the multiple body
“If you are asked to describe an object, you answer that it is a body with a surface, impenetrable, shaped, coloured and movable. But substract all these adjectives from your definition and what is left of that imaginary being you call the body?” (Denis Diderot, Letters on the Deaf and Dumb)
Is the body really a white, blank sheet of paper, the last reserve of a paradisiac innocence/naturalness by means of which at the beginning of the last century Isadora Duncan sought to heal people from an ever-increasing language skepticism and a looming loss of the ego?
Perhaps, however, this original state of which Duncan dreamed has never existed; perhaps the ‘purity’ and ‘innocence’ of the body is rather a symbol of the imaginary autonomy of the individual? The body would be less a superhistorical invariant, than a network of social and individual imaginings, a network which is continuously being redefined by every society: it is made up of the collective history of the culture to which we belong and which determines our very gestures, and the subjective, individual history of our desires, wishes, ideas etc.
The white-sheet-of-paper-body has thus in reality never been white and blank, but has rather, from the very beginning, been split into an obedient and adaptive body, and into an uncooperative remainder that does not fit in.
Thus, as a response to Diderot: if one were to subtract from an assumed body all qualities and ideas describing and defining it, there would be no centre in the sense of an original source, but rather a multiple body, able to turn into different bodies and to take their shapes.
der multiple Körper
“Wenn man dich nach der Beschreibung eines Objekts fragt, so wirst du antworten, dass es sich um einen undurchdringlichen, beweglichen Körper mit Oberfläche, Form und Farbe handelt. Lässt man von der Definition allerdings alle diese Attribute weg, was bleibt dann von dieser imaginären Entität, die du Körper nennst?” (Denis Diderot, Schreiben über die Tauben und Stummen…)