Mid-Semester Audit: Keeping the Bodies at Bay

During one of our first meetings, someone (head graveDIGer Dr. Shrout, I think) brought up humanity’s tendency to create distance between living bodies and lifeless ones. We may interact with the corpse at a funeral or other ceremony, but only briefly – soon, the dead are either cremated and scattered or buried beneath a narrow plot of land. Notably, this distance is a comfortable but not insurmountable one: with enough resolve, you can find the Davidson graveyard, and visit the tombstones of presidents past.

Digital technology and the internet offer yet another means to create this arms-reach gap meant to keep the corpses at bay. It was only in preparing for this assignment that I fully realized this. A solid majority of our class’ blog posts so far have remarked in some way on the persisting centrality of the physical body in our experience of death, even in a completely non-physical space.
In his first post of the semester, Sherwood grounds this discussion in classic philosophy, boldly asserting that “Descartes was wrong,” and that our physical bodies have always been – and will always be – an integral part of life and death alike. Many of the Galindo reaction posts expand on and develop this very notion. A handful of us frelected on what we gained by actually walking around and ‘experiencing’ the exhibit, perhaps best summed up in Leigh’s poetic description of the effect: “the physical grabs us and keeps us.”
Meanwhile, others focused instead on what is lost  in Galindo’s art when distances temporal, physical, and digital stand between us and her original performances.
Even as we transitioned into discussing new readings and topics, we quickly discovered further evidence of a persistent bond between death and the physical body. For example, in our attempt to understand the troubling culture of online death threats and shaming,  we’ve frequently pointed  to the internet’s capacity as a wall that shields us from ‘real-world’ (often a synonym for ‘physical’) harm and discomfort. Even if we’ve only recently begun to figure this particular topic into our answers to the ‘big idea’ questions for the course, several people have already given it thought in their blogs. Kim was among the first to call our attention to the veil-like powers of the internet, when she admitted in near the beginning of the semester that she will not remember Galindo because digital things are but “shadows in mirrors on the grand stage.”  This, I think, is just one instance of a topic from this course being constantly re-evaluated and re-explored in the context of new material. I’ve been in far too many classes where each week ends with a big “reset and forget” button. The fact that I can pick out a single topic mentioned during week one of DIG215 and track its development all the way up to our most recent meetings is surely a sign of our class’ commitment to treating this course as one large body of work, rather than a series of dismembered discussions. Puns very much intended, as always.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *