Louisa Abdelkader (Munich), Nora Battenberg-Cartwright (Frankfurt), Judith Egger (Munich), Dr. Ope Lori (UK/Nigeria), Bex Massey (UK), Rozhgar Mustafa (Irak), Janette Parris (UK), Kim Thornton (UK) and Rachel Wilberforce (UK)
Curated by Stewart Hall and Susan Boutwell
The body politic is a fable whereupon the people who make up a nation are a single corporeal entity; all must serve as one for the nation to function. When one part of the nation resists, this is likened to an infection, affecting the whole. For a nation to be healthy its people must acquiesce to the hierarchy of its parts. In traditional representations of the body politic, the head sits at the top of this hierarchy as the locus of perception and rationality, governing all the parts below. Sometimes the head represents a monarchy, sometimes the church.
A well-known ancient example of a bodily metaphor appears in The Belly and the Members, a fable attributed to the legendary Greek fabulist Aesop. In the fable, the other members of the body revolt against the belly, which they think is doing none of the work while getting all of the food. The hands, mouth, teeth, and legs initiate a strike, but after a few days they realise that they are weak and ailing. They thus learn that cooperation between all members of the body, including the belly, is vital for the body's health. The story's not-so-subtle moral is that society, like a body, functions better when all do their assigned tasks and work together. The social metaphor translated easily into the political world.1
Nowadays, the body politic relates more generally to the politics of the body; in the way that individual bodies not only experience political violence but also wield political power, particularly the significant effects it has on race, culture, class, and gender.
This exhibition intends to shine light on various women artists' practices, practices that push against convention, politics, social structures, and/or the body (both metaphorically and literally). Each artist's work, in one way or another, addresses the many, and contemporary, issues raised by the metaphor of The Body Politic. Each artwork, implicitly or explicitly, pushes against the hierarchies driving this body politic, and proposes a different narrative for the viewer to engage with.
Press release courtesy Susan Boutwell Gallery. Text: Stewart Hall.