Book of Abstracts
About the Preconference
Human body and through that the “image of the human
being” is a complex phenomenon of observation, which has constituted a
topic of discussion since ancient times. If one considers the thousand
associations and the brainstorming that accompany the way the body
composes a unity that covers almost all the spectrum of human life,
including the social institutions that serve it (hospitals,
restaurants, clothing and footwear stores, beauty parlors, hair salons,
gyms, etc.). Our body is omnipresent, it moves to different places, it
touches other bodies, it falls in love, it relaxes, it gets trained, it
gets angry, it dances, it gets sick, it becomes prostituted, it gets
illustrated, it gets advertised etc. |
As object of study it also concerns art –throughout the history– where the human being –depending on the time, the space and the culture where he lives in, as well as on the social-historical and political context, and the ideals of every era and the technical means of representation– he creates depictions of the body on the basis of the perception that he has for himself and his existence. People created a plethora of images on the basis of the perception of self and in relation to their position among things, animals and other people, long before they developed writing systems.
By studying these images one can understand human life throughout time and the changes that it has undergone, as well as the ideas that prevailed regarding human nature. In those images apart from the human body that is presented (ours and others’), what is also revealed is the diversity of everyday life (clothing, social roles, social practices, emotions etc.) in its natural and artificial environment. One could say that the history of mankind is inextricably linked to the representations of the body. The body, as a multiperspectival socio-cultural crystal reflects or better difracts life and the roles that we are called upon to play at different occasions.
It is a fact that the majority of people today live in a world full of turmoil, uncertainties, insecurity and anxiety, while in the international political system prevails a sense of authoritarianism, terrorism and corruption. People live and experience many different kinds of crises (ecological, financial, political etc.) including purely humanistic and psychological crises which are linked mainly to uneployment and new situations of poverty but also to a lack of a deeper meaning in life.
Very characteristic for the contemporary human body and lived experience and their processes of individualization (rationalization/instrumentalization, moralization, psychologization) and politicization in the era of the contemporary and upcoming crisis are the below referred two recent quotes. One is that of C. Kimpouropoulou entitled “Human Meat Market” from the column “Letters to My Daughter” (published in “MONO” in 28/02/2012) and the second is that of Nikola Sevastaki entitled “Bodies of the New Age” published in “Avgi” in 11/03/2012.
The first excerpt:
This day I will speak to you about meat. Even though we have entered the Lenten season. Not so important for us, right? We still honour it (meat) in the midst of this period, until the lamb of God has been sacrificed. This is a strange thing: all religions and their grandiose metaphysical ideas are symbolically defined around forbidding or exhortation regarding meat consumption. Take, eat, this is My Body. Stay away from the unclean pig.... Hands-off the sacred cow.
Think, it is hundred of thousands of years since our species abandoned exclusive vegetarianism, and started losing its long vermicular appendage as it turned carnivore. Who would know the guilt that felt the first human that plunged his teeth in a mammal’s warm flesh? Why guilt? As if the juicy fruit of a tree that satisfied his hunger was less living than the scared animal before its slaughter! Or maybe the secret of guilt lies elsewhere? In the fear that sometime, the same craving one feels for the flesh of a piglet, the same may be felt for the meat of the woman who is his companion or for the child that he is training to become a good hunter as well… This taboo was also overcome, my dear Vera, by our ancestor. Hunger, which was his companion in all the leaps of his intelligence, many times drove our species to cannibalism.
Do I sound like a cynic, almost gross, my dear Vera? Think for a bit: eating raw a tender little animal which could have been a playful pet is considered an unthinkable monstrosity. But if you surgically chop the same little animal, like a French butcher, you marinate it in the herbs and the red wine, you saute it in fine olive oil and you slowly cook it with herbs, this will be considered an act of the utmost civilization.
I don’t mean to shock you, my dear Vera. But in a similar way in the passage of time human species transformed cannibalism from barbarism to an act of progress. Not in a literal, culinary sense, but always with some form of consumption of living human flesh along with its intellectual abilities. You learn these days for the accomplishments of the ancient world, the grandeur of the Athenian democracy, the artistic miracles that inspire awe. You are aware that all these were based on a social pyramid where at its bottom were the slaves. They were the human meat that its consumption –not as an appetizer, but as power of production– allowed the rich Athenians to enjoy plenty of time for philosophy, art and democracy. Today, it seems unthinkable for a master to have life and death authority over his servant. Nevertheless, it was an immense progress for that time to give an opportunity of survival to those poor slaves, who were generated by that huge market of human meat, the wars. Previously they just killed them.
