Eliza Steinbock
Introduction: What ‘body’ works and what does not fit
– Parallax special issue “Installing the Body” (With M. Bleeker)
article 2008


For this special issue of Parallax we proposed to think about how the body functions as a kind of apparatus or dispositif in the divergent disciplines of dance studies, installation art and cinema studies.  We envisioned the suggested task of reflecting on not what a body can do, but what ‘the body’ has done as a way to get a critical grip on the burgeoning bulk of body theories. Over the past thirty-five years, many versions of such theory have established ‘the body’ with a certain prestige in a variety of fields of theoretical, artistic and other inquiry. Now that the body has been set into a ‘ready-for-use’ position, installed as it were, this issue of Parallax sought scholars and practitioners willing to evaluate the collective job. Our proposal, which did admittedly include an invitation to perverse routes, instead garnered the attention of theorists who slice the current edge of ‘body theory’. Rather than assess body theories and the desires invested in using the concept of the body at all, the texts we selected further specialize and specify the body apparatus that they manufacture in the factory of their disciplinary field. Except that it is not easy to place with certainty any one text into a single field. Each text benefits from the successful installation of ‘the body’ as a central theoretical issue that brings into view the relational aspects of experience and meaning making. But, in their hands, the body becomes something else: an apparatus for political tinkering, a means of movement, a condense archive, choreography, resistance, a way out. What differentiates these texts from the bodies that regularly appear to veil the author’s conceptual programs, is their reflexive, dare I say knowing, use of the body for other ends – they need the body, not just any body, but one that is carefully distinguished from a generally normative and vague container.