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Being Horizontal: Vulnerability, Interdependence and Resistance

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An online event comprising artist films, live performance and discussion, curated by Nora Heidorn.

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Featuring films by Nashashibi/Skaer, Teatro da Vertigem, and Kinkaleri, a performance by Harold Offeh, and a conversation with Felicity Callard.

The standard enlightenment representation of the human body is of a singular, upright, able-bodied man, gazing forward. Starting from a subjective and partial selection of contemporary artworks and research images, this curatorial project wants to pay caring attention to images of reclined bodies.

We encounter reclined bodies in different situations in our visual cultures, including persons sleeping or resting, having sex, the unwell, injured or deceased. Visual tropes include the reclined nude, the fallen soldier, the psychoanalysis patient, and the birthing woman. Being horizontal, and especially being looked at and imaged in positions of recline, is often associated with feminised and/or racialised powerlessness. Deliberately assuming a horizontal position in front of others can also, as the complex works grouped in this project reveal, challenge, subvert, and politicise dynamics of vulnerability and power.

Inspired by Adrianna Cavarero’s Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude, “Being Horizontal” pays critical and caring attention to images of reclined bodies and explores what individual and collective orientations and movements out of the vertical plane and into varying degrees of incline might indicate about being in relation, about interdependency and care. For example, how might the simple but charged acts of reclining, lounging, collapsing, or reversing be reimagined as critiques of the neoliberal drives for efficiency, productivity, speed, and independence? This event explores these questions with particular attention to the embodied dynamics of verticality and horizontality in clinical encounters with a critical medical humanities audience.


		Being Horizontal: Vulnerability, Interdependence and Resistance image

Image © Harold Offeh, from the series “Lounging” (2017-2020).

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Organizer Confabulations

Organizer of Being Horizontal: Vulnerability, Interdependence and Resistance

Confabulations: Art Practice, Art History, Critical Medical Humanities is a new series of urgent conversations on health, medicine, and medicalized bodies triangulating three areas of practice and scholarship, each with their own lineages, disciplinary ambits, and trajectories of remembering and forgetting. Consisting of talks, workshops, readings, performances, and works-in-progress presentations, the series intends to make explicit the contributions that artists and art historians can make to debates and developments in critical medical humanities and, in turn, to offer ways of expanding the possibilities of art practice and art history. Calling on artists and art historians who are ‘medical humanities curious’ as well as those who already identify with medical humanities, Confabulations aims to make and hold space for experimentation, risk, and dialogue in the hopes of fostering a community of practitioners and scholars interested in shaping future relations and interdependencies among art practice, art history, and critical medical humanities.

Confabulations is co-convened by Fiona Johnstone (Durham Institute for Medical Humanities), Allison Morehead (Queen's University, Canada), and Imogen Wiltshire (University of Leicester).

We gratefully acknowledge the support of Durham University, Institute for Medical Humanities, UK, the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research, UK, Queen’s University, Katarokwi (Kingston), Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Leicester Wellcome Trust ISSF.

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