As time went by, my dear Vera, the debt, another big market of human flesh was added to the cultural achievements of our world. You have already learnt about seisachtheia (debt cancellation) and Solon’s effort to rid the poor from the obligation to provide themselves as collateral to the loan sharks. This is an indication for the price of human meat at the time. But, since for many centuries all the debt cancellations did not have the desired result, Shakespeare provides us with the exact kilo price in the “Merchant of Venice”: Shylock the loan shark asks from Antonio the merchant a pound of meat from his body (about half a kilo), for a loan of 3000 ducat.
Does human meat seem awfully expensive, my dear Vera? In fact, it isn’t. This bloody market demonstrates a lot of variance in the passage of time. Human meat that the colonial regimes of Europe drew in abundance from the colonies dropped its pricing almost down to null. Later on, when the slave trade declined, the great grabbers of human history, when they did not offer the youth of Europe as “flesh for the canons” in their wars, they set its price outside the factories, the fields and the shops, using what we call the salary. It is a huge progress, the salary, in comparison to the death authority under the rule of the slave holder. But we still are under the same denominator. The measure now may not be the weight, but the time. Nevertheless, the so-called labour market is still a euphemism for the human meat market. Instead, now the “meat” itself can have an opinion on its price.
Hence we arrive at the conclusion, my dear Vera. That’s what we are losing with the cannibals of the Memoranda we are thrown into. We are losing the minimum opinion on the price of our “meat”. We enter the assessment, in the name of a “salvation”, as inspired by minds sick from greed. The “ripe” ones, we are priced at 480 euros per month, 22 euros per day, or 2,7 euros per hour. The unripe, with the vigorous flesh, the knowledge and the imagination of youth, are valued for even less. We are meat in the crook of a market that turns us back to the darkest eras of the human prehistory. Even myself, with the tough meat of middle age, even you, with the flesh of innocence. And that is exactly the objective: not just to lift our pricing, but to end with the prehistory of humanity. To uproot once and for all our dark instincts which make us look at the “other” -not as an image of ourselves, or our companion in the human adventure, but as a portion of meat to be consumed...
The second excerpt:
New age bodies are not the ones glorified, in futuristic fashion, in the magazines in 90’s –being bodies of aesthetic wellness and of overexpanded individuality, they could not be “destabilized” and even be temporalily destroyed, grounded on the certainty of their reformation in the routine and banality of everyday life. Today, this very same routine is under constant examination. Everyday life fiercely attacks the person and denies every idea of abandonment of interchangeable relations.
We tend to speak about the superior spheres of the dominant “reformation through austerity”. However, the real drama is being acted on the law scale of the bodies that have to withstand constant pressure for being on time with deadlines, payments of instalments and cover debts. The time of our bodies has become an indissoluble sequence of messages that remind us in a threatening manner one or another obligation. And in this line of strict definitions, in this scheduled brake down of any autonomy, the so called modern or “postmodern” individualism is seen as an absolute prank. What kind of “individualism” is being saved in all kind of lines where we wait to pay or to get unemployment services etc. What kind of individuality is being reserved between the “Scylla” of an underestimated work and the “Charybdis” of unemployment? This pressure between negative possibilities is destroying today’s body. And it looks punished by the “political economy”, which it had forgotten under an illusion which claimed that the collective has nothing to do with the individual, that the collective life is just an empty space for our private strategies. We reached a point where the body no longer has any strategy, neither “hedonistic” nor “ascetic”. It just withstands an endless present like the animals withstand a big tropical storm. It withstands the “whole thing” as an ultimatum or a notification for eviction. Where then could the body go? If there is an opportunity to come to its own self, this could only happen if it comprehends the causes of its present denial. An then it may again seize the day, as Saul Bellow said…
The main objective of the Interdisciplinary-Artistic Symposium is to reflect critically in the form of scientific presentations and artistic works for the implications and influences that has the contemporary crisis for our everyday live, our human body and lived experience.