Amber Husain (UCL) - 2021-22 Students

Artists, Workers, Patients: Aesthetics and The Biopolitics of Health in Neoliberal Britain, 1982–1998

My research analyses the work of British ‘corporeal artists’ active in the 1980s and ’90s with a view to better understanding the neoliberalisation of British healthcare and the neoliberal subjectivation of those who rely upon it. The artists studied interacted with institutions of art and medicine in overlapping ways, both as artists and as patients, and did so during a period of incipient social and economic transformation that saw dramatic and lasting shifts in visual imaginaries of the human subject. I am interested in how neoliberal rationalities, and more specifically processes of subjectivation, surface in what were, at this time, new medical techniques and technologies for visualising and interpreting bodies, and crucially in how the artists studied took up, reproduced and refigured these techniques in their work.

Applying a biopolitical perspective to this art-historical enquiry, the project is concerned in particular with ‘psychosomatics’, and in historicising how constructions of the subject, grounded in various understandings or propositions of mind-body relations, become enmeshed in shifting strategies for the governance of life. Understanding art to have historically participated in the imagination and production of subjects and subjectivities resistant to capitalist biopower’s normative constructs, this research asks whether and how such a role can be sustained in the context of neoliberal governance, understood as a form of rationality that remodels self-identifications and motivations in concert with its own agenda of capital accumulation.

Primary supervisor: Dr Cadence Kinsey, UCL
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Mignon Nixon, UCL

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