Andrea Muniáin

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Playing Bellies

The wording of the fifth goal of the 2030 Agenda, which focuses on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, starts with: “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.”

The entire discourse and almost all of the goals presented are based around an understanding of the existence of only two genders, male and female, and the historical and real inequality of women’s lives in the world.

The existence of multiple bodies outside this binary epistemology is not contemplated. And yet in the mid-20th century feminist and queer theories had already embraced, as Paul B. Preciado put it “a multiplicity of living beings and not only two sexes. There is an irreducible, chromosomal, hormonal, morphological or genetic multiplicity, which in no way can be reduced to binary.” Therefore, thinking about gender equality from a current and future point of view should not be limited, not even in language, to strictly male-female terms.

In her work, Andrea Muniáin conducts continuous research on the implications of the digital environment in the physical world, including tools, devices, Web applications, or any type of format which influences the physical world in one way or another from the digital medium. This is something that we are all familiar with. In fact, target 5.b of SGD5 seeks to “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women.”

On this occasion, Muniáin focuses her reflection on the biopolitical control of bodies and on trans views, to propose a digital image formed by several images: thousands of photographs that generate a form, a folded digital surface that provides information.

For its creation the artist starts from a specific physical situation: 4 miles away from this poster is the Supreme Court of the United States, where the law reform on abortion was drafted. A derogation of rights subject to the free interpretation of each state regarding gestating bodies. Reproductive policies affect not only the conception of which bodies are valid or not, with an important transphobic bias, but also how and under what conditions those bodies produce. Bodies are treated as territories with exploitation rights. In this metaphor, Muniáin works on the belly, as the central site of this relief at which the strategies of control over life and death are historically aimed.

To act on this body-territory, the artist has used the photogrammetric technique: a system to create images by combining multiple photographs to carry out a three-dimensional study. It was created in the 18th century, and applied by Sebastian Finsterwalder on German and Austrian glaciers, being one of the first testimonies of the effects of global warming. Since the end of the 20th century, the forestry industry has been using this technique to assess the productive logging of forests by analyzing tree trunks. Today, by means of 3D scanners, it is used in gyms to monitor bodies, analyzing indicators to predict the probability of premature death of each individual.

All these parameters are the basis for the generation of this “forest of bellies,” making an analogy between a tree trunk and a human trunk. As the artist explains: “through the representation of different isolated bellies, different cut trunks, the measurements extracted through photogrammetric scanning are catalogued, revealing that photogrammetry, a technique capable of creating digital replicas, of capturing any body, any material object, and introducing it in a screen, is used among other things as a tool of control over life and death, for humans and non-humans.”