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Extreme bodies

Corps extrêmes

« Perspective » n° 2024-2

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Published on Thursday, June 01, 2023


The journal Perspective : actualité en histoire de l'art will explore, in its 2024 – 2 issue, the thematic “extreme bodies”. Our aim is to shed light on the ways images participate in the creation of the body, the spread of a standard and the constraints applied to that body in order to achieve the standard, but also the ways images sometimes serve to subvert them. It is thus in terms of the standardised body, considered more as a model or goal to be attained than as the aurea mediocritas (Horace, Odes, II, X, 5), the incarnation of the middle ground remote from excesses, that we would like to address questions related to extreme bodies.



“However, no one has hitherto laid down the limits to the powers of the body…”

Spinoza, Ethics, 1677, III, “On the Origin and Nature of the Emotions”, prop. 2, note (trans. R. H. M. Elwes, 1853).

As early as 1934, social scientist Marcel Mauss encouraged anthropologists, sociologists and historians to turn their attention to the body and its technical functions. But in France, it is since the 1970s, particularly through the works of Michel Foucault, that the body has become “a historical subject whose scope defies any attempt at genuine synthesis” and thus requires an approach which is by its very essence interdisciplinary (Corbin, 2005). The body and its images belong to specific periods and cultures; they are “dependent, in [their] forms and presentation, on changing material and cultural conditions” (Corbin, Courtine, Vigarello, 2005). The study of the body, and bodies, has thus generated a substantial literature for the social sciences in general and constitutes a major issue for the history of art.

Artistic representations of the body, as a performing entity but also through the techniques it brings into play, have given rise to trans-historical syntheses (Laneyrie-Dagen, [1997] 2006) or period-specific studies (Prost, Wilgaux, 2006; Wirth, 2013; Heck, 2014; Nessah, 2014; Gherchanoc, 2015). These works have largely investigated the ways the body is subject to political, social and aesthetic canons, as well as the normative representations of the body, in particular, the connections between anatomy and representations of the body in early modern art (Olmi, 2004; Laurenza, 2010, 2012; Kleinbub, 2020). By drawing on what she calls the “sciences and pseudo-sciences of the body” from the late 18th century on, Claire Barbillon has clearly identified the return of a normative “canonical ambition” in the field of artistic creation “from Neoclassicism to Le Corbusier” (Barbillon, 2004; see also Baridon, Guédron, 1999).

For its Autumn 2024 issue, Perspective has decided to investigate extreme bodies. Our aim is to shed light on the ways images participate in the creation of the body, the spread of a standard and the constraints applied to that body in order to achieve the standard, but also the ways images sometimes serve to subvert them. It is thus in terms of the standardised body, considered more as a model or goal to be attained than as the aurea mediocritas (Horace, Odes, II, X, 5), the incarnation of the middle ground remote from excesses, that we would like to address questions related to extreme bodies. Socially and culturally imposed norms inevitably produce opposite reactions, which are generally perceived negatively. Extreme bodies can therefore be altered, mutilated or weakened bodies (Korff-Sausse, 2006). But they can also respond to the norm by pushing it to its limits or subverting it by exaggerating its traits.

In line with the journal’s editorial policy, proposals and subsequent contributions should address the way the history of art has engaged with extreme bodies as subjects in their own right (iconographically) and as methodological and heuristic tools, in order to question the creation of standards and canons and their subversion, as well as the production of the extreme bodies themselves. It would be relevant, for example, to examine the ways images of extreme bodies have materialised social concerns and consequently exercised a form of agency on real bodies fed by such references (cf. Charcot’s comparative study of demonic figures in art and his patients’ bodies [Bouchara, 2013]). Another approach might examine the agency of certain extreme bodies on artistic creation.

Other lines of research that might be developed by the proposals submitted include:

  • “Extra-ordinary” bodies: these are considered as extreme because they do not or no longer correspond to a current standard. This theme would allow an examination of processes of transforming bodies into extreme bodies when they are produced by the artistic forms themselves (Mannerism, Cubism), but also when they are generated by time or experiences. Here, studies on “superior” bodies (superheroes, saints, etc.) or suffering bodies, but also questions raised by ageing studies or disabilities studies, might contribute to an analysis of differences relative to the standard based on a young or functional body. Another approach might address the recent movements taking a new, positive look at ageing or disabled bodies as subjects of representation or vehicles of agency for artistic production (what is the impact of age or disability on art? [Laneyrie-Dagen, Archat, 2021]).
  • “Model” bodies: these are the performing bodies located at the intersection of aesthetics and politics, such as, for example, the paradoxical bodies of heads of state, which are viewed and constructed as unattainable models because they are necessarily unique, or the bodies of warriors and athletes. It is clear that the gradual popularisation of sports during the contemporary period has “drastically changed the definition of the canons and codes of appearance within representations” (Cerman, Laugée, Gorguet-Ballesteros, Maillet, 2021), but athletes’ bodies, considered in terms of performances as well as political, social or aesthetic ends, have also been forged from the legacy of classical models (Squire, 2011). While studies on fashion have demonstrated the place of clothing and its manufacture within the analysis of norms (Charpy, 2015), they also bring out a paradox: clothes and the fashion accessories (corsets, shoes) intended to make bodies conform to a norm could in fact deform them, or even lead to abnormal bodies. And “overperforming” a norm can also be a way of calling it into question or subverting expectations as is the case with drag and queer artistic practices (Butler, 1990; Koutsougera, Kontou, 2023).
  • “Borderline” bodies: these allow us to revisit Spinoza’s question by asking just how much a body can escape the norm and still be recognised as one body. The case of hybrid or enhanced bodies, where biological and technological systems are connected up, raises the question of the body’s unity in the face of such a mix of bodily forms (Andrieu, 2013). The extreme nature of these bodies can no longer be considered as a state but a reflection of their involvement in a hybridisation process. Images of borderline bodies raise questions about definitions of gender, species (borders between humans and animals, monsters), or even nature (divine versus human bodies). Proposals addressing both the processes of creating images of these borderline bodies and their reception are welcome. These representations, which can generate admiration, curiosity or confusion (Alberti, Fenech Kroke, forthcoming), have also given rise to analyses and scholarly research and contributed to the creation of new imagery.

