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October 04, 2008, 3:30 PM

The Body and its Image

Participants: Marina Abramovic, Paul Campos, Sander Gilman (moderator), Marcel Kinsbourne, Sabine Wilhelm

Over the past decade there has been a moral panic about inappropriate body size. Anorexia nervosa and obesity have become touchstones for discussions of social and personal failure, of the supremacy of genetics over human choice, of the global expansion of normative ideas of the body—indeed, for virtually all discussions about what has gone wrong in our contemporary world. Meanwhile, artistic representations offer another vision of what it means to inhabit a body. This panel will examine the interlocked questions of the meanings attached today to bodily difference and representation, and the role that these debates play in our psychological and physical well-being.

Marina Abramovic has been a pioneer of performance as a visual art form since beginning her career in Belgrade in the early 1970s. The body has always been both her subject and medium. She has explored her physical and mental limits in works that ritualize the simple actions of everyday life. From 1975-88, Abramovic collaborated with the German artist Ulay, addressing the nature of duality. Since returning to solo performances in 1989, she has presented her work at major institutions in the US and Europe, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Neue National Galerie in Berlin. She has also participated in many large-scale international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale and Documenta VI, VII, and IX in Kassel, Germany. Recent performances include "House with Ocean View" at New York's Sean Kelly Gallery and "7 Easy Pieces" at the Guggenheim Museum. Among her upcoming projects are a retrospective at MoMA and a theatre piece directed by Robert Wilson that will premier in 2011.

Paul Campos is Professor of Law at the University of Colorado and a syndicated columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service. He has written widely about the legal, medical, and social consequences of narrow definitions of what constitutes a "normal body." He is the author of The Obesity Myth. His work on this subject has been featured in Scientific American, The New York Times, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications.

Sander Gilman is a Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry at Emory University, where he is the Director of the Program in Psychoanalysis and the Health Sciences Humanities Initiative. A cultural and literary historian, he is the author or editor of eighty books. His Oxford lectures, Multiculturalism and the Jews, appeared in 2006. His most recent edited volume, Diets and Dieting: A Cultural Encyclopedia, appeared in 2007. He has held professorships in humanities and medicine at Cornell University, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has also served as the Visiting Historical Scholar at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda; as a fellow at Stanford's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences; as a Berlin prize fellow at the American Academy in Berlin; and as the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of European Comparative Literature at Oxford University.

Marcel Kinsbourne is a behavioral neurologist and Professor of Psychology at the New School. Educated at Oxford University, he has held professorships at Duke University and the University of Toronto. His research interests center on problems in neuropsychology and child development. He has published in excess of 400 medical and scientific articles and authored or edited eight books, including The Asymmetrical Function of the Brain, The Unity and the Diversity of the Human Brain, and Consciousness: The Brain's Private Psychological Field.

Sabine Wilhelm is Associate Professor of Psychology at the Harvard Medical School. She is Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Related Disorders Program and Director of the Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Wilhelm is internationally recognized as a leading researcher on Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a distressing preoccupation with an imagined defect in one's appearance. She currently is the principal investigator of two studies investigating treatments for the disorder funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. She wrote the book, Feeling Good About the Way You Look: A Program for Overcoming Body Image Problems and has many other publications. Dr. Wilhelm serves on several editorial boards and regularly provides continuing education workshops nationally and internationally.


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