The body looks like a single unified physical form that can be viewed and understood from multiple points of view. But can the body itself also be multiple?
Distinct bodies may exist simultaneously in the same corporeal form. Assembling Bodies reveals that different technologies for imagining the body, such as anatomical models, genealogical diagrams and funerary effigies, make very different kinds of bodies visible. Multiple bodies are created by the varying social practices within which they are embedded.
This tension between singularity and multiplicity is powerfully visualised in the body-maps by the Bambanani Women’s Group from South Africa. They were made in 2003 as part of a project documenting the lives of women with HIV/AIDS who successfully fought for access to antiretroviral drug therapies.
The women’s bodies may be viewed in relation to biomedical science, religious belief or as an outcome of moral pollution. The paintings mark the body with individual histories. The shadowy forms of people who have supported the women hover behind them, showing how the body is also defined by its relations with others. The body, its seems, is able to hold these multiple bodies within a single form.
Updated narratives of the artists’ lives were collected in 2008 in collaboration with MAA. They appear in the booklet 'Mapping Change' (Macgregor, Mills and Nondumiso 2009), available in the gallery.
The body-maps and the associated narratives trace the co-existence of very different ways of understanding bodies and disease.