200-year-old anatomical wax model, La Specola, Florence. Credit: Konrad Laker.

Against the idea of ‘the cure’

Konrad Laker, Oct 21st

The hope for a cure, a renewed absence of disease, is still one of the central legitimizing forces in the project of medicine. The promise of a cure inspires hope in patients and motivates doctors and researchers. But is it really a useful concept for guiding medical research and assessing the success of medical treatment? Konrad Laker argues that with the emergence of modern medical practice, the term may do a great deal more harm than good, unless fundamentally rethought.

Recent articles

In Pornworld

Katrina Zaat, Sep 30th

Is porn making us dumber? More aggressive? More gender-conservative? Or does it liberate the erotic imagination? Porn inhabits an uncanny space between real and pretend, shaping preferences and behaviours beyond the screen. While high-speed internet transforms the production, distribution and regulation of porn, the public discussion about its merits, and its potential for harm, is mired in a decades-old impasse over the value of different forms of evidence. Katrina Zaat asks who sets the terms of the porn debate, and whether it is possible to reframe it.

Why Can’t We Love Like an Albatross?

Alison Greggor, Sep 23rd

Certain species devote time to maintaining a relationship with their mate, often at great expense and in ways that seem to transcend basic reproduction. In exploring the wondrous world of animal mating systems, Alison Greggor explains the many parallels, as well as striking discrepancies, that emerge between humans and other species. These comparisons lead to a tantalizing question: are we alone in our capacity for intimacy and love?

Scottish tenements, English terraces

Andrew Hoolachan, Sep 21st

Although Scotland and England have been tumultuous neighbours, not least in the constitutional question Scotland has asked itself on September 18, their divergent residential architectures pose similar challenges and strengths. Andrew Hoolachan argues that our housing problem today is severe, but that we can create sustainable and affordable places to live without turning our backs on the intimacy of urban living.

Sex Education – A Wish List

Ina Linge, Sep 6th

Sex matters: we tend to agree and yet are squeamish about making it matter in the Sex Ed classroom, especially when it comes to acknowledging sexual and gender diversity. A limited focus on danger and disease shows that school curricula are held back by an indecisive attitude towards the positive values of intimate and sexual relations. Ina Linge suggests a wish list for an ethics of intimacy that could inform not only Sex Ed classes but a whole range of human relationships that rely on intimate encounters.

At the Festival of Love

Anna Blair, Aug 25th

In summer 2014, London’s Southbank Centre hosts the Festival of Love. Visitors can play games and dance, attend exhibitions, or watch performances: they are encouraged to engage with the structures of meaning around exhibitions of intimacy. Anna Blair reflects on the Festival’s nostalgic aesthetic, and on the ways in which engagement with others can be shaped and formed by place.

Cinema of Intimacy: Steve McQueen at Espace Louis Vuitton, Tokyo

Becca Voelcker, Aug 21st

The 8-metre-high glass-walled space is cocooned in aperture-like darkness; the film is projected on a loop, and we find ourselves at sea in Caribbean sunlight. Ashes is not a film about death. Though its title might evoke cremation, ultimately it celebrates life. We enter the installation, and Ashes’ life, in medias res, with no context to his earlier life or subsequent misfortune: only his buoyancy.

The Elasticity of the Artwork: An Interview with Fabrice Le Nézet

Chris Townsend, Aug 18th

The artist Fabrice Le Nézet’s latest sculptural works, exhibited online in a number of photographs, are distinctive works — not least because they do not exist in real life. This has been the cause of significant confusion (and, in some cases, embarrassment) for art critics. Chris Townsend had the chance to speak to Le Nézet about this work, the nature of truth and lies in art, and the relation of artist to critic.

‘I lived once in a grave’: Palestinian writers respond to the attack on Gaza

Decca Muldowney, Aug 14th

Blockades surrounding the Gaza strip prevent essential supplies – food, building materials, medicines – from crossing the border. But rarely do we think of these blockades as cultural and literary barriers, which stifle the voices of those living in the Strip. Decca Muldowney considers a range of Palestinian writers and poets, and meditates upon the power of literature to represent human experience, even across borders.

