01.09 – 19.10.2014 Corpus

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art

curator: Maria Brewińska
collaboration: Katarzyna Stupnicka

Corpus is an exhibition of works relating to the body inspired by the books Corpus (2002) and Corpus II. Writings on Sexuality (2013) by Jean-Luc Nancy, one of the most important contemporary French philosophers. His work extends well beyond the well-worn paradigms of philosophical thought: really these books can be read as philosophical poems on the theme of corporeality. Nancy underlines the role that the body plays in religion, especially in Christianity, where the body of God becomes a real element of the religion’s rites and faith. Holy bodies, our own bodies, divine and secular bodies, bodies suffering, but also those enjoying pleasure: in art we find many such representations in the spirit of Nancy’s philosophy.

The exhibition opens with Dominik Lejman’s work Status (1 Hour with Timecode) that makes reference to Andrea Mantegna’s renaissance painting Dead Christ: an anonymous dead body, one of the multitude of dead people without any chance of return, or in other words of resurrection. In Hannah Wilke’s work, So Help Me Hannah, the body of the artist is shown in a similar way, only with the head in the foreground. In this way the artist anticipates her own illness, or in Martin Heidegger’s words, her ‘being towards death’. Ana Mendieta’s video Body Tracks similarly registers the experience of one’s own corporeality, the visualisation of its forms: it is the trace of a body that no longer exists. What we are dealing with here is an ontology of being, although in Alina Szapocznikow’s works we might even term it an ‘oncology of sculpture’. The skin of the human body, to which Nancy devotes a great deal of attention, is the first element of the outside that we perceive, that we touch and desire: in the works of Magdalena Moskwa, Marek Konieczny or Valie Export, this skin is transformed through illness, covered in bruises or eroticised with tatoos. Zbigniew Libera’s film Intimate Rites is a philosophical treatise on the body and the final acts of care that we offer it. The skeleton is the internal structure of the body which we do not see other than in x-ray photos, as in the work of Barbara Hammer, Birgit Jürgenssen or Marina Abramović. Vanessa Beecroft’s ‘live sculpture’, composed of a group of naked women confronted with a public, is an emancipation of nudity and a collective mass of bodies. Strange foreign bodies, as Nancy terms them, which are sold or undergo peculiar modes of spatialisation, as we can witness for instance in the process of work in the films of Santiago Sierra.

In the book, Corpus II, Nancy develops a thesis about the central role of sexual relations as a beginning of being with oneself. He continually reminds us that human bodies are sexual, erotic beings. This is the reason for the presence in the exhibition of works by Marek Konieczny, Duane Michals, Friederike Pezold or Betty Thompkins and her exceptional monochromatic images of sexual acts. In Nancy’s work, it is the word ‘touch’ that seems the most fundamental. It is joy and pain. The pleasure of the touch of that which is untouchable, because this is only the touch of one’s individual distinctness.

artists: Marina Abramović, Samuel Beckett, Vanessa Beecroft, Valie Export, Barbara Hammer, Marek Konieczny, Birgit Jürgenssen, Sigalit Landau, Dominik Lejman, Zbigniew Libera, Klara Lidén, Sarah Lucas, Jacek Malinowski, Ana Mendieta, Duane Michals, Magdalena Moskwa, Clifford Owens, Friederike Pezold, Adam Rzepecki, Santiago Sierra, Alina Szapocznikow, Betty Tompkins, Hannah Wilke

Jean-Luc Nancy (born 1940) – is a French philosopher and author of over 30 books and 300 articles. Born in Bordeaux, he studied biology and philosophy at the Sorbonne. Nancy is Professor Emeritus at the Université Marc Bloch in Strasburg. He has also taught philosophy in Colmar, Berlin, Irvine, San Diego and Berkley. In 1995, he was awarded a Chevalier Order in recognition of his services to French culture. Nancy makes frequent reference in his work to the philosophy of Jacques Derrida, with whom he was a co-creator of the deconstruction movement in philosophy. Derrida, in turn, wrote the book Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (On Touching–Jean-Luc Nancy, 2005) about Nancy. Nancy is also the author of analytical works on such classics as Hegel. The books Corpus or Corpus II belong to a rather different category, as they have the character of poetic philosophical reflections in which Nancy focuses on human corporality and its sense.

