2006 | 5 | 166-172
Article title

BODY, ART AND POWER (Kermenis, maksla un vara)

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The article deals with the philosophical interpretation of power in relation to the representation of body in contemporary art. Power, according to Michel Foucault's philosophy, is a wide concept meaning not political or economical dominance but a kind of relationships where dominance and subservience are interchangeable, creating a kind of network where the most varied processes of human life are involved. The body might possess power, too. Different trends of contemporary art represent the shift from the classical period determined by the mind and will to the post-classical one when the body and its sensations come to the foreground. The man realizes power relationships through the body. Since the 17th century the power has developed as the control over life. It happened in two forms: one of them was focused on the body as a mechanism, involving training, increasing skills, including systems of economical control. This is the politics of anatomy or discipline. The other sphere has increased in importance since the 18th century and is focused on the human body as a species through which biological processes like birth, death, health, and life duration are regulated. This is biopower. On the one hand, art conveys bodily passions, finality and death, expressions of pleasure, on the other - speaks about ways of how biopower is realized. Edmund Husserl's phenomenology describes two senses of the body: Leib stresses the presence of the spirit and connection between the body and the soul, Korper refers to the mortal, physiological and sensual body. The art of previous eras often strived to show the soul through the body. This is rarely found in contemporary art where the body appears as something mortal, changeable, vulnerable, cloned, something one chooses, etc. Artists often see the body as alienated, subjected to dominance and outer, alien power. The epoch is marked by a power that subjects, moves and changes the body, making it yielding, brutal, extreme and unstable. The body might turn into a detached thing injured in public (Viennese Actionism, Oleg Kulik, Gina Pane, Ron Athey, etc.), details come to the foreground, back and hair are depicted instead of face (Egon Schiele, etc.), the body becomes a place where the codes of consumerist culture are inscribed, etc.
  • Maija Kule, Faculty of History and Philosophy, University of Latvia, Marstalu iela 28-30, Riga LV-1050, Latvia
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