These themes are all open to different approaches, as long as they are placed in a historiographical perspective.

[English translation: Miriam Rosen]

Perspective : actualité en histoire de l’art

Published by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) since 2006, Perspective is a biannual journal which aims to bring out the diversity of current research in art history through a constantly evolving approach that is explicitly aware of itself and its own historicity and articulations. It bears witness to the historiographical debates within the field, while remaining in continuous relation with the images and works of art themselves, updating their interpretations, and thus fostering global, intra- and interdisciplinary reflection. The journal publishes scholarly texts which offer innovative perspectives on a given theme. These may be situated within a wide range, yet without ever losing sight of their larger objective: going beyond any given case study in order to interrogate the discipline, its methods, history and limitations, while relating these questions to topical issues from art history and neighboring disciplines that speak to each of us as citizens.

Perspective invites contributors to update their historiographical material and the theoretical questionings from which they draw their work, to think from and around the starting point of a precise question, an assessment that will be considered an epistemological tool rather than a goal in itself. Each article thus calls for a new approach creating links with the great societal and intellectual debates of our time.

Perspective is conceived as a disciplinary crossroads aiming to encourage dialogue between art history and other fields of research, the humanities in particular, and put into action the “law of the good neighbor” developed by Aby Warburg.

All geographical areas, periods, and media are welcome.

Guest editor

Fabien Lacouture (INHA)

Submission guidelines

Please send your proposals – a summary of 2,000 to 3,000 characters / 350 to 500 words, a working title, a concise bibliography on the subject, and a short biography – to the editorial contact (revue-perspective@inha.fr)

before June 19, 2023.

Perspective will provide translations for the editorial committee; all projects will be reviewed regardless of the language the proposal is submitted in. Authors of the successful proposals will be notified of the editorial committee’s decision in July 2023, and the completed articles will be due by November 15, 2023. Submitted papers, with a final length of 25,000 or 45,000 characters / 4,500 or 7,500 words depending on the project, will be accepted after an anonymous peer-review process.

Editorial committee

  • Francesca Alberti chargée de mission pour l’histoire de l’art, Académie de France à Rome – Villa Médicis
  • Philippe Bettinelli conservateur du patrimoine, nouveaux médias, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou
  • Vivian Braga dos Santos pensionnaire, INHA
  • Baptiste Brun maître de conférences en histoire de l’art contemporain, université Rennes 2
  • Jean-Sébastien Cluzel maître de conférences en histoire de l’art et archéologie de l’Extrême-Orient, université Paris-Sorbonne
  • Sophie Cras maîtresse de conférences en histoire de l’art contemporain, université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Servane Dargnies-de Vitry conservatrice du patrimoine, peintures et décors peints de 1870 à 1914, Petit Palais – musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
  • Nikolaus Dietrich Junior professor, archéologie classique, Universität Heidelberg
  • Pierre-Olivier Dittmar maître de conférences, EHESS
  • Charlotte Foucher chargée de recherches, CNRS
  • Alicia Knock conservatrice du patrimoine, création contemporaine et prospective, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Pompidou
  • Jérémie Koering chargé de recherche, CNRS
  • Guy Lambert maître de conférences, École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Belleville
  • Hélène Leroy conservatrice du patrimoine, chargée de la coordination des collections, musée d’Art moderne de Paris
  • Anne-Orange Poilpré maîtresse de conférences en histoire de l’art médiéval et moderne, université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Magdalena Ruiz-Marmolejo Conservatrice du patrimoine, cheffe de projet d’exposition, Musée de l’Homme – Muséum national d’histoire naturelle
  • Ida Soulard École des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
  • Nancy Thebaut  Assistant Professor, European Medieval Art and Architecture, Skidmore College


  • Monday, June 19, 2023


  • corps


  • Marie Caillat
    courriel : marie [dot] caillat [at] inha [dot] fr

Information source

  • Marie Caillat
    courriel : marie [dot] caillat [at] inha [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Extreme bodies », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, June 01, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1b9p

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