FRONT PAGE / POSTS
by Louise Jolly| Brighton, UK
Tuesday, 29 June 2010
tags: consumer culture, culture, emergence, europe, making sense
Once, the body was text: a second surface for the inscription and production of identity. But now, a host of technologies and practices are cutting through this outer skin, opening up the body's third interior for all to see.
While postmodern codes of the body revelled in its outwardness (its ability to encode identity through costume and appearance), we’re now delving into its inner landscape, with airport body scanners, biometric market research and even ‘neuro lit crit’ all re-framing the body as ‘content’ rather than as ‘form’.
Showing how advertising is picking up on this drive to get ‘under the skin’, a recent UK Department of Health campaign to curb alcohol abuse features scan-like images of the ‘damage you can’t see’.
Meanwhile, last year’s BBC 3 reality TV show ‘Make my body younger’ put participants through a ‘living autopsy’, scanning their insides to reveal the impact of their unhealthy lifestyles.
The overt codes here draw on the Enlightenment discourse of anatomy and dissection, in which the opening up of the body stands for the heroic scientific elucidation of its dark secrets.
But, just as the Enlightenment theatres of dissection played to shock, disgust and fear as much as to noble scientific rationalism, so today’s ‘living autopsies’ find echoes in darker cultural material. For instance, films like Hostel, Captivity and the whole ‘torture porn’ genre provide a stage for the theatrical cutting (or more likely slashing) open of the body and the revelation of what’s within.
These films may seem worlds away from a Department of Health campaign – but, like all the examples mentioned here, they belong to a context in which the body’s interior is increasingly being put on display. The theme is even extending to the nature-documentary genre, with the UK TV series 'Inside Nature's Giants' opening up animal corpses to look at them anatomically.
© Louise Jolly 2010