The Body Alphabet

a cluster proposal by Frances Loeffler

This event considers the link between language and the human body. The increasing importance of language to the visual arts since the 1960s has been closely tied to the shift away from a ‘perceptual’ or sensory understanding of art towards one that gives primacy to concepts, meanings and ideas. And yet, language is inextricably linked to the body. When we read and write, our cricoarytenoid and cricothyroid muscles stretch and contract the vocal chords; our hands turn pages, and eyes move quickly about the page. Some texts through time have made explicit an experience of language that is visceral, physical and embodied. In Ancient Greece, a ‘boustrophedon’ was a bi­directional text that alternated the direction of sentences, like an ox turning while ploughing a field. Today, we stroke the screen of a smart phone or iPad as we read and write, adjusting our bodies and our employment of language to a new, technological age.