Biopolitical Imaging

PhD project by Christina Varvia

Portraits of an Expanded Body: Bread. Credit: Christina Varvia, 2020.

Biopolitical Imaging examines the way that visualizations of human (and non-human) bodies can act as evidence of state violence. Employing feminist and posthuman epistemologies, as well as the methodologies of Forensic Architecture, the PhD project unpacks the human body as a milieu, an expanded space of material flows.

At the age of the Anthropocene, the human body remains at the centre of political conflict—both as the object of political power and as the agent that propagates political and environmental violence, often at the scale of the planet—yet it’s conception needs redrawing. What we understand as the human body can no longer rely on the boundary of it’s skin for its definition. The project begins by offering a thought provocation for the remeasurement of the human body. It includes every bite of food the body ever consumed, every drop of water that ever quenched its thirst, every molecule of oxygen it ever breathed, and all the excrement it ever produced. This expanded body allows the study of material flows, grounded in the intimacy of our interior, yet reaching out to distant landscapes and getting entangled with all sorts of toxic substances and alternative creatures on the way.

The project then turns to develop a framework for reading imagistic representations of bodies, in order to reveal traces of substances that evidence state violence and where the biopolitical paradigm has failed to protect the body politic. Following specific substances, and treating them as interscalar vehicles, the project strings together images from different registers and techniques: photographs, medical drawings, x-rays, microscopic sections of living cells, and GIS conglomerated data. These images form geo-bio-chemical maps that allow the study of material flows. Cognisant of the ways that visualising the body has in the past coincided with violent efforts to control it, the proposition here is attempting to use images against themselves–to make them work as evidence of state-led violence, empowering resistance and claims for justice. Learning from feminist and posthuman epistemologies, as well as the methodologies of Forensic Architecture, how could we suggest new toolkits for reading images and making them actionable for the protection of human and environmental rights?

For further information please contact Christina Varvia at christina.varvia@cc.au.dk.

Essays published in connection with project: Image-sections: The Evidentiary Capacity of Images to Sample the Lifeworld and Have an Operative Life and The Space of the Body: A Working Definition.

Whose Bildung?

Renegotiating modern art museums through exhibition practices: PhD research project by Pernille Lystlund Matzen

Which role can exhibitions play in rethinking the role and relevance of the art museum as a public institution today? The Ph.D.-research project "Whose ‘Bildung’? Renegotiating modern art museums through exhibition practices" explores how a number of recent art exhibitions in Scandinavia enter into a critical dialogue with the idealistic promise of the museum as a Bildung-institution of common, public knowledge in light of new critiques, voices and societal concerns.

My Ph.D.-research project “Whose ‘Bildung’? Renegotiating modern art museums through exhibition practices” explores how a number of recent art exhibitions in Scandinavia enter into a critical dialogue with the idealistic promise of the museum as a Bildung-institution of common, public knowledge in light of new critiques, voices and societal concerns.

Some of the main questions I ask in my project are: Which role can exhibitions take in questioning and revising the ‘blind spots’ of museum institutions and their own collections through practice? Can exhibitions and exhibition-making act as a place where the institution’s own socio-political, aesthetic and economic paradigms are challenged and even reformulated? If so, what are the possibilities and limitations of such a practice, and how does it play out differently across institutional actors?

Institutional critiques of the art institution is of course nothing new, and artistic practices since the 1960s have already provided – and continue to provide – rich, engaged institutional critiques that give stimuli to develop new forms to the established art institutions. However, it is new that art museums themselves have started to use their cultural authority to challenge and renegotiate some of their own hegemonic structures. This is what my research project explores.

For further information please contact Pernille Lystlund Matzen at plm@louisiana.dk and/or +45 20886450.