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The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Scar of Visibility
    Book Description:

    In The Scar of Visibility, Petra Kuppers examines the use of medical imagery practices in contemporary art, as well as different arts of everyday life. Among the works she investigates are the controversial Body Worlds exhibition of plastinized corpses, films like David Cronenberg's Crash that fetishize body wounds, representations of the AIDS virus on CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, and the paintings of outsider artist Martin Ramírez._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9768-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: BODILY FANTASIES
    (pp. 1-24)

    A scar: meeting place between inside and outside, a locus of memory, of bodily change. Like skin, a scar mediates between the outside and the inside, but it also materially produces, changes, and overwrites its site. If skin renews itself constantly, producing the same in repetition, the scar is the place of the changed script: mountains are thrown up, the copy isn’t quite right, crooked lines sneak over smooth surfaces. You can feel your scars itching, or pulsing, or, after a time, you can experience the sensation of touching yourself but feeling the touch as strange—nerves might not knit...

  5. 1. Visions of Anatomy: SPACE, EXHIBITIONS, AND DENSE BODIES
    (pp. 25-54)

    If Deleuze, Guattari, and the feminist scholars of corporeality I discussed in the introduction aim at a destabilization of knowledge, medical science’s pursuit of representation is necessarily engaged in a different project. Certainty and perfectibility are the objects of scientific research and visualization practices. These goals shape the agenda of contemporary biomedicine, which aims to close the gap between bodies and images, at least for practical purposes. With the belief in the correspondence of body information and visualization machinery, the trajectory goes toward a translucent body whose data are visibly available.¹

    In 1995, the following text was called “science fiction”:...

    (pp. 55-73)

    InThe Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception,Michel Foucault opens his discussion of the medical gaze in the eighteenth century with two stunning pieces of medical writing. As a reader, I find myself transfixed and strangely physically touched by two fantasy scenes—fantastical in their relation to my body, with my twenty-first-century sensibilities and my lay knowledges of medical discourses, and fantastical in relation to these contemporaneous imaginations working on establishing links between difference and order. These two passages are haunting me long after reading Foucault’s study. They crystallize important issues about the relationship between knowledge...

  7. 3. The Collaborative Arts: PAIN AND PERFORMANCE
    (pp. 74-94)

    From the investigation of scientific theaters of contingent certainty, played out on performing bodies in mental hospitals, medical baths, through the slowness of film, and in the dance of cancer, I will now turn to a different confounding of vision in the realm of the medical. This chapter will investigate pain and performance and will revisit many of the arguments that have woven themselves densely around the location of pain in art. The material is prodigious: pain and art have been fellow travelers for a long time. Pain is at the heart of the Hellenistic Laocöon sculpture, whose twisted limbs...

  8. 4. Intersections: BLOOD, LAUGHTER, AND THE SPACE-OFF
    (pp. 95-126)

    Bodies as singular, bounded entities, on singular journeys through the timespace continuum, move in and out of focus in this chapter. I am interested here in bodily fantasies that circle around boundaries and openings, played out between writing practices and bodily performances, and caught up in historical reference fields. I am/I was: these statements I wish to put under scrutiny, the relationship between an I authoring itself and the writing of bodies, within the dimensions of time and space. I want to show how different knowledges chafe against one another: biomedical certainties, historically contingent or psychologically specific ways of knowing...

  9. 5. Monsters, Cyborgs, Animals: CRASHES, CUTTINGS, AND MIGRAINES
    (pp. 127-154)

    This chapter deals with agency, the loss thereof, and the partial strategies that help artists to navigate in a world where ownership of bodies, aesthetics, and the right to one’s representation are dubious and purity is unattainable. Taking heed of Cixous’s warning, I will follow her path: just as she has called on the Medusa and her laughter, aware of Logos’s power over this call, so will I trace a path through stories told with precarious ownership and hopefulness.

    David Cronenberg’s filmCrashis a much-cited example of this play with loss of control. In a world of metal, cars,...

  10. 6. Medical Museums and Art Display: THE DISCOURSES OF AIDS
    (pp. 155-175)

    This chapter is concerned with sites, sights, and citations, that is, with the location and locatability of a specific sociocultural health issue: the spatial politics of HIV/AIDS representation and its identification in visual culture. In order to address the bodily fantasies surrounding AIDS, I visit museums, watch the TV seriesCSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and examine installation art.

    The journey of this chapter begins in Washington, D.C., on a quiet, leafy campus, where a large museum far away from the usual Smithsonian crowds holds the archival memory of the intersection of (at least) two aspects of the medicoindustrial complex: technoscience...

    (pp. 176-201)

    So far this book has told stories of agency—of ownership, decisions, actions; of bodily processes and performances; of arrests and stabilizations. This final chapter will focus once more on a fascination with the loss of control: the loss of individual agency in extreme situations, and the recuperation of partial agency through creative re-vision, re-hearing, and new spatial practices. Confinement and escape are the spatial acts that I wish to cite as the underlying tensions pressuring the readings here: the historical confinement of patients in mental health institutions, in hysterical paralysis, and in the operation theater, and the conceptual confinement...

    (pp. 202-210)

    Forces and differentials move together, and among them bodies emerge and negotiate their living. I have already quoted from Deleuze and Guattari’sAnti-Oedipusin the introduction as I was setting up my argument for the productive power of difference in the churnings of different knowledges about bodies and minds. I cite from it again here. Its description of art as social fantasy interfering with the reproduction of the same is a powerful guide to art production on the limits of outside and inside:

    Desiring machines . . . continually break down as they run, and in fact run only when...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 211-238)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-260)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-261)