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Demonstrations: The Body Across Borders

1 December 2022 at 4:30:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Mimi Kelly, The University of Sydney
Dr Victoria Souliman, The University of Sydney

Session Speakers

Chenlei Xiao, University of Sydney
Beth Kearney, The University of New England
Dr Victoria Souliman, University of Sydney

In recent visual cultural practice, representation of selfhood has often been one of self-reflexive transformation that responds to changing conditions of geographic place and personal space. This includes migration, displacement, colonial legacies, diaspora, the transitory and more recently, the digital realm. The constructions of identities that respond to shifting borders or the liminality of the digital realm, often have the potential to reject fixed notions of self notably relating to bodily ‘ideals’, gender, sexuality, culture and race. In this context, the formation of identity and aesthetics are imprinted by the potential of reinvention and reconfiguration. This includes the ability to complicate conventionally proscribed or limiting concepts related particularly to the gendered subject. This panel explores how selfhood, mediated through the influence of displacement, translocation, or the transcendence of national borders, can become a site of confrontation, resistance, liberation and more broadly, identity construction.

Bodies Across Borders: Reconciled Digital Identities in Drive My Car

Chenlei Xiao, University of Sydney

In recent years, East Asian cinema has witnessed an extensive interest in diasporic bodies and identities within the discourses of national and transnational cinema. However, with the dominant western-centric (re)presentations of the East Asian diaspora, it is difficult to approach narratives from diasporic groups in the cinema of East Asia, as such narratives tend to be dominated by racist stereotypes and problematic portrayals of these ethnicities and their tangled identities. In this paper, I shift the focus back to these communities and their stories, examining diasporic narratives within digital cinema industries. I will take Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car (2021) as a case study to argue for an augmented experience of digital poetics and sensations in the Deleuzian sense, connecting a notion of identity and experience within the film to the sensory capabilities of digital virtuality. I specifically consider the way in which a digital aesthetic enhances lived experiences, memories, and culture through geographical travel, and challenge the reconciliation between different identities in this film.

Nomadism and Corporeality in Le Brun’s and Toyen’s Tout près, les nomades (1972)

Beth Kearney, The University of New England; Dr Victoria Souliman, The University of Sydney

“Le corps est plus étendu qu’on n’a coutume de le supposer; il est l’unique salle des pas perdus, et tout ce qui y est joué dépend de l’écho.” In Tout près, les nomades (1972), a rare surrealist book by French poet Annie Le Brun and Czech visual artist Toyen, the body is represented as a site of perpetual movement. Complementing one another, Le Brun’s text describes, through an anthropological lens, the mores of an unnamed community of nomads who move across the landscape, while Toyen’s drawings topographically map these nomadic movements across bodily borders. This paper will examine Tout près, les nomades through the lens of nomadism, defined here as a subjective refusal to anchor oneself in a singular space and identity and as a resistance to “home” as a fixed site. This experience of nomadism generates a representation of space with fluid boundaries. In this collaborative work between Le Brun and Toyen, this key interest in borders is explored through the body, suggesting a series of interrelated border-crossings, including corporeal, spatial, and cultural. Our paper thus also seeks to consider the extent to which the ‘body in movement’ is informed by Toyen’s movement between different socio-cultural artistic groups of the European avant-garde, namely Devětsil, Prague Surrealism, and Paris Surrealism.



Dr Mimi Kelly University of Sydney

Dr Mimi Kelly is Lecturer in Art History at the University of Sydney. She completed her PhD through Sydney College of the Arts, at the University of Sydney in 2019. Her current academic research interests include body politics and issues of sex, gender and identity; photomedia and performance art; and the intersection of art, popular and online culture. She is co-editor with Adam Geczy of What is Performance Art? Australian Perspectives (Sydney: Power Publications, 2018). 

Dr Victoria Souliman, University of Sydney 

Victoria Souliman is Lecturer in French at the University of Sydney. She completed her PhD in Art History at the University of Sydney, Australia, and in Anglophone Studies at Université Paris Cité, France, in 2019. Her research focuses on issues of national identity, expatriatism and women’s agency in the artistic exchanges between Australia, France and Britain in the early 20th century. She also has a particular interest in the representation of female subjectivity in contemporary visual culture. 

Chenlei Xiao, University of Sydney 

Chenlei Xiao is a PhD student in Film Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research studies contemporary East Asian cinema (with a focus on East Asian arthouse filmmakers), cinematic time, Deleuzian theory, memories, cinema of diaspora, and digital aesthetics.

Beth Kearney, University of New England 

Beth Kearney is Lecturer in French at the University of New England where she teaches French language and francophone cultures. Her research specialises in 20th and 21st century women’s literatures and visual cultures across the French-speaking world, with a focus on representations of women’s bodies and subjectivities and on the interactions between literature and visual art. She also has a strong interest in surrealism and modernity in France from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries.

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