Body/Nobody: Uncanny Soma and Seeing in Australia

As a political expedient, the extraterritorial compact need not be tethered to matters strictly ‘territorial’. Any such abstract arrangement between sovereign states references at some point—and probably by internal definition—the somatic, the body. As a spatial model, it is prefigured by the notion of a mutually agreed upon displacement and occupation, a situation whereby people are made exempt from otherwise ‘normal’ local conditions, be they socio-political, cultural or spatial. We might imagine the body itself in similar terms, our somatic interior the site of spatial displacement contoured by a broader external matrix. To access this dark, subjective-yet-collective space of the body is as easy as closing your eyes, according to British sculptor Antony Gormley. ‘I think of it as the place of imagination, of potential’, he says. Reflecting on the qualities defining such personal interior space, he notes that: ‘It is objectless: there are no things in it. It is dimensionless. It is limitless. It is endless.’(1) It is also a paradox: this ‘extrasomatic’ space—just like the space conjured by the extraterritorial contract—can be conceptually inverted the moment it is named.

(1) Antony Gormley, Sculpted Space, Within and Without, June 2012,; accessed 12 November, 2016.

Image: Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly, 1946, Enamel paint on composition board, 90.8 x 121.5 cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Gift of Sunday Reed 1977.


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Darryl Bowes was an electrical retail salesman when he enrolled at the University of Newcastle aged 38. He won Faculty and University Medals for his Honours exegesis and an Award of Excellence for his doctoral thesis. Terry Smith has compared his work to that of Greg Dening and early Manning Clark.

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