This Body's Virtuous Circles

Cinzia Cremona

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Much writing has been published about the artist's body in the past forty years, variously identifying its deployment as narcissism, exhibitionism, challenge or indulgence, or as emancipation, visibility, site for establishing identity and relationships. Rosalind Krauss, Peggy Phelan, Amelia Jones and Tracey Warr come to mind. All women. Not a coincidence. Whilst men's bodies have been freely object and subject throughout the history of art, women's bodies had to be wrenched out of passivity and re-inscribed in culture to gain the right to desire.

Postmodernism and post-structuralism are said to have marked the fall of the boundaries of what is acceptable and established. There is no 'beyond the pale', as the pale itself is not there anymore. Nevertheless, dichotomies pervade discourse subject and object (above), men and women, us and them, boundaries of inclusion and subtle coercion re-established at every conference, lecture, event. Dichotomies are useful shortcuts, comparable to acronyms - economical habits of thought. Complexity is time-consuming and costly.

So the body. My body. Image and substance, thought, ongoing transformation that I fixed for a moment to allow an encounter. That fold in the skin, and those hairs I should be ashamed, embarrassed at the very least. I am.

Instructions and Voice play with the body 'on offer' whilst I feel a very strong sense of vulnerability at this level of exposure, I think it has an important ethical dimension. Generally, when the body becomes image, it is fixed into a position that lends itself to definition and interpretation. In these two works, I have looked for ways of offering a transitional moment of relating. I have tried to image my body with her complex combination of thoughts, emotions, roles, and received projections. In different encounters, the momentary relationship will settle this complexity in temporary, personal readings, hopefully just to be dislodged by successive encounters.

These works stand for points in a continuous process of relations/relationships, and take the body not as a site for subjectivity or identity, but as an opportunity for considering modes of relating. In that embodied momentary relational function, categorisations are invalid, as a multiplicity of definitions can be applied without evaporating into contradictions - positive/negative, sexy/chaste, welcoming/rejecting, glamorous/gritty, nurturing/demanding, desiring/repressed ...


We are left with questions about our ways of encountering the other - any other - How did I judge? What did I offer? What did I accept? What responses would I hope for in her place?

As positions merge into each other, the boundaries of worlds (see Luce Irigaray's latest book, 'Sharing the World') are blurred and individualisation becomes untenable. We only are 'in relation'.