A post about 3 exhibitions and “ownership” of the body

– I see an exhibition about naked men (http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/46/nude-men)

– Look,  a project about dolls  (http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/exhibitions/2012que/index.shtml)

– There is this exhibition about the Pro-birth and Anti-abortion policy in Communist Romania (http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4MuppuLGxIU/UHhUuX5Vr_I/AAAAAAAAC6w/0NpeB6s7BTA/s1600/cei_din_lume_fara_nume_afis_big.jpg ; http://www.muzeultaranuluiroman.ro/home/cei-din-lume-fara-nume-en.html)

3 exhibitions, all 3 having something in common:  the human body is used as an evocative medium (to talk about: the “concept of beauty, body image and values”, to reflect upon “‘Africa” and its history and to bring to light untold and personal stories). In all cases the human body is first and foremost understood in its materiality, a materiality to which is ascribed esthetic/moral value, which is shaped by the power and ideology of the state or the body-as representation, as a portrait which serves as a medium for play (the artist seems to have chosen anthropomorhic dolls, which gives me the right excuse to include it among the others 🙂 ).

Telling stories from various objects, or using the human body as a pretext for exploring the histories of its past is a very fashionable (and I think quite rewarding) approach in the current Anthropological  research. The goal is to reflect on how ideologies, life stories, cultures shape the materiality of a being, leave its marks on it, in order to understand how they affect and change the life of an individual. Moving between “things-good-to-think-with” and “things-good-to-think-through”, such approaches intend to highlight personal stories and memories. A most wonderful and entertaining book in this respect is the one of Sherry Turkle, “Evocative objects”.

To come back to the 3 exhibitions, the reason I chose to talk about them is because they are also putting forward an important question (without really stating it out loud): “Is our body really ours?”, and furthermore “What are the consequences and moral implications of shaping, altering, living with our body?”. In the case of the first exhibition it might be easier to understand what made me thought of this question. In the second it was the intention of the artist to present the dolls as a medium for stories that modify/alter the dolls so as to leave their imprint. But the clearest case is a phrase in the last exhibition’s statement (which is actually the one which prompted this issue to my mind): what the political regime actually did was “Prohibiting women to be the masters of their own body”. But what does this really mean?

Therefore, a deeper discussion on how the boundaries of “ownership” over the body are negotiated in a certain context might reveal interesting facts about the associated world-view and values (which in the end transcend the mere materiality of being). So that in the end, are we really aware of the implications of what we are claiming ?

Photo source: http://thefunambulist.net/category/students/ecole-speciale-darchitecture/


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