IN THESE TIMES of fear and loathing, what can a body do? Put up a hand to resist, to stop the madness, to raise a defense; gather, perform, march.

The cover of this issue depicts one such gesture, in a photograph taken at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2014, well before the onset of the nightmare that is Trumpocracy, but registering dissent against some of the same forces of nativism, repression, and brutality that fueled the rise of the current regime. And yet this hand might also be read as a pause, a caesura. Captured by Wolfgang Tillmans—whose broad-ranging retrospective at Tate Modern in London is currently on view—the picture seems to register movement and transience in the background, yet it is uncannily sharp and static in the foreground. The hand might even be blocking the camera, though it also seems to rise gently before it.

Perhaps more so than any artist of his generation, Tillmans has understood the ways in which bodies become visible, palpable, distributed, mediated. We seem surrounded by such figures in transition now, hovering, like this hand, between defiance and consonance, arrest and entreaty. Today, when so many are being banned—and subject to violence the world over—the most powerful thing a body can do might be to declare its opacity, its staunchness, its substance. The essays in the pages that follow all look at how the corporeal is shaped and seen, rendered in history and produced for the future, mobilized to assemble and to act.

Michelle Kuo

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