email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEarly ExposuresEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGoing Into TownGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtOutsider Art and Art TherapyPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts
Petra Kuppers is a dance-trained community artist, disability culture activist, feminist theorist and associate professor in English, theatre and women's studies at the University of Michigan. In this book she discusses creative approaches to disease, diseased bodies and medical systems.
Kuppers begins with an introduction to the scar, creative practice at the site of the scar, meaning-making, and knowability. She presents her refusal of the label of wound culture, preferring the scar as 'palimpsest of different times, narratives and patterns, ... [pointing] instead to the generative principle of (embodied/metaphorical) riches that emerge at the site of scar as sensation, flesh and image'(3). This introductory chapter brings in discussions of Antonin Artaud and his 'body without organs', Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, and Pam Patterson's performance piece Bodysight: A Reclamation Project (about the artist's living with breast cancer).
Chapter One focuses around the imaging/imagining of internal anatomical features, and medical science's quest for certainty and perfectability. Kuppers describes her visit to Gunther von Hagens' Körperwelten (Body Worlds) plastinated bodies exhibition. Here, von Hagens presents preserved human bodies in various poses, as well as individual organs, both diseased and healthy. His exhibition has caused controversy, not least because of the concern over the origin of the bodies (was consent sought and received, for example) and disrespect shown to the deceased. Kuppers notes her increasing dissatisfaction and alienation as she views and examines the bodies and parts thereof. She perceives a simultaneous hiding and showing; the anatomy is shown but the life stories of the deceased persons are completely absent. There is a vertebral column from a person who had spina bifida, but there is no reference to the life that the disabled person lived. They are reduced to an object. She contrasts this with Shimon Attie's White Nights, Sugar Dreams a video installation project that explores diabetes, starting with what it is like to live with the illness, and then going off into a 'phantasmagoric journey', as the artist describes it. One of the aims is to 'subvert and mimic the medical stare' to which ill people find themselves subjected regularly. The project is not a documentary, instead featuring such images as red liquid changing color and texture 'as white crystals fall into it, building up into mountains, slowly dissolving in the liquid'(48).
Chapter Two takes us through artworks that address knowledge and visiblity, and being in time, such as Angela Ellsworth's Hemaderby, a highly imaginative performance work on roller-skates exploring the artist's experience with Hodgkin's disease. Bob Flanagan, the performance artist who lived with cystic fibrosis until his death at 43, provides the major illustration for Chapter Three's discussion of pain and performance. His disruption of the conventional code of sentimentality, use of humour, transgressive sex, and relationship with pain and making of meaning are all examined.
The remaining chapters include discussions of Roland Barthes' autobiography, Kira O'Reilly's use of leeches, cutting and scarification, Stelarc's 'obsolete' body and technology, Crash (both the book by J G Ballard and the film by David Cronenberg) and the discourses of AIDS. Kuppers' discusson of the 'Snuff' episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is particularly lucid and illuminating in terms of gendered identity, self/non-self, boundaries, disability and difference. She finishes with a chapter on Outsider Art with reference to Foucault's Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in an Age of Reason. The Epilogue sees her with a workshop group on the beach, making scar sculptures: 'much-fingered extrusions of the stories we shared of our bodies and their being-in-time' (207).
This is principally for the specialist reader with a knowledge of critical theory. For someone like me, with a medical and literary background, but not so much critical theory, it is challenging. But I feel as if my critical vocabulary and thinking has been broadened and deepened as a result. I have gained tools with which to approach performative art, especially that exploring medical/illness/body experiences, and been either exposed to a variety of artists (and practice) about whom I knew little, or learnt more about those I had previously encountered. It has been an enriching experience.
© 2008 Sue Bond
Sue Bond has degrees in medicine and literature and a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. Reviews for online and print publications. She lives in Queensland, Australia