The Body – Session 1

Today I had an introduction to this terms Constellation study group being The Body in  Art, Design and Society, taught by Dr Ashley Morgan. It will focus around body (obviously) but how the body is seen from a historical and contemporary context.

Although today was more of an introduction into what was to come, she did look briefly into areas in relation to the body. She began by discussing how the body is both the subject and the object. For example when we take a photo of ourselves our bodies become objects as they are representations of us.

It can be said that we take our bodies for granted and ignore the details, for example like the sensation of a pen in your hand, it is forgotten due to the shift of focus on the writing. Although, it can be said that people who exercise are more aware of their bodies as they are aware of its capabilities. As well as that we are generally more aware of other people’s bodies, especially through comparison of one another.

Looking briefly at a historical context it is important to consider technology as being an old idea… applied in new ways.

This can be seen within mummification, bodily enhancements were often made in order to make the body whole again to allow the soul to pass on. The idea of leaving the body untouched after death for religious reasoning was key between the 5th and 15th century. Science at that time was based on reason not fact. One way this was done was through the diagnostic handbook based on the solar system and by the end of 1500 it was law that physicians should refer to the alignment of the moon before carrying out any procedures.

During the 18th and 19th century the power over the body began to shift over to Science’s favour. They were allowed to cut into the bodies of deceased criminals as they believed that they would not be allowed into heaven due to the crimes committed. This was a turning point for the body as people were now beginning to understand and see what was found internally.

It was believed that female bodies had all the attributes of male bodies – but internally. It was also believed that women who ‘thought’ too much were suffering from ‘hysteria’ which is caused by the womb travelling up to the brain and could kill them. The ‘cure’ for this was to remove the womb from the female.

During the late 19th and 20th century science became more advanced and discoveries such as penicillin were being made. There were also war medical advancements, such as masks that resembled faces in order to normalise the faces of wounded soldiers who suffered from disfigurement.

The idea of a prosthetic limb is now something widely seen in the 21st century, however it is not something created in order to normalise the body or make it whole again, but for some specific prosthetics are made to enhance their abilities. For example, Olympic athletes wear running blades as it allows them to run at a faster speed compared to what a normal looking leg prosthetic would allow.

Although this lecture was only a brief insight into the body, it has already revealed the depth and distance the body has travelled over the years to reach where we are today. It is an ever evolving being that will continue to teach us new things and fascinate us.

We also worked in groups and discussed the relevance the body had within my discipline. With Graphic Communication it can be said that it at times directs the body i.e. a fire escape sign. It can also be said that through advertising people may be persuaded to buy something, which may alter their body in some way.

Overall, I really enjoyed this lecture and am feeling optimistic of what’s to come. So far I have found the subject area very interesting and is something I believe I will be encouraged to research in my own time. I can’t wait to see what’s to come!




Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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