Reflections on Digestions and Other Corporealities in Artists’ Books

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Amanda Couch.

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Endnotes

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.

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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

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Keywords

  • Embodiment
  • Artists’ books
  • Materiality
  • Digestion
  • Intestines