A philosophical lecture performance / video
Anatomy theatre, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
19th November 2015

Video work (consisting of the video screened during the performance, including the text of the lecture, and documentary material recorded during the performance, 55 min)   >>

Text (english)   >>


The body – supposedly the most nearby thing – seems to elude any clear-cut definition. As soon as we try to delimit its meaning, we inevitably evoke an endless regression into further indefinable conceptions: if we distinguish the body from the psyche (the mind, the soul etc.), we will have to outline what this immaterial complement of the body is. If we determine the body as an extension in space, we will have to understand what space is, and besides we will be confronted with the question what it is, that is extended in space – is there a subject that has a body, or is the body the subject itself? If we choose this second option, why then do we speak of ‘my body’ and experience ourselves in a certain relation to the body – as when being happy or unhappy with our body?

In her lecture Zoe DeWitt gives an overview of some occidental philosophies of the body from the classical conceptions of Plato and Aristotle up to the contemporary approach of Jean-Luc Nancy. By dissecting their basic presuppositions, Zoe shows that all these philosophies are not only connected with certain sets of opposed metaphysical ideas, but also function as ideologies that serve specific purposes of controlling people’s bodies and minds. Their ultimate rejection is finally articulated by Antonin Artaud’s passionate call for a ‘body without organs’ and his demand to place the body one last time on the autopsy table to remake its anatomy, thus delivering it from all its metaphysical restrictions.

The soundtrack of the performance consists of new and unpublished music by Zero Kama, assembled from original recordings made with instruments of human bones and skulls in 1984.

The performance was part of the exhibition “Aufgerissenen Auges: Transmanieristische Reaktionen” (xhibit, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna) and part of the Vienna Art Week.