Vesna Leskošek: Body Imagery

Vesna Leskošek: BODY IMAGERY 

A human body is not an universal concept but a flexible idea interpreted in different ways based on time, space and context. It is perceived as a property that we have in possession which is one of major self-deceptions because body is socially encoded and controlled. It is both a mass and a metaphor, it exists in a physical form and in language. Body serves the language by supplying it with terms and metaphors. For instance, the term “incorporate ” has a double meaning. It means living in one own’s body (embodiment) as well as a tendency to ‘uniform’ people, objects or ideas. It is individual and collective and it expresses corporate identity. As a physical organism, body is material, as a body of religious faiths, legends and myths it is immaterial. A text can be seen as a body because it grows, changes and disintegrates, and a body can be seen as a text, a written record of personal history. 

Body has been actualised by feminism through the study of knowledge and power; i.e. the theory and politics of body. The discourses on bodies address the natural and socially constructed body and sexual difference, and they differ in what role and power they attribute to either of the two premises. Women’s social identity is conditioned by cultural perception of their bodies. Whether they were considered “imperfect males or walking wombs, earthly reflections of divine beauty or lascivious lures in the service of Satan” (Duby, Perrot 1993: 47), they were determined by their society’s attitude towards a female body which influenced the definition of womanhood. Hence the body was a subject of interest in feminist debates throughout Second-Wave Feminism and individual arguments can also be found in the texts written during the First Wave. Reclaiming the power to control and manage one own’s body is a relevant subject within feminist theory. Throughout history, women bodies were defined by men’ s speech; therefore women must begin to speak about their bodies themselves and thereby change longstanding beliefs and undermine “the idea of the natural cornerstones of socially encoded differences, the system of values and representations.” (Braidotti 1998:62) The claim to revendicate one own’ s speech is related to the importance of language. Indeed, the contents and ideas are not realities reflected by language but cultural categories constructed by language. The language organises body according to the beliefs of individual culture.

Societies define body ideals in order to define their identity. Body ideals always apply only for individuals, never all people. Cultural ideals say a lot about a society’s perception of itself and how it wants to be perceived by others. The goal of all cultures is to build a sense of identity which has to do with how we see our body and the body of other people. Socie ties set the limits of a body with various laws and rituals, such as the prohibition of incest, cannibalism or torture. However, there’s nothing sacred about these limits. Even if body is mutilated in an extremely horrible way, the destruction can still be considered an act of culture. Body and its parts can be infinitely experimented with; however an imperfect body inst ils anxiety and fear. Advertising profits from this fear when forcing us to consider ourselves as imperfect beings. We are offered products to complete our defective body, only they are worthless because they are constantly replaced with new ones and therefore our defective body can nev er be replaced.

Body is an inexhaustible source of the most diverse art practices. Though there is the question as to how it is thematised, what its place is and what effects it wants to transfer to the eye that’ s watching. Lesbian theatre questions the “dominant system of gender and sexual roles. […] Because of a doubt in the linear definitions of gender and sexuality, their deconstruction and the destabilisation of the common knowledge of the real, lesbian performing art violates given categories of gender politics. Ultimately it takes over the undefined space and forms new values and aesthetics.” (Greif, 2002: 49)

We believe that the City of Women Festival contributes to this pervasively through its activity, more or less successfully but never without attempts to redefine gender and sexual positions, something illustrated in the theme section of the Journal for the Critique of Science. This year’s festival topic tackles the above mentioned starting points in a number of orig inal and different ways. The artists will zigzag (freely after Braidotti) between various discourses and break their boundaries; chip – they will ‘weave’ chips and revendicate a gendered field of technologies; radio map by illustrating the relations and multidirectional contracts in the understanding of hegemony of the actual political and social context; destabilise identities and knowledge through deconstruction of the notion of the norm and disposal of the ontological material related with the constructs and regimes of power (freely after Foucault).

This unimaginable and almost incomprehensible conclusion means to encourage you to visit the festival and see for yourself how much flesh is on the bones of this mumbo-jumbo, how much blood will run through the veins of this year’s performances. You are most welcome. (Vesna Leskošek)

References:
Duby, G., Perrot M. (1993), A History of Women: Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Braidotti, R. (1998), Koncept spolne razlike (The Concept of Sexual Difference). Delta, 4(2-3): 59-71.
Greif, T. (2002), Queer kulturne delavke. Maska, 9(1–2): 49–52