the body

23 March 2012

Yesterday afternoon I met with my supervisor and second examiner for my oral exams, the final stage of the comprehensive examination process for my degree program. When I arrived home, exhausted and all my nerves spent, the latest issue of Acne Paper (Issue no. 13 Spring 2012) on The Body was waiting on my doorstep, the perfect reward for successfully completing this stage of my PhD.

As an art historian who researches intersections among art, medicine, and the body, with a wider interest in the history of the body, contemporary body art, abjection, and theories of embodiment, I was thrilled when Acne Paper released their Spring 2012 issue last week and I learned of the theme. My body literally throbbed with excitement. I am impressed at how quickly my copy arrived from Sweden, and with such appropriate timing! I cannot help but feel like the universe is making a small gesture in my direction when things work out this perfectly and everything seems to converge into one incredibly full moment. It makes everything that you are doing and all the decisions you've made feel so right and validated.

Much to my delight, both the front and back pages feature the work of French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), whom I have long respected and admired, providing a richly textured framework for the entire volume. Deeply symbolic and characterized by an experimental approach to materials and techniques, Bourgeois' work engages core themes of femininity, sexuality, childhood, domestic confinement, isolation, and trauma, both directly and indirectly referencing the body and its varied forms. 

 Louise Bourgeois, loose sheet, c.1959.   

Louise Bourgeois, loose sheet, c.1959 (left).
Louise, Bourgeois, The Reticent Child (detail), 2003 (right).

Louise Bourgeois, Knife Figure, 2002.

While so far I have only had the chance to briefly glimpse into the 256-page volume, a number of images and articles (some familiar, some entirely new) have already caught my eye, tantalizing me and beckoning me to engage with them further. I think I will spend the weekend doing just that, although Acne Paper is the kind of timeless publication you can endlessly return to, again and again.

Katerina Jebb, Doll Mouth, 1999.

Kiki Smith, Free Fall, 1994. 

Lillian Bassman, Across the Restaurant, Barbara Mullen, Paris, 1949 (left).
Lillian Bassman, Born to Dance, Margie Cato, New York, 1950 (right).

Lillian Bassman, The Line Lengthens, model unknown, 1955. 

Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgement of Paris, c.1600. The National Gallery, London.
Hanneline Rogeberg, Balzac XI (Claude), Barbara Mullen, 2011 (left).
Hanneline Rogeberg, Thaw, 2009 (right). 

  Bill Durgin, Cyc-9, 2007. 

Bill Durgin, Nude 4, 2009.  

The first three images are my own; the rest are from Acne Paper.


  1. Firstly, congrats on completing the PhD exams! It's such a long and drawn-out process in Australia (it took about 4 months or so for me to get my examiners' reports when I completed my PhD). You must be feeling really relieved now. I also had a bit of an anti-climax feeling when I finished - I just burst into tears and felt a bit sad.

    Thanks for this discussion about Acne Paper magazine. I've seen it on other blogs, but I've never been interested to pick up a copy until I read this post.

    1. Thank you so much, Hila! I totally know what you mean about it being anti-climactic. I am feeling that way a bit right now (which in part prompted my temporary withdrawal from the Internet and my belated reply), but expect that I will feel so much more so after writing and defending my dissertation. One step at a time, and constant reminders that there is so much more to life along the way.... I am ever inspired by the healthy balance you seem to achieve.

      I am happy that I could inspire you to pick up a copy of Acne Paper. I am honestly not one for high fashion magazines, but there is something about the smart combination of fashion (especially vintage photo shoots) with high art and arts-based articles, marked by an unmistakable format and aesthetic, that draws me to the series. The publications are in themselves stunning, and for me, that is part of my attraction to them. I find the experience so tactile. I also appreciate that they are themed, so I am drawn more to some than others.

      Thanks again!




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