Most significant works:

La remarque spéculative (1973), L’absolu littéraire (z Ph. Lacoue-Labarthem, 1978), Ego sum (1979), L’impératif catégorique (1983), L’oubli de la philosophie (1986), La communauté désoeuvrée (1986), Le poids d’une pensée (1991), Corpus (1992), Le sens du monde (1993), Les Muses (1994), Être singulier pluriel (1996), Hegel – l’inquiétude du négatif (1997).

Artists' works in the Zachęta collection

  • Zdjęcie pracy Freelancer (Self-portrait)
    Freelancer (Self-portrait)Zbigniew Libera2013
  • Zdjęcie pracy Lego. Concentration Camp
    Lego. Concentration CampZbigniew Libera1999
  • Zdjęcie pracy Placebo
    PlaceboZbigniew Libera1995
  • Zdjęcie pracy The Doll You Love To Undress
    The Doll You Love To UndressZbigniew Libera1997
  • Zdjęcie pracy Intimate Rites
    Intimate RitesZbigniew Libera1984
  • Zdjęcie pracy Jan Świdziński (Magazyn Gazety Wyborczej), from the series Masters
    Jan Świdziński (Magazyn Gazety Wyborczej), from the series MastersZbigniew Libera2003
  • Zdjęcie pracy Zofia Kulik (Na Dworze), from the series Masters
    Zofia Kulik (Na Dworze), from the series MastersZbigniew Libera2003
  • Zdjęcie pracy Andrzej Partum (Gazeta Wyborcza)
    Andrzej Partum (Gazeta Wyborcza)Zbigniew Libera2003
  • Zdjęcie pracy Incydent z Kantorem (Trybuna)
    Incydent z Kantorem (Trybuna)Zbigniew Libera2003
  • Zdjęcie pracy Leszek Przyjemski/Anastazy Wiśniewski (Polityka)
    Leszek Przyjemski/Anastazy Wiśniewski (Polityka)Zbigniew Libera2003
  • Zdjęcie pracy Tumours Personified
    Tumours PersonifiedAlina Szapocznikow1971
  • Zdjęcie pracy Headless Torso
    Headless TorsoAlina Szapocznikow1968
  • Zdjęcie pracy Cohesive
    CohesiveAlina Szapocznikow1968
  • Zdjęcie pracy HalfAWoman
    HalfAWomanJacek Malinowski2000
  • Zdjęcie pracy HalfAWoman 2
    HalfAWoman 2Jacek Malinowski2005
  • Zdjęcie pracy Exposé
    ExposéJacek Malinowski2019
  • Zdjęcie pracy HalfAWoman... three years later
    HalfAWoman... three years laterJacek Malinowski2008
  • Zdjęcie pracy The Stain
    The StainJacek Malinowski2016
  • Zdjęcie pracy Santa Conversatione
    Santa ConversationeMarek Konieczny1975
  • Zdjęcie pracy
    Marek Konieczny1980
  • Zdjęcie pracy
    Marek Konieczny1985
  • Zdjęcie pracy
    Marek Konieczny1968
Related media
  • mediateka / audio
  • mediateka / audio
  • mediateka / folders / Texts
    Jean-Luc Nancy in Conversation with Maria Brewińska
  • Grafika obiektu: Zachęta. September, October, November 2014
    mediateka / folders / Texts
    Zachęta. September, October, November 2014
  • Grafika obiektu: Corpus
    mediateka / posters
  • Grafika obiektu: Corpus
    mediateka / video-documentation


01.09 – 19.10.2014

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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Godziny otwarcia:
Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.

for supporting the production of the exhibition we thank NESTOR
sponsors of the opening ceremony: DeLonghi, Kenwood, Freixenet
media patronage: The Warsaw Voice, Stolica,