Scandal in European and American Culture Volume 1 has been published By DiG Warsaw and edited is edited by Bożena Płonka-Syroka, Dąbrowska,  Magdalena, Nadolna Joanna, Skibińska Małgorzata

Bodies in Flux: 

Grace Kingston


This paper addresses the theme of taboo and scandal by asking if, in an age of digital culture and globalised spaces, there can truly be a ‘taboo body’. Defining the taboo body as something that is modified or altered in a way that is contrary to a particular culture’s social norm, I argue that due to the boundless and global spaces that online social networking sites allow us to dwell in, we will always be able to find a space of acceptance. And if there is an absence of social ostracism and punishment, that characterises and defines ‘taboo,’ can we really say that any body is truly scandalous?


Located within a set of posthumanist boundaries, the paper reframes much of the research I have undertaken during the course of my Masters of Fine Art. It includes a brief history of body modification in the West, focussing on both subversive and normative bodymod practices. Followed by a discussion of one’s online presence, and it’s significance in the way we are beginning to redefine who we are, focussing heavily on the research of Sherry Turkle in her book Alone Together,[1] I propose to broaden the definition of the body to include our online counterparts. In doing so, I broaden the definition of what is considered ‘society’ or community, therefore debating if there are, in fact, global taboos.


Finally, I supplement my academic research with a description of how I have addressed these themes within my artistic practice. Specifically I discuss a performance piece I undertook recently, Bloody Machine (2011), which seeks to subvert the notion of the cyborg by literally fusing my real body with the portal to my online body – my iPhone. Using a cannula, I ‘plugged-in’ my iPhone to a vein in my arm, in doing so I played with the notion of our real lives being increasingly ‘tethered’ to technology as well as considering how what sustains my real body (blood) destroys access to my online body by subjecting the technology to water damage.

[1] S. Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, New York 2011

The full article is available here


Social media, bodymod, posthuman, avatar, identity politics, cyborg

ISBN: 978-83-7181-757-1