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Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography

Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography

Series: Cultural Spaces
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiography
    Book Description:

    With contributions by both artists and scholars,Embodied Politics in Visual Autobiographyis a unique examination of visual autobiography's involvement in the global cultural politics of health, disability, and the body.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6614-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Visual Autobiography in the Frame: Critical Embodiment and Cultural Pedagogy
    (pp. 3-28)

    At the beginning of her performance video,Worth(2010), renowned visual artist Rebecca Belmore (Anishinaabe) sits quietly on the sidewalk in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Above her is a large stencilled placard that reads: “I am worth more than one million dollars to my people.” Gallery visitors pass by, barely glancing her way, as they move towards the entrance of the museum. Belmore uses water to wash a rectangular section of the pavement and then arranges pieces of long dark hair- and fur-fringed red fabric that she has removed from three carefully wrapped packages.¹ A small crowd gathers....

  5. Part One. Proliferating Monstrosity

    • 2 Quickening Paternity: Cyberspace, Surveillance, and the Performance of Male Pregnancy
      (pp. 31-47)

      Directed by Sophie Lepault and Capucine Lafait,When men are pregnant(2006) is a part of the online and real life (RL) installation,POP! The First Male Pregnancy. Intentionally blurring the lines between representation and reality, the website (Wong 2008h) is part of a series of interconnected sites about the fictitious RYT Hospital/Dwayne Medical Center (Wong 2008c), a cyberlocation created by artist Virgil Wong, who is the real life director of web services at a large academic hospital. While fellow artist Lee Mingwei appears as the pregnant “Mr Lee,” Wong appears both online and at installation events as Dr Phineas...

    • 3 “Virtual” Autobiography? Anorexia, Obsession, and Calvin Klein
      (pp. 48-63)

      “Is anyone out there pro-ana?” This minute hail of graffiti calls out from the dingy walls of a women’s bathroom stall, escaping from its origins in the Internet-based pro-anorexia movement. Stark in its longing for recognition, it exemplifies the tenuous realities of “pro-anas” (as participants in the movement often call themselves), as well as their subsumption within the overriding identity of “Ana.” This graffiti also hails like-minded individuals into another space eerily appropriate for these bodily struggles: the virtual, disembodied forums of cyber-exchange that enable an anonymous pursuit of the thin feminized aesthetic.

      With little space for such voices in...

    • 4 Big Judy: Fatness, Shame, and the Hybrid Autobiography
      (pp. 64-78)

      Hi, I’m Judy and I’m eight years old. I am standing in the Sears dressing room doorway and my mom is looking at me and she is looking at the way my burgundy chords are stretched across my belly and at the gaps between the buttons on my shirt. She’s looking at me and I’m thinking, what’s gonna happen now?

      “We are going to have to get you a bra soon,” she says.

      I’m eight years old and I want my pants to be snug, but not like this. Not so when I take them off my belly is all...

  6. Part Two. Rupture and Recognition:: Body Re-Formations

    • 5 Sex Traitors: Autoethnography by Straight Men
      (pp. 81-98)

      Recent feature filmsBrüno(2009) andHumpday(2009) foreground the mix of repulsion and attraction that characterizes a common obsession that heterosexual men have with homosexuality. As an über-fag screaming across the screens of suburban cineplexes,Brünoamplifies to absurdity the swish and salaciousness in the enduring tradition of straight men playing at gay. The widespread knowledge that actor Sacha Baron Cohen is partnered with a woman provides young straight male viewers – especially those in groups – the necessary insurance to risk the queasy pleasure of publicly revelling in queer excess. Though watchingBrünowas perhaps not entirely risk-free,...

    • 6 Looks Can Be Deceiving: Exploring Transsexual Body Alchemy through a Neoliberal Lens
      (pp. 99-118)

      I remember vividly my discovery of female-to-male transsexual (FTM) artist Loren Cameron’s work. I stood in a bookstore perusing his internationally acclaimedBody Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits(1996). Spellbound, I met the gaze of Cameron’s FTM photographic subjects, whose images represented life on the other side of sex reassignment. My gut reaction was not jubilation; instead, I panicked, threw the book down, and bolted out the door in what would be a last attempt to escape my increasingly inevitable transition. This recollection is a useful preface to my critique of Cameron’s visual representations of trans men because it points to the...

    • 7 Visceral (Auto)biographies: Plastic Surgery and Gender in Reality TV
      (pp. 119-134)

      Today’s “wound culture” (Seltzer 1998) abounds with confessional presentations of one’s innermost conditions. In fact, as Dieter Mersch (2003) has put it, we are only subjects insofar as we make our selves visible and insert them into the visual and narrative frames of the present cultural condition. The television genre known as “reality TV” (McCarthy 2007; Biressi and Nunn 2005) is one of the most popular and controversial arenas for the fabrication of public selves. In shows likeSurvivor, Big Brother, andThe Apprentice, reality television employs modes of representation that foreground personal trauma, stress, and the testing of a...

