Liquid bodies: Seepages, Stains, and Interminglings

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The ‘material’ and ‘embodied’ turns have highlighted the ways that bodies extend beyond the skin surface, entangled with and dependent upon the human and non-human bodies which surround them. Though we often discuss these entanglements in terms of affordances and material co-dependence of people and things (see Latour 2009), or affects and atmospheres these relationships create, this paper explores a different kind of entanglement: the ways the liquids of the body, its fluids, present a continual intermingling with the world as they seep, drip, and flow. Beart writes ‘Intentionally or unintentionally, in various ways and places, we leave our own traces in the form of ‘liquid relics.’ A stain of this kind is an extension of our own physical boundaries and marks our dealings with the world…’ (2017: 285). Addressing the conference themes of Water and earth this paper thinks about stains, the ‘liquid relics’ we leave on our clothes. These marks are traces of the ways we affect and in turn are affected and make visible a body that is not and has never been fully divisible from the spaces and things which it inhabits and meets. In doing so this paper thinks about the ways we approach these traces of use, examining the tensions between the stain as evidence of pollution and evidence of intimacy, framing them not only as imperfections or contaminations but as evidence of lives lived in and with the world. In turn it seeks to challenge the value we place on newness, cleanliness and the idea of the body as separate from all that surrounds it; values which this paper suggests inhibit our ability to change our relationship to consumption and reduce the environmental impacts of our clothes.

Both garments and stains are in-between things; things which we create, which we act upon, and which act upon us, both entangled with and separate from the bodies they touch. These objects encapsulate multiple dualities, crossing and recrossing the lines between body and self, dirt, and cleanliness, now and then. Framing the stain is an ‘…explicit manifestation of the intermingling of the self and the world. […] the matter of one agent … absorbed into the surface of another’ (Sampson, 2020: 149), this paper brings together a practice-based methodology of film and object making with writing and performance, to explore the ways that the stains on our clothes reveal the porous nature of our interactions with the world. Drawing on the work of Kristeva, Winnicott, Didi-Huberman and Douglas alongside Sampson’s own creative practice it asks how the liquidity of the body, its excretions and seepages, disrupt and challenge notion of the self as fully separate from the world which surrounds it.

The outcomes of this practice-based research will take the form of a fifteen-minute essay film and an accompanying text. The film will bring together found footage and film shot of a series of short performances in which Sampson interrogates the staining of her own clothing. In doing so it asks how a more nuanced engagement with the marks our entanglements and interminglings with the world leave can challenge ideas of individuality, newness and perfection which often underscore our understanding of both bodies and fashion and instead highlight the porous and distributed nature of both our bodies and our relationships with the world and frames these marks as something which must be engaged with, attended to and ultimately valued
Period16 Mar 202317 Mar 2023
Event titleEarth, Water, Air, And Fire: The Four Elements Of Fashion
Event typeConference
LocationVenice, ItalyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational