With an avid attention to the valuing of embodiment and a championing of the re-emergence of the body as site for discussions of knowledge and knowing, this essay shares aspects of my practice that engage a performative, haptic, situated engagement with the body through the artist’s book. The motivation for the creation of my bookworks was an interest in manifesting situated knowing and embodied ways of becoming. Engaging form, materiality, and bodily history, my artists’ books explore the processes and metaphors of digestion and in one example, mindfulness practice. In libraries and collections with links to health, my artists’ books can be experienced in teaching and research contexts to examine the body, health, illness and wellbeing. This essay focuses on my books which communicate embodied knowledge in several ways: through phenomenological writing to give expression to my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and how it impacts on my teaching practice in Reflection on Digestion; through bodily material of Entrail Troyen; through the image of the digestive system in On Innards, Reflection on Digestion, and Entrail Troyen, particularly the concertina form emulating the undulations of the intestines; and through images of found objects that resemble the bowels in Huwawa in the Everyday.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Ahmed, Sara and Stacey, Jackie. 2001. “Introduction: Dermographies.” In Thinking through the Skin, edited by Sara Ahmed and Jackie Stacey, 1-17. London: Routledge.
Austerlitz, Noam, ed. 2008. Unspoken Interactions: Exploring the Unspoken Dimension of Learning and Teaching in Creative Subjects. London: The Centre for Learning and Teaching in Art and Design.
Bachelard, Gaston. 2002. Formation of the Scientific Mind. Manchester: Clinamen.
Barbour, Karen. 2004. “Embodied Ways of Knowing.” Waikato Journal of Education 10: 227–238. Accessed 7 June 2018. doi:https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v10i1.342.
Bolaki, Stella. 2017. “The Material Power of Artists’ Books: How Books Can Speak About Illness and Care.” In Prescriptions: Artists’ Books on Wellbeing and Medicine, edited by Stella Bolaki and Egidija Ciricaite, 4-10. London: Natrix Natrix Press.
Braidotti, Rosi. 1994. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia University Press.
Brenner, Elma. 2014. “The Enigma of the Medieval Almanac.” Wellcome Library Blog, 6 January. Accessed 11 January 2018. http://blog.wellcomelibrary.org/2014/01/the-enigma-of-the-medieval-almanac/.
Bresler, Liora, ed. 2004. Knowing Bodies, Moving Minds. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
Burykh, MP. 2004. “Topographic Approach to the Study of the Human Body.” Clinical Anatomy 17 (5): 423-428. https://doi.org/10.1002/ca.10251.
Camille, Michael. 1997. “The Book as Flesh and Fetish in Richard de Bury’s Philoblion.” In The Book and the Body, edited by Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, 33-77. Notre-Dame: University of Notre-Dame Press.
Carey, Hilary M. 2003. “What is the Folded Almanac?: The Form and Function of a Key Manuscript Source for Astro-medical Practice in Later Medieval England.” Social History of Medicine 16 (3): 481–509.
——. 2004. “Astrological Medicine and the Medieval English Folded Almanac.” Social History of Medicine 17 (3): 345–363.
Carruthers, Mary. 1997. “Reading with Attitude, Remembering the Book.” In The Book and the Body, edited by Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, 1-33. Notre-Dame: University of Notre-Dame Press.
——. 2008. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
de Certeau, Michel. 1988. The Writing of History. New York: Columbia University Press.
Didi-Huberman, Georges. 2010. “I. Disparates: To Read What Was Never Written.” In Atlas: How to Carry the World on One’s Back?, edited by Georges Didi-Huberman, 14-59. Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.
Dillon, Brian. 2006. “The Revelation of Erasure.” Tate Etc. 8. Accessed 10 January 2018. http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/revelation-erasure.
Drucker, Johanna. 2004. The Century of Artists’ Books. New York: Granary Books.
Etymonline. 2018. Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed 19 January 2018. https://www.etymonline.com/.
Frese, Dolores Warwick and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe. 1997. “Introduction.” In The Book and the Body, edited by Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, ix-xviii. Notre-Dame: University of Notre-Dame Press.
Gershon, Michael. 1998. The Second Brain. The Scientific Basis of Gut Instinct and a Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine. New York: Harper Perennial.
Grosz, Elizabeth. 1994. Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Hall, Martha. 2003. Holding In, Holding On. Northampton MA: Smith College/Herlin Press.
Hillman, David. 2007. Shakespeare’s Entrails: Belief, Scepticism and the Interior of the Body. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian.
Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: A Brief History. Abingdon: Routledge.
Koch, Ulla Susanne. 2011. “Sheep and Sky: Systems of Divinatory Interpretation.” In The Oxford Handbook of Cuneiform Culture, edited by Karen Radner and Eleanor Robson, 447–469. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lear, Rowan. 2013. “In Other Words.” Accessed 19 January 2018. https://inotherwordsbath.wordpress.com/in-other-words/.
Littau, Karin. 2006. Theories of Reading: Books, Bodies and Bibliomania. Cambridge: Polity Press.
MAI/Marina Abramovic Institute. 2016. “Abramovic, Marina: A lecture on ‘The History of Long-Durational Work,’ Tuesday, March 22nd 2016”. Marina Abramovic Institute. Accessed 11 January 2018. https://mai.art/as-one-content/2016/4/6/history-of-long-durational-work.
Purnis, Jan. 2010a. “Digestive Tracts: Early Modern Discourses of Digestion.” PhD diss., University of Toronto. Accessed 22 February 2018. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/33822/1/Purnis_Jan_K_201011_PhD_thesis.pdf.
——. 2010b. “The Stomach and Early Modern Emotion.” University of Toronto Quarterly 79 (2): 800–818. https://doi.org/10.1353/utq.2010.0228.
Smears, Elizabeth. 2009. “Breaking Old Habits: Professional Development through an Embodied Approach to Reflective Practice.” Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 1 (1): 99-110.
Stilgoe, John R. 1998. Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places. New York: Walker and Company.
Suzuki, Sarah. 2013. Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
Tate. n.d. “‘André Breton, Nusch Eluard, Valentine Hugo, Paul Eluard, Exquisite Corpse’ c.1930.” Accessed 9 February 2018. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/breton-eluard-hugo-exquisite-corpse-t12005.
Varela, Francisco J., Thompson, Evan, and Rosch, Eleanor. 1991. The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Wellcome Library. 2014. MS.8932, English folding almanac in Latin. Accessed 19 January 2018. https://wellcomelibrary.org/item/b20605055#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0.
Wiktionary. 2018. Accessed 19 January 2018. https://en.wiktionary.org/.
1 For more information on Martha Hall, see Jennifer Tuttle and Cathleen Miller’s essay in this special issue.
2 For example, Bresler, Liora, ed. 2004. Knowing Bodies, Moving Minds. Dordrecht: Kluwer; Austerlitz, Noam, ed. 2008. Unspoken Interactions: Exploring the Unspoken Dimension of Learning and Teaching in Creative Subjects. London: The Centre for Learning and Teaching in Art and Design; Smears, Elizabeth. 2009. “Breaking Old Habits: Professional Development through an Embodied Approach to Reflective Practice.” Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices 1 (1): 99-110.
3Book Live!, London South Bank University (LSBU), 7-8 June 2012: Convened by the Richard Sawdon Smith, Centre for Media and Cultural Research at LSBU and Emmanuelle Waeckerlé, bookroom, UCA Farnham.
4 Materials, printing and construction was funded by a Research Award from University for the Creative Arts (UCA), including technical support from Jonathan Jarvis in UCA Farnham’s print workshop, and bookRoom’s bookmaking facilities.
5 The word boustrophedon means “ox-turning” from the Greek bous meaning “ox” and strophe meaning “turn,” referencing an animal turning at the edge of field when ploughing.
6 Contributors to the event and publication are Carlo Comanducci, film scholar; Giskin Day, medical humanities teacher; Dr Simon Gabe, gastroenterologist; Kerry Gallagher, yoga teacher; Nathaniel Storey, microbiologist; Jamie Sutcliffe, writer and artist.
7 Huwawa or Humbaba was the monster in the Gilgamesh Epic who protected the Cedar forest.
8 Invented in 1925 by the Surrealists, cadavre exquis or Exquisite Corpse is a visual form of the parlor game Consequences. Participants draw parts of the body in turn on a piece of paper, which before being passed to the next person is folded to conceal the marks made, resulting in a collaborative hybrid drawing. (Tate n.d.)
9 Octopus Alchemy, now Alchemy Flow, based in Brighton, UK, supports and teaches fermentation. http://alchemyflow.com/workshops/
10House of Ferment is a project created by Cumbrian-based artist Karen Guthrie in collaboration with arts project Grizedale Arts, centering around the sculpture of a mountain as a mobile larder, and the transmitting “cultures” of fermenting knowledge.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Couch, A. Reflections on Digestions and Other Corporealities in Artists’ Books. J Med Humanit 41, 7–19 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-019-09592-8
- Artists’ books