The Body As A Project

Week Five

Reflexive Bodies/The Body as a Project


Last time we talked about class, access to food, dieting – and these being quite old concepts

Anorexia was a disease in medieval times, not just today. Can be related to religion – fasting

Certain things we think are only a modern issue – but they are not

Technology applied to body – people have been doing this for a long time


Today’s lecture; A philosophical approach to the body


Reflexivity – you are a subject and an object, a thing to be acted on/observed by yourself.


Where does the body sit in relation to your subject? Is it evident?

Is it implicit in your design? Is it about or for the body?

Example; Prosthetic hand for child made in fab lab

What did the designers have to understand in order to design this?


Reflexive Embodiment – Nick Crossley


We have investment in our bodies – physically and emotionally

We see our bodies as something to work on


We are subjects – an active person available to have a conversation with

We are also objects – our physical bodies are an object

People represented in the media are often presented as an object (Objectified).


Crossley – Reflexivity. When I am washing, I am both the subject being washed, and the agent who is washing.


You are looking in the mirror; you are the subject (the one looking) and the object (the one being looked at)

In the mirror is an image of us, not ourselves.


Writing on your blog is reflexive- think about yourself as a subject and an object – writing about what are you doing, thinking about what you are doing.


DescartesI think therefore I am. He said that what we think is more important than our bodies. This suggests our conscious mind can exist without our bodies. The consciousness is important.


Crossley says you can’t have a thought without a body, so you are not capable of consciousness without a body.


We have our bodies and we are our bodies.


We think about our bodies, changing them.


Selfies as examples.

Take a selfie, put it on your blog and write up about Crossley with it.


The Body as a Project.

Chris Shilling


Shilling talks about technology and the body, disability and the body etc.


We see the body as a project – that should be worked on and accomplished as part of an individual’s self-identity.


Examples of body projects; Standing out, going to the gym, how many drugs can I take. Dieting, overeating.


Tattooing is a phenomenon of the late 20th century; they used to have cultural implications attached to them. They are now normalised and part of a body project.


Body Projects.


Shift between the collective and the individual.

Impact on sense of identity. Identity can be individual or shared.

Identity can be fluid.

Identity can be built up over time.

Identity can be changed through the body – e.g. transgender

When you get older it is harder to have an individual identity, people with white hair are hard to tell apart. Also when you are a baby.

We can change the appearance, size and shape of our bodies. (Transplants, prosthesis). Kidney transplants.


Try looking around at people, what are their body projects?


It is ‘natural’ to have a body project


Body projects can be linked to consumerism

Perfume advertising – always about the body – always highly abstract


Increasing application of technology to bodies brings the ‘natural’ body into question.

Technology could be anything from deodorant to prosthesis.

Deodorant – changing the natural state of your body by adding technology


Crossley – We are not constantly obsessed with our bodies, attention to the body is episodic. You pay attention to our bodies when we are getting ready to go somewhere.


Pain reminds you about your body. But the body is not on your mind all the time.

You are reminded of your body when you catch sight of your body, and when you open a door.


Awareness of bodies is important in design.


Having a glass panel in a door is a safety issue; if someone is trapped inside you can see them. Why do some doors have glass in them and some don’t?


B Block – all open plan.

You can see each other, you become conscious of yourself.

You can see students working.

You can see more people more of the time.


Awareness of bodies is evident in architectural design.


The body as a subject, the body as an object.


Running as a body project.

You can acquire skills with your body.

Health and fitness is a post war phenomenon

Exercise clothing has been adopted as a fashion.

It is common to see people running on the streets

In the past, running was confined to a few people; men would usually run       for sport, competitively. Women were prevented from racing         competitively.

Kathryn Switzer entered 1967 Boston Marathon; people physically pulled       her off the race.

Women were told not to go out at night in case they were attacked.

Power and control.

Getting your body to do something challenging by doing it consistently,           training.

Running has now become a culturally accepted phenomenon of a body            project.

Look up ‘Sikhs and the City’ running club.


Culturally acceptable body projects

Women’s bodies – we assume they will be about appearance rather than         fitness.

We conflate beauty with fitness.

Consumer goods sold to women, beautification rather than fitness.

Consumer goods marketed at women, GPS watched, iPods, Jawbones   (fitness bangles).


Turning our bodies into objects and projects.


Body Project – ‘Ordinary athlete’

Wearing technology that helps us to train professionally (such as          Jawbone, GPS watch.)



The Body in Art and Design


Caravaggio – body with basket of fruit. The body is present in the painting; fruit is used to imply things about the body.


Tracy Emin – the absent body – it is still about the body even though there is no body present (See ‘Everyone I have Ever Slept With’ and ‘My Bed’)


In your subject is the body mainly present/mainly absent?


Design – Cup with no handle

A rubber sleeve replaces the handle – the body is implicit in the design.


Subversive stitch – Tapestries showing liberation of women. Feminist idea of the body. The icon of women. The body is implicit.


We can relate to art and design relating to the body because we all have bodies.


Using your hand as a technology, your body helps you to create art.



The body is a project

We have bodies, we are bodies – we are subjects but we are also objects.

Body projects – people hone aspects of the body – running – how far can           you push a body. Application of technology to this


Next Week

Body and affordance

Read in advance

Do you want a tutorial?



Must have a beginning, middle and end

Bibliography, references (Harvard referencing style) Alphabetical order.         (On Moodle in reading list)

500 – 1000 words



Author: lawrenceaaronmaker

Studying a BA Hons in Artist, Designer; Maker at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

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