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Florence Peake and Eve Stainton, Slug Horizons rehearsal, 2
Florence Peake and Eve Stainton, Slug Horizons rehearsal, 2018, photo Anne Tetzlaff

The zine exploring what it means to be a body in today’s political climate


TextJessica Heron-Langton

Featuring a selection of art, poetry, and critical essays, Orlando’s Beyond the Body examines the ways in which we are both transformed by and marginalised because of our bodies

“How do we transform ourselves, lose ourselves, or how are we kept back, limited, or marginalised: both because of and in spite of our bodies?” This is the central question posed in the latest issue of arts and culture magazine Orlando. Previously exploring themes of memory and history, and notions of discourse, for its latest issue, Orlando has turned its attention to the body. “Throughout art or literary history, the use of the body as a primal, raw material, has been central to questioning facets of identity in contemporary culture, particularly the intersection of gender, sexuality, race, dis/ability, and illness,” says editor Philomena. Inspired by the tense and turbulent political climate, Philomena wanted to create something that “considers what it physically feels like to be a body in this current political moment, and something which could also offer a sense of release and escape.”

Spread across 108 pages, the publication features a selection of poetry from up and coming names such as Nisha Ramayya and Belinda Zhawi; art by Rosa Johan Uddoh and Liz Barr and a particularly subversive photography series, entitled Wax Photographs by Alix Marie which runs throughout the magazine, acting as a substitute for advertising space. There are also insightful, critical essays on the work of renowned artists and writers, such as Dodie Bellamy, Marlene Dumas, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Jo Spence, exploring how bodies intersect with subcultural histories, sexuality, and modes of protest, or how science, technology, and surgery allow us to become new hybridised forms. There are also more intimate texts that focus on illness, lived experiences of trauma, emotion and autobiography.

"Environment collapse and global fascism looms," says Philomena. "The #MeToo movement clearly identified the grave scale of rape culture and the level of systemic abuse that runs throughout society. Bodies are silenced, incarcerated, abused, or murdered daily on the basis of their race, religion, sexuality and gender, or how else they otherwise identify. There is stigma and erasure of certain bodies, such as the transphobia rife within mainstream feminism, within political groups. The fight for equality must be inclusive and involve all voices."

Despite recognising these pressing concerns, Orlando’s Beyond the Body purposely does not offer anything didactic or any concrete solutions. Instead, Philomena has chosen to “propose a line of fluid and generous thought about limits and possibilities, of restriction and release, enquiring through who or what means—or, indeed, by any means necessary—we might be able to move beyond our bodies,” Philomena explains.

But of course, it isn’t all bad. “In 2018, there is joy and pleasure to be found in the licentious and transformative power surrounding expanded concepts of the body, and a greater understanding, recognition, and celebration of non-conforming bodies and identities,” says Philomena. “There are more avenues to express or reinvent oneself.” Just as our bodies change physically, so do our relationships with them, both positive and negative. It is this duality which Philomena hopes to capture and explore.

Beyond the Body launches at London’s Horse Hospital on 14 November with an evening of readings, film screenings, and performance, buy tickets here. Alternatively, if you can’t make the launch event, pre-order the issue here.

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