The Stories Bodies Tell

© Jacky Gerritsen

The Stories Bodies Tell is an inclusive interdisciplinary symposium exploring the many and diverse ways bodies tell and reveal their stories, with or without intention.  

In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” a heart lies thumping under the floorboards, driving the narrator from his senses. The body betrays, the ears hear what the mind denies. In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian tries to escape having the consequences of his actions inscribed on his own body by trapping his soul in a painting, so that he himself will never grow ugly or old. But he can’t stop looking at the sickly-looking portrait. Body obsession becomes the downfall of the evil queen in Snow White as well; a mirror is a dangerous place to live. 

Being desired makes victims of women in Greek mythology; nymphs turn into trees and reeds, and Medusa becomes a monster – the only way to escape the desiring gaze. Narcissus shows us that being desired – and desirable – makes us all victims. But ugliness comes with a high cost too. In fairytales, warts tend to be found only on witches and toads; they leave marks on their wearers. In fiction at least, the body often reveals what is hidden inside:  those who are beautiful must also be good, and troll girls can always be known by their tails. 

We struggle to escape physical representation outside of fiction. Beauty, illness, monstrosity, body art and modifications, fashion, culture, subcultures, history, and more all impact bodies and the stories they tell. Life is visibly inscribed on every line and in every pore of our body. What is beautiful and who is expected to be so seems intimately tied to the present; a relative story that changes with fashion and culture. And while some use personal expression to frame their own narrative, others seek to challenge the notion that the body says anything valid about what lurks inside on its own. The body may become a prison, when illness, disability or age takes over.  It can be the vehicle of the warrior, surviving battles, enduring  childbirth, committing astounding feats, revealing abilities we never knew we had.  It can survive incredible things, and the scars left behind tell stories of what we went through. Even the corpse, cold and stiff, may hide a last few secrets, readable by those who understand. 

My body. Your body. Our bodies. Whether we accept them, attempt to change or modify them, or even outright reject them, they remain inescapable, reminders of all we and others have experienced, vehicles of expression, storytellers we can never really silence. 


The Stories Bodies Tell
A Global Inclusive Interdisciplinary Project
Saturday 24th July 2021 – Sunday 25th July 2021
Online: ShockLogic Platform