  7. Part Three. Interior Lives:: Conditions of Persistence and Survival

    • 8 My Life as a Museum, or, Performing Indigenous Epistemologies
      (pp. 137-152)

      In an Indigenous epistemological practice, the museum is not a building; it is a place, a location for potential learning, in the landscape. As a Tahltan Nation person, I can travel to this place to gather knowledge and bring that learning back to our community.

      In my time of learning about community art practices from the Kaska Dena Elders at Frances Lake, Yukon Territory, they shared with me an important Kaska Dena philosophy about the value placed on learning, knowledge practices, and personal and communal histories. I would like to acknowledge the wisdom and guidance of these teachers, including Mary...

    • 9 Gut Reactions: Mona Hatoum’s Corps étranger
      (pp. 153-170)

      Mona Hatoum’s award-winning video installation,Corps étranger, is comprised of a large cylindrical tube, approximately twelve metres high, which visitors enter and exit through two narrow vertical openings. Sounds emerge from speakers carefully placed inside the walls: a heartbeat booms at a bass register and gurgling noises immerse the listener in the body through sonic amplification. When the projection starts, a series of images unfold. Entryways into orifices are enlarged in scale and scope, revealing inner surfaces dripping with gastric juices. Within the pinkness of this fleshy interior, bilious yellow tones glisten. The effect is beautiful, yet grotesque – a...

    • 10 “Please Don’t Let Me Be Like This!” Un-wounding Photographic Representations by Persons with Intellectual Disability
      (pp. 171-188)

      Roland Barthes (1981) writes that when we pose for the camera, we want the photograph to present us as we really (think we) are, or as we would most desire to be seen, and not as the self that the photographer and the moment capture. But what happens when you have had absolutely no control over how you are represented, over the visual images presented to viewer(s) that define, delimit, and determine how you are seen and thus known? As a group, people with intellectual disabilities (ID) have had little, if any, influence over the making and use of public...

    • 11 “Why Should Our Bodies End at the Skin?” Cancer Pathography, Comics, and Embodiment
      (pp. 189-206)

      Midway through his acclaimed graphic memoir of cancer experience,Stitches(2009), David Small invites readers to “step inside your mouth with me” (182). Here we are asked to participate in a fantasy of embodied self-knowledge predicated on our ability to see; in a series of five panels, the narrator reveals to us the inside of a mouth and throat and explains that the function of the vocal chords is to “[make] the sound of your voice, your curses and your prayers” (183). The first three images show a tiny figure climbing through teeth, over a tongue, and peering downwards into...

  8. Part Four. Spectatorship and Historical Memory:: The Ethics of Critical Embodiment

    • 12 Witnessing Genocide and the Challenges of Ethical Spectatorship
      (pp. 209-224)

      On 26 July 2010, an international tribunal in Cambodia found Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, guilty of crimes against humanity, torture, and murder. Duch, the chief torturer at the notorious Tuol Sleng Prison, was the first of five senior Khmer Rouge leaders to be prosecuted for his participation in one of the worst genocides of the twentieth century. International news coverage of the trial frequently reproduced images of victims from the prison’s photographic archive, which contains over five thousand pictures of prisoners who died there. For viewers outside of Cambodia, how do we witness these images in...

    • 13 Digital Melancholia: Archived Bodies in Carmin Karasic’s With Liberty and Justice for All
      (pp. 225-243)

      As a multilayered and contested historical narrative, the Middle Passage, with roots in economically driven and morally justified slavery, has cast a long shadow across American race relations. For African Americans, “chattel slavery’s hyperexploitation of labor, multi-scalar expropriation and deformation of place – of bodies, homes, communities, and national status” continue to inform discussions of systemic racism for reasons that remain poorly understood by a mainstream white culture that seems to view the matter as ancient and now redundant history (Kaplan 2007, 512). In a very real way, mainstream white society continues to deny the ongoing legacy of a country...

    • 14 Connective Tissue: Summoning the Spectator to Visual Autobiography
      (pp. 244-268)

      In our introduction, we argued “that the cultural and political salience of visual autobiographies inheres in how they generate and critically mobilize affect for pedagogical purposes” (6). To complicate our contribution to visual culture studies, autobiography studies, and disability studies along these lines, and to trouble spectatorial engagement with cultural re-configurations of public memory, we conclude with a discussion of visual autobiographies that emphaticallyrefuseaffective connectivity even as theydemandit. Why and how, we ask, do these works embed negation? What is at stake, pedagogically, in negation, and what are the implications for understanding visual autobiography and embodiment?...

  9. References
    (pp. 269-300)
  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 301-306)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-308)