How to make a body

Jones-Barlow, Katie (2019) How to make a body. In: turn the page Collected Essays 2018. turn the page, pp. 81-91. ISBN 9781527241138

Abstract

What can a body do? This question is posited to the book-object. This essay argues that such an object, long considered passive and constrained by its bindings – the finished product – has the potential to move outside of these boundaries. The ideas situated in this essay pull from the writing of feminist scholars and new materialist thought; and is specifically anchored by political theorist Jane Bennett’s concepts outlined in the book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010). Bennett points out that thinking of molecules as ‘lively’ or ‘vibrant’ releases the protocols of the ‘body’ and the ‘organism’ from its presiding biological definitions, allowing us to explode its material edge. Utilising this idea as a lens to reimagine and reinterpret the book-object, this text explores how book-objects challenge prevailing definitions of subject and object by working performatively. Looking at the artwork and journals of Helen Chadwick alongside selected self-initiated work, this essay proposes that ‘object-things’, such as books, have a certain material agency. As such – expanding upon the initial question – this text asks: what can a book-body do?

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