Body, Image and Affect in Consumer Culture
This article is concerned with the relationship between body, image and affect within consumer culture. Body image is generally understood as a mental image of the body as it appears to others. It is often assumed in consumer culture that people attend to their body image in an instrumental manner, as status and social acceptability depend on how a person looks. This view is based on popular physiognomic assumptions that the body, especially the face, is a reflection of the self: that a person’s inner character or personality will shine through the outer appearance. The modification and cosmetic enhancement of the body through a range of regimes and technologies can be used to construct a beautiful appearance and thereby a beautiful self. The article begins by examining body images in consumer culture and their relation to photography and moving images. This is followed by an examination of the consumer culture transformative process through a discussion of cosmetic surgery. The article then questions the over-simplistic logic that assumes that transformative techniques will automatically result in a more positive and acceptable body image. The new body and face may encourage people to look at the transformed person in a new way. But the moving body, the body without image, which communicates through proprioceptive senses and intensities of affect, can override the perception of the transformed appearance. A discussion of the affective body follows, via a closer examination of the body without image, the opening of the body to greater affect and indeterminacy. The affective body image and its potential greater visibility through new media technologies are then discussed through some examples taken from digital video art. The article concludes by examining some of the implications of these shifts within consumer culture and new media technologies.