Utopian Bodies and in/visibility

Seminar Tuesday June 20, 10:00.11:30
at "Skolesal", Geologisk Museum, Østervoldgade 5-7, 1350 Copenhagen K.

On the panel: David Bell and Marika Rose, who work in Utopian Studies and Philosophical Theology, respectively; Karen de Perthuis, a Fashion Studies scholar from Australia; and Mathias DanboltSofie Lebech and Franziska Bork Petersen from IKK.

Bodies relate to utopia in multiple ways: they engage in a utopian ‘play with the impossible’, attempt to become ‘better’ in ‘human enhancement’, and embody critiques of the status quo. On the panel, we will address the role that the in/visibility of utopian bodies plays. While classic literary utopias commonly sought to erase the individually visible body – to the advantage of a collective one – visibility seems to be a key merit in more recent examples of ‘utopian bodies’. Both the supposed enhancement of human beauty and capacity in practices such as cosmetic surgery, bodybuilding and competitive sports, comes with a focus on the body’s visibility. The fashion body is one that is fundamentally grounded in appearance; is celebrated, envied, desired but also repudiated and reviled, yet it often does not actually exist, except as image.

Conversely, bodies disappear in different ways when we talk about intellectual labour: the fantasy of the internet as an escape from embodiment is analogous to the fantasy of monastic contemplation as disembodied thought. In contemporary dance, a recent trend has been to remove the dancer’s body from the stage, and choreograph ‘things’, instead. What is the utopian/dystopian implication in all this? In today’s political reality, which bodies are visible or even hypervisible – and which aren’t visible at all.