Saturday, July 08, 2017

THE BODY POLITIC

The Body Politic Gouache on paper 76 x 56 cm 2017


THE TERM 'THE BODY POLITIC'
The term 'the body politic' is used as a metaphor to describe a nation, a sovereignty, a corporation where people are organised, or considered as a group, subjected to laws pertaining to notions of citizenry. 

In a globalised world 'the body politic' can be considered as being all of us. 

The notion of a body to describe a group of people, and the systems that organise them, is intriguing. There is a fascinating history - but that's another post! 


THE HUMAN SECURITY FORUM
I've been stimulated to think about 'the body politic' after attending a terrific one day workshop "The Human Security Forum" hosted by Griffith University and facilitated by Dr. Samid Suliman, here in Brisbane, Australia. One of the presenters was a visiting scholar, Dr. Stefanie Fishel, from Alabama University, USA. Her book The Microbial State: Global Thriving and the Body Politic  is launched this month. [Check it out for the historical and philosophical background to ideas of 'the body politic' too]. 

After hearing Dr. Fishel speak at the workshop, and a few days later at an event hosted by the Queensland School of Continental Philosophy, the metaphoric capabilities of the body [human and non-human] were expanded, but also made more material. In making the metaphor more material, the body's relationship with its environment became more evidently important - for survival. In the age of the Anthropocene, this opens up more penetrative ways to think about 'the body politic's', ie: humankind's, relationship with Earth, the atmosphere and space. As I have previously written, Earth is our home, but the universe is our environment.* By blurring the lines between body and environment, making porosity evident, it becomes evident that they are interchangeable. This interchangeability is metaphoric, visceral and corporeal.

Ah, Ha! The spiritual notion of oneness has a catalytic essence, amongst others - of course! 


TREE-OF-LIFE
So, after mulling over ideas that popped into my head as I listened to Dr. Fishel, the age-old transcultural/religious tree-of-life symbol kept returning to me [regular readers will not be surprised!] as a motif that straddles the nano and the vast, linking body and environment. As the tree's branching appearance mirrors our human body's internal systems it also mirrors water, plant and landscape systems of Earth. The branching phenomena, above and below the ground, is also reflected in our eyes, on the palms of our hands and in finger prints. Other animals share body functioning traits, as they also share this planetary environment with us. Further afield, the tree's branching appearance is reflected in images of space, from nebulae to even large scale computer simulations of the structure of the universe. And, one wonders about multi-universes as branches and roots from a primordial 'tree' of no end or beginning! 


THE PAINTING - THE BODY POLITIC 
In The Body Politic I have painted another of my cosmic landscapes. The 'body' of the 'landscape' is on fire. This 'landscape' represents all kinds of environments, from the body itself - to a personal address - to a cosmic one - and more. The fire could be taken a couple of ways. Is it a destructive fire, or is it symbolic of renewal? The trees-of-life, moving up the centre of the painting, inhabit what I'd imagined as a kind of airway through the fiery 'body/landscape'. Here, the trees act as filtering follicles that keep air moving, making individual and collective breath possible. That trees literally produce oxygen is a key to the osmotic relationship between breathing bodies, the environment and even organisational concepts, such as the 'body politic'.

The Body Politic can be read as a 'landscape' of a human body - even a slice of it - like an x-ray or other internal views, such as a MRI scan. It could also be read as an multi-perspectival view of a literal landscape. Are you looking into this landscape, almost caught? Or are you above it, looking down upon it, like a remote pilot operating a drone, monitoring successful strikes? Or, are you below it, looking up towards a fiery atmospheric battlefield? Maybe it's a cosmic sky - a future 'scape' of the demise of the sun and the solar system, with the trees representing our scattered star dust - the foibles of human politics now meaningless...?

DATA-PROXY 'BODY POLITIC'
From a technological point of view, the branching appearance of the tree, also mirrors human-made systems, such as computer circuitry. In fact, the tree's branching system is used to 'visualise' flows of data, behavioural patterns and other information. Artificial intelligence systems incorporate what is called 'tree-logic', based on ideas of decision and learning trees. In the age of digital and cyber technology, the 'body politic' extends into realms of technology, where the 'body' is no longer living, but is presented, in subterfuge, as a re-assembled data-proxy. That's another post!

Cheers, 
Kathryn

P.S. Check out this article in The Conversation written by Assoc. Prof Anthony Bourke and Assoc Prof. Stefanie Fishel Politics for the Planet: Why Nature and Wildlife Need Their Own Seats at the UN.


* Selection of other posts where home and environment are mentioned.

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