Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Productive Bodies
Chelsea Thompto
2nd Author
3rd Author
MFA (Visual Art) / MA (Gender and Women's Studies)
Number of Pages
University of Wisconsin Madison
Thesis Supervisor
Meg Mitchell
Supervisor e-mail
meg.mitchell AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Finn Enke
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Visual Art / Gender and Women's Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
visual art, visual culture, new media art, medical history, transgender history, transgender medicine, mississippi river, engineering history
Abstract: 200-500 words
Placing in conversation seemingly disparate bodies (the Mississippi River and trans bodies) that find themselves contained and defined in colonial narratives of exploration, settlement, and expansion, "Productive Bodies" explores questions of visualization as violence, technology in relation to the body, and western society’s conceptions and renderings of bodily boundaries. Trans as a theoretical and artistic gesture of moving across, beyond, and through is enacted through a sustained investigation of how fluid bodies are rendered as fixed through geographic and medical mappings and borders. The Mississippi, the river I grew up next to has been subjected to the scrutiny of western technologies of seeing and modification with the goal of making it known and useful for western militaristic and economic development. Through these technologies, the river has become highway, amusement park, food source, and more. Western modes of visualization are also been entangled with the concept and production of “transgender” as a category for disorder, medical research, social/political argumentation, and more. Through researching how these forces come to shape our expectations of the river and trans bodies, this project examines how modes of visualization may violently delimit the livable futures open to the bodies in question. A transdisciplinary project, "Productive Bodies" includes archival research, procedurally generated audiovisual art installations, writings, presentations, artist books, and more in order to draw the viewer into an affective exploration of what it means to inhabit a fluid body mapped into fixed borders.