PZI: Body Language and Embodied Meaning

Body Language and Embodied Meaning is a series of lectures and screenings curated by Anke Bangma and hosted by TENT. and Witte de With between December 2004 and April 2005. This lecture series looked at ethnographic films, scientific spectacle, performance, body art, theatre and dance, to explore how the body can be understood as a site of cultural conditioning and as a source of knowledge and meaning.

The body is not a “natural given”, but shaped by cultural conditioning. It is the protagonist of both voluntary and involuntary actions and gestures, producing language and cultural meaning, while at the same time itself being grasped and defined by it.

Historically, the accumulation of knowledge about the human body by the human sciences (medicine, physiology, psychology, ethnology) is intimately connected with the management of the body and the disciplining of behaviour. As a consequence, bodies have not only been literally mined and exploited for their productivity and value, but also been categorized as normatively legitimate or undesirable. As Judith Butler has said, not all bodies matter in the same way.

Bodily language is therefore not so much the expression of a personal inner world, but a discursive gesture. But exactly because the body is a site of cultural conditioning, it has also been put forward by artists and theorists as a site for transgressing the cultural constraints of meaning and behaviour.

See for the complete programma and more information the website of the Piet Zwart Institute.