Careful: Do touch

Tobias Haeusermann, Aug 13th

Historically, the dominant paradigm of care has been providing acute for infectious diseases, rather than chronic treatments. Yet in light of the rising prevalence of chronic illnesses, care is becoming a more and more long-winded affair. It offers the most intimate insights into human nature: its lows, its highs, its errors, its embarrassments, and its inspiration. “But how can intimacy and care be combined?” asks Tobias Haeusermann, and illustrates how simultaneously maintaining empathy and professionalism means walking a thin and fragile line.

You’ll find Virginia in the City. A review of Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision at The National Portrait Gallery

Georgina Parfitt, Aug 11th

Georgina Parfitt visits the National Portrait Gallery in London to review Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Virginia’s life, from photographs of her as a baby to the original suicide letters she wrote to Leonard Woolf and Vanessa Bell in 1941. How did Woolf’s love of the energy of the city and her perception of her own persona, within this tumult of life that she loved so ardently, change through time?

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The Blog

What form does laughter take? Disturbing Reactions to Kara Walker’s Newest Piece

Kyle StonemanSep 24

Kara Walker’s installation at the Domino Sugar Refinery has received a lot of attention, much of it problematic. It is Walker’s ironic enlistment of racist stereotypes that gives her work its power, but this can also lead to inappropriate laughter and racist reactions. Kyle Stoneman explores how we tackle race and female bodies in a museum setting, looking at the installation and its impact.

What does it mean to have a right when you don’t know what a right is?

Nkita SimpsonSep 19

The Indian state has made significant headway in both welfare policies and neo-liberal economic development. They are well on the way to creating citizens out of the masses of people. In the column ‘Terra Nullius’, Nikita Simpson questions the narrative government officials spin particularly with regards to women and how in everyday life women are often not the empowered ‘nexus of rights’ the officials imagine.

Heroin and the stainless steel plane of the spoon

Johannes LenhardSep 16

In the Flummox-column, Johannes Lenhard narrates Michael’s story begging, scoring and shooting heroin on the streets of London. Michael is an addict who cares for his drug, but he has reasons for this: on the stainless steel plane of the spoon, the drug cares back – something that he was denied all his life.

Last Night of the What? The Proms are already over.

Anita DattaSep 13

The Last Night of the Proms rests in prime position in the British cultural calendar, but in many ways it is a betrayal of everything The Promenade Concerts stand for, argues Anita Data in the Sound World column.

Radical Feminism, Transgender Issues, and Phenomenology

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 24

A subset of radical feminists argue that trans people’s claims about their gender are invalid, but these radical feminists need to take a harder look at the epistemological basis of their worldview.

Jeremy Deller Confronts the William Morris Myth: Problems of Biography and Image

Kim Clayton-GreeneAug 22

William Morris is celebrated as a British hero, a craftsman who fought for equality. Jeremy Deller’s ‘We Sit Starving Amidst Our Gold’ celebrates and queries this legacy, summoning Morris to throw Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the Venetian lagoon. Kim Clayton-Greene looks at Morris’s biography and popular image, and the ways in which his intent and impact have at times conflicted.

Australia’s refugee crisis and the normality of exception

Nkita SimpsonAug 17

The phantasm of the illegal asylum seeker has haunted Australian politics for the past fifty years. The measures successive governments have taken to tame the beast encroach increasingly on their human dignity. As the Abbott government introduces ‘Operation Sovereign Borders’, Nikita Simpson questions what happens when the exception becomes the norm.

“Can we do some real music now?” – Practice and the pursuit of perfection.

Anita DattaAug 10

If practice makes perfect, and nothing’s ever perfect, why practise? This piece considers the various different kinds of practice that go into making an adept and talented musician. Thinking through the problem from a range of viewpoints, from that of neurology to that of a six-year-old child, Anita Datta reflects on attitudes towards practice and considers the array of possible results.

Palimpsestic Townscapes: Gilbert & George’s Scapegoating Pictures

Aurélie PetiotAug 8

Gilbert and George’s new exhibition, Scapegoating Pictures for London, stirs controversy, as per usual: for going too far, by portraying their immediate environment and including, for the first time, many references to Islam. Are these criticisms as empty as their canisters of
laughing gas? What are these works really depicting?

Pro-sex, and anti-prison, but what about kink?

Sarah Stein LubranoAug 7

This June, Gay Shame, a radical queer anti-assimilation group, led a protest against a prison-themed kink party. They say they are ‘Pro-sex and anti-prison’ but neither they nor their opponents have a clear sense of what to say about kink itself.