Speaking of Bodies and Bodies That Speak: On the Currency of the Body in Contemporary ARt and Feminist Politics

Vishmidt, Marina. 2017. 'Speaking of Bodies and Bodies That Speak: On the Currency of the Body in Contemporary ARt and Feminist Politics'. In: Speak, body: Art, the Reproduction of Capital and the Reproduction of Life. University of Leeds April 21st, 2017 — April 23rd, 2017. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This talk will explore how bodies became so productive in contemporary and recent political vernaculars, and will attempt to trace a line from biopolitics to mimesis. With the emergence of ‘the body’ as the central signifier of much poststructuralist and post-foundationalist cultural theory and philosophy some decades ago, and the more recent terminology of ‘bodies’ as the loci of political agency (‘bodies assembling’, ‘Parliament of Bodies’), an ostensible move beyond the humanist confusions of ‘subject’ and ‘people’ rather presents us with the possibility of pseudo-concreteness that often accompanies theoretical projects intolerant of (real) abstraction. The discourse of the body and of bodies elides the question of how and why bodies are produced, accepting the bio-, if not necro-, political, premises of the current dispensation – one that capitalises on the fragile, isolated and suffering body - and converting them into an ethical victory. This then tends to exemplify rather than challenge a scenario in which ‘the reproduction of capitalism and the reproduction of organisms become indistinguishable’ (Johnson). In other words, what form of social relation makes such a thing as ‘the body’ not just legible but a departure point for any political subjectivation? Another suggestion comes from the somewhat recessed category of mimesis, here understood as the suspension of the human/nature, human/technology divide by means of struggle, play and performance. I will conclude with a close analysis of Valie EXPORT’s Body Configurations series.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)


art, feminism, politics, critical theory, mimesis, precarity

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


21 April 2017Accepted
23 April 2017Completed

Event Location:

University of Leeds

Date range:

April 21st, 2017 — April 23rd, 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 May 2017 11:19

Last Modified:

28 Jul 2021 15:46



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