Being Horizontal: Vulnerability, Interdependence and Resistance (February 2022) 

An online event comprising artist films, live performance and discussion

Curated by Nora Heidorn

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

This event took place on Wednesday 9th February 2022 (18.00 to 20.00 GMT / 13.00 to 15.00 EST).

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.

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

Participant biographies:

Nora Heidorn is a curator, researcher, and lecturer. Her practice is led by rigorous interdisciplinary research in the intersecting fields of gender, race, health and care. She is undertaking an LAHP-funded PhD at the Royal College of Art, London in collaboration with Birth Rites Collection.

Her long-term curatorial research project Sick and Desiring took the form of an exhibition, artist publication and a series of events for the biennial Bergen Assembly 2019 in Norway. She has curated exhibitions, workshops and screenings, spoken at institutions, universities and project spaces in Berlin, London, Turin, Oslo, Helsinki and Bergen, and published essays and articles, including in CARELESS (Ma Bibliothèque) and Prova 6 (Royal College of Art) in 2021.

Harold Offeh is an artist working in a range of media including performance, video, photography, learning and social arts practice. Offeh is interested in the space created by the inhabiting or embodying of histories. He employs humour as a means to confront the viewer with historical narratives and contemporary culture. He has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally including Tate Britain and Tate Modern, South London Gallery, Turf Projects, London, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, Wysing Art Centre, Studio Museum Harlem, New York, MAC VAL, France, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Denmark and Art Tower Mito.

Felicity Callard is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Glasgow. Much of her research has addressed psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis and cognitive neuroscience (in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries). She has a long-standing interest in medical humanities and in interdisciplinary ‘disciplines’ and practices more broadly. Her research on rest within the collaborative project Hubbub (at The Hub at Wellcome Collection (2014-2016)) was given new impetus by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and her experience of collectively thinking through and writing about experiences of illness, patienthood, and horizontality.

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