The body as a manifesto
Illustration: Regina Rivas ©
Age, weight, traditional femininities and the objectification of the female body. Through nudity as an artistic expression, all these notions are contested.
Foucault (1979) had asserted that power relations are constructed, imposed and subverted through the body. If the body is a political terrain, to shape it, display it and represent it against the norm can be interpreted as an act of rebellion. In this section, the images displayed confront the nude, as the ultimate genre where the female body has been objectified over and over across time. On the other hand, the gaze behind these pictures is aimed to desexualise the female body. This is a way to defend the agency of the female body in a context in which its objectification goes far beyond symbolic violence. The ‘Paradise of Muhammad’ has one of the highest rates of rape, child abuse and child pregnancy in Latin America (The Guardian, 2018).
The image that opens this section belongs to Leonor de Blas (@leodeblas) and is part of a photo essay titled Memories of the Body. In this series, the photographer proposes ‘to escape the old ideas about the body thought as a thing, as a static element, and to approach it as a subject charged with meaning’. Leila Buffa (@leilabuffa), on the other hand, reinterprets ceramic, an artistic expression rooted in the traditions of Paraguayan culture and inherited from precolonial times (Escobar, 2004, p.36). Buffa uses the malleability of clay pottery to make a feminist statement through its Matetas (a juxtaposition of the words ‘pot’ and ‘tits’, which in English can be read as ‘potits’). If the female body in the history of art has been depicted as a vessel, empty of content, she puts it into evidence, while questioning the idealisation of the feminine figure by transforming clay pots into female bodies with breasts in diverse forms and sizes.
Mayeli Villalba (@yealialba) portrays Belén Rodríguez (@gordactiva), a blogger who declares herself as 'gordactivista' (a juxtaposition of the words ‘fat’ and ‘activist’: ‘fatactivist’). By showing a comfortable Rodríguez posing naked, photographer and model rebel themselves against a patriarchal aesthetic which regulates and controls women through disciplinary practices directed to produce a female body of a certain size, as the philosopher Sandra Bartky (1988) had suggested based on Foucault’s theory. The picture was originally posted followed by a text from the blog of Rodríguez, as a declaration of principles: ‘We do not want to be told: “Yes, you're fat but you're beautiful on the inside” or “you're cute to be fat”. We do not want to be flattered with pity’.
Camila Morínigo (@metamorfosisambulante) gives visibility to a crucial issue regarding the representation of the female body on Instagram: censorship. Morínigo shoots a close-up of a nipple only covered by flower petals. In this case, the act of sharing the picture on a social network that specifically prohibit the exhibition of this part of the female breast, can be read as a criticism to Instagram, as all the pictures that contribute to the movement #freethenipple do by using this hashtag. The last picture in this section is an intimate self-portrait of Paula Godoy (@yopaulagodoy), where she appears shaving her hair in front of the mirror, as a confrontation of the notion of femininity understood in binary codes. It also brings to mind Judith Butler’s statement (1999) that gender is performative.
Bartky, S., 1988. Foucault, Femininity, and the Modernization of Patriarchal Power. In: I. Diamond and L. Quinby, eds., 1988. Feminism & Foucault: reflections on resistance. Boston: Northeastern University Press, pp. 61-86.
Butler, J., 1999. Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. 10th anniversary ed. New York: Routledge.
Escobar, T., 2004. El arte fuera de sí (The art outside of itself). Asunción: FONDEC and CAV / Museo del Barro.
Foucault, M., 1979. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage Books.