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The Prison of the Body

The Prison of the Body:

The Bars are the Prisoners, The Prisoners are the Bars,

A Panopticon of Mirrors, Surrounded by Sandmen

As touched upon in past blogs, when we discuss a “freedom of the body”, we inherently reference and address un-freedom – a spectrum of imprisonment – of the body. Furthermore, we also implicitly incite a scanning of whose bodies are free and not free. Logically, of salient concern, we must foreground (in addition to a few other key variables) the Orwellian question, “Whose bodies are more free than others?” This argumentative catalyst is certainly at the heart of the constitutional notion of liberty (ie, freedom), especially as it pertains to amendments, therein, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, as but one auspicious example.

This past week, the present iteration of the Supreme Court let us know that it considers the body of its own preferential imagination, its own legislative body, the social bodies of its right-wing majority members, their legislative political body, and their body of propaganda more free than the female body (even as it, in fact, imprison its own target constituency within the illusion of supremacist ego-extension meant to give a sense of control over reality, unpredictable tragedy, and mortality while disenfranchising their access to safe abortion assessments and procedures) - and it is happy to share that freedom to unfree individuals and populations within particular, like-minded states (whether for pathological, social, religious, and/or economic reasons – all inappropriate, ineffective, and harmful) – leaving those in the “out” group imprisoned in federally protected, yet unconstitutionally contextualized, obstructionism of a women’s right to choose an abortion (yes, even within the first 15 weeks of pregnancy – remember, a slew of states have begun and continue to criminalize access to the procedure, rendering the “viability period” argument of the court incomplete, if not dismissable on premise, as the Court ignores the “real world” ramifications it so proudly intones and reassures against. More on that issue of “viability” later.)

Over the next several Blog postings, spurred by this week’s Supreme Court ruling, overturning the Roe and Casey legal precedents (though the majority opinion both denies (Kavanaugh) and affirms (Roberts) this point), as an always auspicious mandate of this project, we explore the Prison of the Body, spiraling out from the individual, through the cultural, social, and political bodies, finishing with the imagined body and body-imaginary. We’ll do this while considering distant, legislated behavioral expectations of human needs and safe cultural mores they are meant to protect. We’ll see how these elements exist with and upon the 21st century notions of self and mass surveillance – as seen, for instance, in surveillance capitalism – as the newest version of Foucault’s Panopticon, compounded by his related statement that, living within a body unavoidably affected by a political system, “the soul is the prison of the body” – a conclusion contested through dance, sound, shamanic, and other practices. In this last point, we’ll briefly examine what may be called the Mirror Panopticon, where legislators set neighbor against neighbor (see Texas abortion prevention laws), in order to evade responsibility for the unlawful, bureaucratic obstruction of health rights, herein, even as formal art, peacebuilding, and conflict transformation skills can rebut compliance to such manipulative efforts.

Circling back to the Free the Body project, I’ll discuss how the sound art I’m developing simultaneously evokes and erases the intent of this now triangulated Panopticon. This compositional approach (on display, in part, within the accompanying soundbite), evokes our abolitionist approach to reality clarification, orientation, and appraisal through the cooperation of two binaries during the deconstruction, assessment, and construction (not reconstruction) process. This holds especially true in relation to performance environments (don’t worry, no spoilers!), and what to expect from this week’s Sound Body post mid-week. I usually never “explain” or deconstruct pieces for audiences, but some direction may be helpful for a congruent, shared viewing and critique here. Anyhow, that’s my intent.

Perhaps, given the Dobbs ruling, you’re feeling trapped. Interrupted. Something once felt as a constant, now gone. Hopefully, as a CIS male, you are enraged at the disenfranchisement of your sisters and the deregulation of the public health. Certainly, what is to increase, as before, are the conditions former Argentinian prisoner and torture survivor Jacobo Timmerman speaks of when he describes a torture state. To be imprisoned, manipulated, attacked – toyed with – at any time - to the twisted, pointless prejudice and humor the authoritarian. We must frame freeing the body as an escape from the torturers and torture of the body – individual, cultural, social, political, imagined - all of our bodies, and theirs, as listed above.

It is possible.

The first sound in this series that you’ll hear synthesizes these conditions of imprisonment: feeling a prisoner, tortured, trapped, betrayed, hyper-vigilant, depressed and alert – with a deeper knowledge that this is not the universe. This is not all there is. Among the countless lessons learned from ancient wisdom, the hopeful art of oppressed cultures, and a persistence of indigenous sharing, it is that this condition of owners and owned, of winners and losers, does not have to be permanent, impermeable, or even persist in the present with effective function. There is a liminal space, as the desert, the oceans, waiting – any threshold – teaches us. Surely, as the disgusting Trump administrations demagoguery spurred so many to social activism, and the catastrophic George W. Bush presidency (only one – thank you, again, Supreme Court) swung even Republicans to vote for Barack Obama, this diabolical acculturation of purposeless limiters will spur spiritual development, mental discernment, and wished for models to move from imagination to reality, abolishing the low common denominators that only move in limps and snarls to an almost forgotten slow, panting death – but for a sad but true default contribution: the abolition of their violent implements is for the greater good.

Try, Try, Try for 10,000 years. Non-stop.

- Zen proverb

Thanks for hanging on for the ride. Feel this sound swatch of imprisonment. To do so fearlessly is to trust that you can feel your way out. But you have to do both, to do both.


Written by Peter DiGennaro, Sound Artist/Human Rights Educator

Sound Swatch: SoundCloud Learn more: Free the Body


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