The Body as an Object?


Ingold’s conceptualization of Gibson’s “ecological approach to visual perception” distinguishing between the medium, substances, and surfaces reminds me, perhaps in an indirect way, of the artwork of Ana Mendieta. However, her artwork does not place her in the general category of “human architect” since she uses her own body as the interface of medium and substances – or the surface. Mendieta’s focus is not on her body as evidence of a human body, so like Ingold writes “here the surface of the artefact or building is not just of the particular material from which it is made, but of materiality itself as it confronts the creative human imagination” (Ingold 5). Mendieta’s work, therefore, challenges Ingold’s framework of materials to include the human body as a potential material to add to the discussion of materiality since it takes on “thingliness” and loses some of its “human” quality.

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Works in Mexico                                                    Untitled (Body Tracks),1974

20 x 13 inches, 1973-78, C-Print                                                     35mm-slide documentation of a performance with blood and cloth


In Zoe’s class, the Archaeology of Contemporary Conflict, we’ve delved into the idea of the corpse as no longer being associated with whatever is essentially human; therefore, leaving it just another material object.  The living body, though, when separated from the idea of personality or personhood could be viewed as an object as well.  When the body is simply a body and not a person, then, we’re looking at its properties and not its qualities (as defined by Pye in Ingold).  Would it be possible then to bring the human body into the conversation of material and materiality?


2 Responses to “The Body as an Object?”

  1. sarahelsasser Says:

    I have a sort of related, interesting story that goes along with Savannah’s post to add as my post this week …

    I am interning at the Museum of Sex this semester, and yesterday I had to go through the last 9 years worth of artist submissions from people who think that they should be in the museum, and I came across this female artist whose work reminded me of this class and the readings. In her statement, she claimed that her paintings were of orgasms … she covered her body (and some of them also featured the body her partner) in paint and then had sex in all its variant forms on the canvases in order to transfer the orgasm onto the surface and materialize it. Her statement was very vague, so it was difficult to know anything for sure beyond the fact that she was claiming she was capturing orgasms as art. Again, this is a situation where the material is not too important, or at least could be read as secondary to the immaterial aspect of the orgasm as that which allows it to materialize, but as something that could perhaps be interchanged with mud or ochre or something else along those lines.

    Although not explicitly tied to this class, I thought this was an interesting story that could make us think about a whole new side to materiality and that which Ingold touched on very briefly, of emotions and desires being materialized.

  2. Whitney Fegett Says:


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