Panel 2: Body Politics

12:30–12:50 Helena Falabino: The Political body of Jealousy

Narrative is one of the ways that our mental processes use to make sense of the world, according to Algirdas Greimas, one of the most influential semioticians. Western civilisation submits us to certain narratives of love and romance that surely have been shaping our understanding of how we experience love and sexuality, especially directing us towards heteronormativity and monogamy; the lack of representation of alternative relationship practices makes it difficult to gain social legitimation when individuals propose their own narratives of love and sexual relationships that intentionally deviate the norms. A feeling that seems to have one of the most strict narratives is jealousy: jealousy is the state that seems to entitle the treatment of our partners’ bodies, minds and desires as something that should belong to our control, as if our partners were a property; sometimes we act in order not to awaken jealousy in our partners and this influences our decisions. It is very difficult to represent it visually and it is one of the instances when body and mind come to a short circuit. Jealousy is one of the feelings we fear most and that is regarded as natural, invincible and at times even necessary. Overcoming or being able to manage jealousy seems beyond human possibilities, therefore the norm is that we implicitly expect our partners not to be sexually involved with anyone else even if they would want to. But isn’t that a sort of coercion? The research question inevitably leads to consider the body and its presence as political, but not just anybody, the body (or the bodies) we love: what are the political implications of our jealousy management and therefore the accounts that we make of it?

Helena Falabino is an Italian-Argentinian photographer and semiotics student. She completed her studies in photography at the Ostkreuzschule für Fotografie und Gestaltung in Berlin with a project that deals with the narratives of self determined sex workers. In 2015 she started experimenting with audiovisual techniques during an art residency in Sicily and then she worked as an editor for GUP Magazine in Amsterdam, writing about contemporary conceptual photography. In 2016 she moved back to Torino, Italy, where she worked with Eikòn, a local photojournalism association, the National Museum of Cinema and film director Irene Dionisio, while carrying on with personal writing and photography projects. In 2017 she moved to Bologna, where she is currently enrolled in a Master’s Degree in Semiotics at Alma Mater Studiorum University, and where, with other women, she organised and lead the annual SessFem laboratory, a 6 moths long workshop dealing with sexuality from a feminist point of view. Her main research interests range from feminist practices, contemporary feminist pornography and non-monogamies.

12:55–13:15 Dalila Honorato: Secretions: The Semiotics of Arousal

Fluids produced by the human body serve multiple functionalities and flow through different orifices revealing the complexity of the microscopic universe that inhabits us. In all their apparent simplicity, often faced with an expression of disgust, these fluids ease the communication between the outside world and the inside of the body. Hygienically manipulated as a sign of infection or morally inappropriate behavior, their excretion has been repressed and sanitized, symbolizing this way the social inhibition of otherwise normal psychosomatic functions. This presentation explores the excessive medicalization of signs of arousal in contrast with the appropriation of ejaculation imaging on behalf of the porn industry from a biopolitical perspective. Intentionally referencing different media and a wide range of aesthetics this is a wet presentation and an explicit exaltation of how messy love can be or as Shakespeare would say: "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite." (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2 lines 133-136).

Dalila Honorato, Ph.D, is a facilitator of safe spaces for hosting the interaction of ideas around liminal issues in the frame of Art&Sci. Her research focus is on embodiment, monstrosity, the uncanny and the acrobatic balance between phobia and paraphilia. She is Assistant Professor in Media Aesthetics and Semiotics at the Ionian University, Greece, guest faculty at Alma Mater Europaea, Slovenia, collaborator at the Center of Philosophy of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal and member of the Steering Committee of the conference “Taboo-Transgression-Transcendence in Art & Science”.

13:20–13:40 Hayley Fox Roberts: A Different Kind of Public Sex’: Power & Disempowerment in Expressions of Dyke Sexuality

