Digital Bodies

Everyone, even the most unembodied person, experiences himself as inextricably bound up with or in his body. In ordinary circumstances, to the extent that one feels one's body to be alive, one feels oneself to be alive, real and substantial. Most people feel that they began when their bodies began and they will end when their bodies end.

(Laing 1969: 66) (quoted in Yates 52)

… the body as a project … the focus on the individual and … the importance of presentation of the self and the need for self-expression.

… the relationship between sex and gender is … contingent and variable and understandings of both are culturally and historically specific.

In relation to drugs and especially food this has encouraged the consideration of 'the consuming body',…'technologies of the body'

…phenomenology … thinking through perceptual and other bodily engagements with landscapes and monuments.

…representations of the body … do not merely stand for a prior reality, but create and define ideologies relating to, for example, gender or agency

Mummification has always been quite rare in Japan. The few examples of the custom that do exist are mostly Buddhist priests who underwent self-mummification by gradually reducing their intake of food and water. Although after death these mummies were subjected to various drying procedures, their internal organs were not usually removed and they did not undergo the elaborate embalming techniques found in other parts of the world. The Fujiwara mummies are unusual in that they are the only example from Japan of the mummification of political rather than religious figures.

(Hudson 1996: 198)

From other remarks of Gu Kaizhi as well as from several passages in his biography, it becomes evident that he was seriously concerned with the individual character of the figures depicted and the expression of their faces in particular. He intended to 'transmit the spirit', chuan shen, of the subject through the eyes and considered the final insertion of the pupils as absolutely essential for the creation of the sense of life and vividness through gaze. After he completed the painting of a human figure, he would often wait for several years before dotting in the pupils of the eyes. Once asked by someone for the reason of his seeming restraint to finish the work, he answered: 'The beauty or ugliness of the limbs and body is in fact all there without miss. But the subtle point where the spirit can be rendered and perfect likeness portrayed lies just in those little spots.

(Brinker 1994: 1-2)

Dr Liliana Janik | Oct 2003
Further reading:
  • Hamilakis, Y., Pluciennik and Tarlow, S., (eds.), 2002, Thinking through the Body: Archaeologies of Corporeality, Kluwer-Plenum, New York (Especially Introduction)
  • Yates, T., 1993, 'Frameworks for an Archaeology of the Body', in Tilley, C., (ed.), Interpretive Archaeology, Berg, London: 31-70