The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art, Petra Kuppers (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

Erin Hefferon


The scar is self and nonself; it implicates and questions the subject’s agency and yet asserts the viability of the body/mind as a creative, adaptive, and plastic entity. The scar moves matter into the future of a new flesh: a different subject emerges, a recreation of the old into the new, into a repetition that holds onto its history even as it projects itself into an unpredictable future (Kuppers 2007: 19).

This is an interesting book – itself a kind of ‘scar’ – if the scar can be thought of as a site or emblem for making meaning and an opening for new ways of thinking and being embodied in the world. For Petra Kuppers, the scar is both these things and more, and her most recent book The Scar of Visibility: Medical Performances and Contemporary Art (2007), performs what might be termed ‘scar-ology’: a form of embodied reading configured through the materiality and metaphorics of the scar. Through her readings of the exhibitions and the performances she engages with in this book, she attempts to reveal those scar-like (and perhaps scary because unknown) moments when ‘meaning become[s] unstable [and] the unknown can emerge not as a site of negativity but as the launch pad for new explorations’ (94).

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