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Transcribing the body

Nina Czegledy & André P.Czegledy

Orlan, Selfhybridation, 2010

Since the 17th century, understanding the human body as an operative, physiological mechanism has increasingly gained acceptance over its moral, religious and mythological interpretations. Among other dimensions of a socially salient nature, such shifts in the paradigm of the body expose a range of dichotomies that exist between received concepts of the physiologically-given body and the new artificialities of corporeality. In the discussion that follows, our intent is to interrogate the contemporary situation wherein the previously sharp division between organic and technological forms of existence has all but disappeared in the maw of scientific advance. This bodily disintegration – and reinvention – has strongly impacted upon and, in some cases, literally fragmented, contemporary perspectives on culture, scientific development, and the moralities of bodily composition. More specifically, with respect to the discussion at hand, it has influenced the differing ways in which artistic expression has embraced the changing realities of the human body as both artistic instrument and aesthetic canvas par excellence.

By preference (in the main title) for the term transcription rather than translation, we mean to highlight here the ability of Art to transfer meanings between and through a variety of social understandings linked to sensory experience. Such transcription may not only transcend culturally-grounded interpretations but, in a neo-Platonic fashion, often attempts to capture the essence of basic human values on a universal level. Not surprisingly, it is one of the most elementary frames of self-identity that so often provides the anchor for transcription: the human body itself. As the French artist Orlan quotes in prelude to her ‘surgical’ performances:

"Skin is deceiving… in life, one only has one's skin… there is a bad exchange in human relations because one never is what one has… I have the skin if an angel, but I am a jackal… the skin of a crocodile, but I am a puppy, the skin of a black person, but I am white, the skin of a woman, but I am a man; I never have the skin of what I am. There is no exception to the rule because I am never what I have."1

The Body & Science 

Early Body-Centred Art 

Contemporary Performance Art & the Body 




1 From Orlan’s website:

2 D. J. Haraway, Modest_Witness @Second_Millenium  .FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™: Feminism and Technoscience, New York Routledge 1997,  p.32.

3 See S. B. Ortner, Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? in M. Rosaldo & L. Lamphere (eds.) Women, Culture and Society, Stanford University Press 1974, pp. 67-88.

4 M. Lovejoy, Postmodern Currents: Art and Artists in the Age of Electronic Media New Jersey Simon & Schuster 1997, p.81.

5 N. Czegledy, Shifting Paradigms/Modeles Mouvants, Contemporary Canadian Video Art (Exhibition catalogue) Toronto Vtape 1993, p.4.

6 C. Vo Braun, Split Reality (exhibition catalogue) Vienna: Ludwig Museum of Art, 1997.

7 Text of speech from:

8 Curiously, these invasive medical technologies have also contributed to the development of popularized "anatomical entertainment" films and television series that have lately been presented at the intersection of science and popular culture. Much of Hatoum's corporeal artwork engages the audience in exactly this very particular frame of voyeuristic intimacy – mixing familiarity with dread and thinly veiled discomfort.

9 From Orlan’s website:

10 N. Czegledy, & A. P. Czegledy, Mediated Bodies in M. Grzinic (ed.) The Body Caught in the Intestines of the Computer and Beyond: Women’s strategies in media, art, theory,  Ljubljana: MKC, Maribor & Maska, 2000 pp. 6-10.

11 Ibid.

12 Personal communication (to Nina Czegledy).

13 From Schiphort's website:

14 These connecting bodily images are stored on videodisk.

15 From Schiphort's website:

16 N. Czegledy, & A. P. Czegledy,, Digitized Bodies, virtual spectacles, in “Futures” 32/2 2000, pp. 103-120.

17 D. J. Haraway, Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s in  “SocialistReview” n.80 1985 pp.165-168.



Nina Czegledy, is an award winning media artist, curator and educator who works internationally on collaborative art and science/technology projects, as well as in education. She is has led, or been a key contributor to, an extraordinary number of workshops, forums and festivals around the world. Czegledy has published widely in books and journals and has presented at several international conferences and academic institutions. Current art projects include Aura/Aurora (2010) interactive audio-visual environment, Visual Collider (2009-) and Auerole (2009). Recent curatorial projects include: The Pleasure of Light, Ludwig Museum Budapest 2010, co-curator 3rd Quadrilateral Biennial (Rijeka Croatia 2009) Device Art in Budapest (Hungary 2009) co-curator e-mobile Art, the European Mobile Lab 2007-2009 (an EU project) and organizing team member for Eco Sapiens (New Plymouth, New Zealand 2011).

She is Senior Fellow at KMDI (Knowledge Media Design Institute) at the University of Toronto, Adjunct Associate Professor Concordia University, Montreal, Senior Fellow, Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest. She is actively involved in key international organizations including Leonardo, where she is a member of the governing board, contributing editor of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac and member of the Observatoire Leonardo des Arts et des Techno-Sciences OLATS scientific committee.

André Czeglédy is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University. In addition to his diverse background in Business Anthropology and Urban Anthropology, he has writing interests in anthropological perspectives on Science and Technology, particularly with respect to the cultural impact of biomedical visualization technologies with relation to the human body. He has conducted field-based research in both Hungary and southern Africa, the latter mainly in South Africa. He holds degrees from the universities of Toronto, the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Cambridge.


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Cette publication a été rendue possible grâce au soutien financier d'Hexagram, du groupe de recherche des arts médiatiques (GRAM), de la Faculté des arts de l'UQAM, de la Chaire du Canada en esthétique et poétique de l'UQÀM (CEP), ainsi qu'à une subvention, pour une quatorzième année consécutive, du Conseil des arts du Canada (CAC).