The presentation examines the reactions to presentations of dyke sexuality in poetry and image: how seeing these affects queer straight people’s capacity to deconstruct the social and political barriers that limit un-normal sexual behaviours and demonstrates ways in which these presentations, along with these responses, empowers and/or de-normalises dyke collective sexual energy. The paper is influenced by Margo Hobbs’ essay The ‘Blatant Image’ in Queer Difficulty in Art & Poetry: Rethinking the Sexed Body in Verse and Visual Culture. I examine the questions: How is dyke sexuality reflected through the poetry you are hearing / reading? How is dyke sexuality glimpsed / acknowledged / misappropriated by the ‘mainstream’ or the ‘normalised’? How is dyke sexuality recognised in a collective dyke experience?This discourse is followed by Fox-Roberts’ extract from ...Love and Madness, an autobiographical poetry performance which illustrates the personal, sexual and political life of a rural-dwelling lesbian to the participants. ...Love and Madness focuses one expressions of sexual identity, romance and lust, erotic experiences and the shape of desire through the poets own work, incorporating over 35 years of performance, with images and music providing a backdrop to the journey. The poems include social commentary and political polemic. They evince erotic love between women as a source of pleasure and power and follows a line of creative practice and research that focuses on expressions of love and sexuality. This building of communities, collectives and created spaces are a theme of HFR’s arts-activism work: the artistic expression of lesbian and dyke sexuality and collectivity defined her thesis In the Palm of Her Hand: Butch-Femme Lesbian Identities in the work of three Irish lesbian poets’ for her MA in Sexuality Studies. A Different Kind of Public Sex presents a standpoint on social and political barriers to sexual difference and builds on previous arts-activist interventions by Fox-Roberts, including From the Bog to the Moon: a film-poetry collaboration with filmmaker Alisha Doody currently touring County Cork as an outreach action funded by Cork County Council.

Hayley Fox-Roberts is a poet, LGBT activist and creative trainer with many years of experience whose practice focuses on the use of language as a tool for positive change. Her experience in rural LGBT+ development includes the creation of Northwest LGBT+ Pride in counties Sligo/Leitrim/Donegal and through her employment as the first Regional LGBT Development worker in the Northwest and Border Counties of the Republic (LGBT Diversity 2010-2012). She has an established reputation as a performance poet including presentations at Lesbian Lives conferences in DCU Dublin and Brighton University. Other presentations include Myrtle and Roses, Rathcroghan Heritage Site, 2015; Young, Rural and Queer at the Centre for Research into Social Care Practice, Sligo 2016; Re-Calling the Goddess Wise Woman Weekend, Newgrange 2017 and From the Bog to the Moon, European Lesbian* Conference, Vienna, 2017.

13:45–14:05 Nataša Govedić: A Desire for Fusion or Eros in Han Kang's The Vegetarian and the work of Cecilia Paredes and Paul Guest

As the receptive and perceptive surface between the self and the world, the skin is a highly sexualized organ. It establishes the interplay of the tactile, visual and olfactory space of the body, as well as the acoustic intimacy and architecture of taste. In the novel The Vegetarian by the South Korean writer Han Kang, the skin becomes the final or ultimate surface of the romantic contact, staged as the need for radical fusion not only with the partner, but the entire spectrum of sensory sensuality. Body painting reaches the protagonist in a state of psychotic isolation, whereby sexuality becomes the language of her innermost self, much like the designs on floral fabrics that merge with the bodies of the Peruan artist Cecilia Paredes become erotic zones of vegetative ecstasy, intimacy, trans-specism. Likewise, in Paul Guest's poems (especially the collection Notes for My Body Double), body painting establishes an "extralinguistic" sensuality and a particular rhetoric in which the body is no longer just a surface and screen for sexual projections (as, for example, in Peter Greenway's film The Pillow Book), but the space of "visible dreams" of the radical fusion of matter with matter, wherein matter is seen as an eroticized presence of the-world-in-me and me-in-the-world. The text considers the new qualities of romance through the "alternative media" of painting and sounding partner bodies, suggesting that we adhere to Juhani Pallasmaa's philosophy set forth in The Eyes of the Skin, in which the romantic communion is not just a fantasy hiding behind the "walls" of eyes shut, but rather a live performance of sensory unfolding towards a deep materiality as well as the spirituality of the romantic touch.

Nataša Govedić holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and Theatrology from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb. She has been working as a theatre, literary and film critic since 1995, and since 2012 she has been teaching at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. She has published 13 academic books in the fields of theatrology and literary theory. Her most recent book (2019) is entitled Veličanstveno ništa: dramaturgije depresije (The Magnificent Nothing: The Dramaturgies of Depression) and is focused on the way the self is at war with itself, undoing not just its self-worth, but also the dominant system of value. In addition to that, since 2002 she has been practicing drama-based pedagogy, implementing workshops based on dialogical and performative practices (especially in collaboration with Peace Studies), and facilitating educational-drama processes. Since 2012 she has been continuously collaborating with the Faculty of Teacher Education on their graduate and doctoral drama-based pedagogy programme. She is the editor-in-chief of the feminist magazine Treća. She has published a book of fairy tales and two children's novels (one of which has been awarded the SFera Prize).