Bodies in distance – Distant bodies


Last Sunday I went to the church across the street. It opened for two hours to sit and contemplate, pray quietly (and with distance to other people). To my big surprise and utter delight the wonderful church musician played some music, first organ pieces and then some on the piano. I didn’t see her at first because the organ is on the balcony and the player hidden. Then she came down and went to the piano which is standing towards the centre of the church where the altar piece would normaly sit. She set down and started to play.

In times of physical distancing the contact to other bodies is very limited. Even being in the same room with a number of people has become rare for me, apart maybe when going grocery shopping. You sort of don’t necessarily notice what you’re missing until you being hit again with what’s been missing.

Absence makes the hard grow fonder, they say. I saw her playing. I felt her playing. My body was almost aching by the sheer overwhelming sensation of feeling how the music moved through her body while she was playing. I usually enjoy live music perfomances much more and more fully as oppossed to recorded music. However, having been deprived of that opportunity for the past couple of weeks in addition to generally very limited contact to other people made this experience even more a special one. I saw her and I felt her, her music in her body travelling to my body, my whole body and not just my ears.

My work is very often literally or metaphoracly linked to bodies. All the diversity of bodies. All the beauty of bodies and all the atrocities bodies might be subjected to. Bodies, that are not allowed to be. Bodies, that are being policed and meassured. Bodies, that, when not fitting the norm (and the norm is tight), are free to be commented on, to be judged, to be violated, to be killed. Bodies, that are hidden from plain sight. And fortunately also, bodies, that dance, celebrate, fight, love, empower, live and don’t give a …

Seeing and literally experiencing her play the piano through my body brought the importance of bodies in public places, expiriencing bodies, all bodies, in shared places acutely to my attention again. I am currently experiencing a temporal physical distance to other bodies. I have the priviledge to be around other bodies, feel the closeness and everything that goes with it again, as soon as physical distancing meassures are being eased. For other bodies this is a permanent and unvoluntary situation because they are excluded from the public sphere and not deemed to be worth of human contact. But it is vital. I believe, for most people. Highlighting and finding ways to limit exclusion structures, connected to power and priviledge for individuals and in organisations is a central part of my work.

Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor are going for a walk in a series called „Examined lifes“ and converse about bodies and what you should and shouldn’t do with certain parts of your body:

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