in similar or tableau situations or presentations). The distortion innate in the form is also consistent in that the end work or object is in its self always distorted though a manipulation of the technique or process. As exampled in his work …from the blue and into the black… Lip Smear 1971, the first phase of this work was registered on a video format, but the final two works/objects of presentation are a 16mm film and a series of 40 selected b/w photographs (both of and from the original video tape). Thus in both cases allowing or even anticipating a definite degree of distortion through the breakdown in image detail and the incorporation of chance happenings via the transference from one medium to another or even a third. The finished work seeming to be similar to the original, but in fact very different and not true. This is a manifestation of double distortion.