Narratives around the Other Body

Zohreh Deldadeh
Exhibition Curator


The distinction between the self and the other has always been created through a body and its apparently differentiating peculiarities. The body, notwithstanding the fact that it carries such differentiations, can at the same time tie the self to the other. Because of the perception we possess on the environment within which we live, and precisely due to the ties between such surroundings and the body, the ruptures between the two can increase or even decrease, while at the same time connections or ties between them can deepen or loosen. Therefore, from this perspective, what has actively played a role in the actualization of hierarchies between the human-being and its surrounding environment would not simply become an ineffective entity in making distinctions between the self and the other. Encountering this cycle of othering, hence, is based on knowing the self and the other. As the closest entity to us, the body would therefore play a mediating role in such transformations.

Some-Bodies; Narratives around the Other Body is an invitation to pay close attention to the ties that connect the body to the other, whether the other is a part of our-selves or what has been projected as the other within sociopolitical hierarchies.

Body has always been an extremely contentious subject in different societies. Controlling bodies, setting restrictions upon them, adjusting the bodies and even in some cases eliminating specific bodies are amongst the most immanent instruments of controlling bodies by institutions of power. Othering through bodies and different qualities ascribed to them is one of such control mechanisms. This makes bodies the center of the prevailing hierarchical dichotomies. The male/female dichotomy is aimed to categorize bodies based on gender. Other dichotomies, such as old/young, able/disabled, fat/thin and the like, are also constituted based on one’s body.

Alongside with body’s differentiating feathers, bodily qualities constitute one’s identity. From this point of view, a body can be situated somewhere between being oneself and becoming an-other. It seems, though, the boundaries between being and becoming remain ambiguous and undiscovered. The meanings of self and other, thus, change according to the direction we desire to turn to. As Julia Kristeva argues aptly, living with others requires recognizing our uncanny strangeness.

Some-Bodies; Narratives around the Other Body is an exhibition aimed to point out such strange and desuetude aspects of the body through the work of five artists in order to lay out the struggle over the self and the other through discovery and understanding of the world around bodies.

By putting their own selves and their relations with others and the world around in the center of their artworks, the artists in this exhibition have tried to explore and discover some of the most immanent points of connections and distinctions between the self and the other. However, they neither were merely focused on the body, nor do they necessarily aim to stress the proximities and distances between bodies. In the meantime, their definitions of the others are not in accord with the definition of the other constituted by different social systems. But, in practice, it was my own attempt to understand what role the body played in their artworks. Exchanges between the self, the other and the body, therefore, became the main subject matter of my study in this curatorial project.

The discovery in Elsa Gregersdotter’s work begins with her family and parents. Starting from the far past from before her birth, what we observe is that she took us on a journey through her father’s photo archive to the world today via her own camera, when the roles have transformed to such an extent that we see her as a parent, creating her own world. In Yushi Lis works, we are about to get close to the realm of her private relationships, where we see her observing male bodies within an inter-gendered back and forth game. In Joshua Tarplins collection, the circle of personal relations with others and the surrounding world has been expanded to the extent that it encompassed his friends and other relatives. We can see much more mobility or fluidity in his work regarding the self-other relations, while at the same time we see how the body plays a central role in his photographs as a common language or vehicle to establish communications and relations amongst different individuals. In Yuxin Jiang’s works, however, a more direct look at the other can be found. She is focused on the other through nationality and social identity. Here, the very othering perspective of the West about the East is being challenged in an ironic way. Bodies, in her two collections, play expressive roles for both sides, and much of what constitutes both sides’ reading is being manifested through the language, body and body-language. And finally, in Anka Gregorczyks works, we move beyond all previous definitions to look at the physical transformations of human bodies outside our planet, where gravity no longer affects them. What we observe here is what we might experience in reality in near future. Her works make us think of how our present is going to alter in such a different – or other – future.

Although the initial idea of this exhibition was born a long time ago, reflecting on the self, the other and the body within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing global protests against racism can bring new insights to this field.

Zohreh Deldadeh is a freelance art researcher and curator based in Tehran. She holds a BA in Graphic Design and an MA in Art Research. Her curatorial practice mainly investigates how socio-political issues shape the visual culture of specific societies. Since last year she has been focused on the body and its socio-political aspects.