A Change in the Body, A Change in the Thing.

Graduate Show Piece

In, ‘Experiences of the Lived Female Body’ I aimed to ground my theories surrounding the perceptual values of the mind-body phenomena and learn how to best articulate and engage my audience with my findings. My practice focused on exploring subject-object relationships in the mind-body problem from a psychoanalytic perspective; studying the works of philosophers such as Lacan, Heidegger, Husserl and Guy Debord, I explored the Ego, the Id and its variations in the hope of finding the source of the ‘body-object’.

 

My first performance piece, ‘Schneider’s Pendulum’explored Merleau-Ponty’s theory surrounding aphasia patients (specifically his Schneider case studies), in which he explores the breakdown in perceptual functions of the body. At this point, I was focusing on the concrete and non-concrete spheres in the mind rather than the functioning, physical body. 

Researching Heideggerian schema (see Appendix 1) and considering how to change the perception of my own body image I began to film my performances from a birds-eye view. Opposing my previous performance videos, this camera angle drew the focus towards the marks I was making and away from my specific, subjective, self. By doing this, I attempt to draw myself away from the ‘centre’ of relations, to produce myself as part of an image, of the whole ‘picture’ we experience. Following my performances, by painting myself performing, in a reflective, objective-state, I learn to understand myself as, and integrate myself, to become a part of the image (the true subjective experience). As an equal with my materials. As the material. I breakdown the boundaries that we set between ourselves, as the measure, and attempt to express my true lived, subjective experiences. 

 

Subjectivity is understood to be ‘the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions’ (Murray, 1884) Throughout 602, I have come to recognise this as a troubled definition. If, as Shusterman states, our somatic self-consciousness influences our experience in the world (Shusterman, 2012:54-56) and the world, in turn, influences our lived-soma, then I argue that our own subjective experiences include that of everything with which we co-exist.  

I tested this theory in my second performance piece of 602; ‘Beyond Blindsight’. To do this, I created an audiotape that played two correlating frequencies (15Hz and 2750Hz) that were said to hack into human consciousness and create a heightened sense of perception. Going into this performance piece (again filming from birds-eye view), I made no preconceived ideas of the marks/actions I would make. Responding only to the noise of this piece, I found myself functioning again, like a pendulum. I began to understand myself as a mechanical implement, capable of specific actions, and not others. As the tape turned and clicked in the machine, my body became engrossed in the function, at one with the sound.  The marks that were left behind seemed to display the entire extent of my capabilities in that exact moment. Since the beginning of my performative exploration, I have seen my mark making as the documentation of my acts; I now recognize them as both the documentation and the explanation of my functioning, perceiving body, which I, in turn, learn from. 

 

It is the philosophy of lived subjective experiences, our being in the world and our perception of it, that I have now began to focus my performative practice on. In his book, ‘The Phenomenology of Perception’ Merleau-Ponty states that; ‘Perception is a concept that exists in the breach between mind and body’ (Merleau-Ponty, 2011). Developing on this, I go further to suggest that perception is the bridge, between the mind and body; and further, that we can alter our perception of the world through the focus of body consciousness.

 

I began to explore the inter-connection between body schema and body image(see Appendix 2). It was the significance of challenging what we understand and further, how we understand ourselves,that led me to exploring theories surrounding ‘superficial schema’*. Now, I have begun to explore how we receive and perceive our being in the world, considering how we order the world rather than how the world is ordered.become  exceedingly clear to me that there is a question mark hanging over the head of the relationship between consciousness and the mind-body problem in

 

Studying artists such as Alfons Schilling, I began to explore the perceptual properties of the body, how they are received, measured and apprehended by the mind and how our perception of this constitutes our being in the world. For my Degree Show performance piece, I aim to explore the theory that; if our own perceptual properties can be altered, then perhaps, we can alter our self-perception and how we measure ourselves against the world. 

Of course, as I explore theories surrounding embodied subjectivity through my performative practice, I am aware that it is a challenging, if not impossible task to separate how we perceive the world, from our beingin the world. The relationship between our consciousness and our body is in its self, a convoluted one as it is the emergence of our consciousness that gives us the capacity for representing the world (Humphrey, 2000). 

 

‘The dilemma for artists is how to resist the temptation of conceiving the world only as a resource for his/her ends whilst remaining open to the world so as to experience what-is as being.’ – Representation and its Limits in Decartes, Dalia Judovitz, (Judovitz, 1988)

 

For my final performance piece, I will perform in a 6x6 meter white cute for 5 days (10-5pm). To alter my bodily perceptions I plan to carry out a 5 day [daylight] fast (reminiscent of Marina Abramović’s Body Conscious Workshop), conduct minor trauma to my hands and feet at the beginning of every day (adapting sensory responses) and wear ear plugs, turning my focus on the internal function of my body. To further recognise my theory of inter-subjectivity within my space, I have adapted my ‘arm extensions’ so that my drawing materials are connected to a spring mechanism within the pole. This enhances the idea that not only do I schematically affect and influence my immediate surroundings but that my surroundings affect me, my perception, and my actions also. I will open this performance by reciting a monologue explaining my theory (see Appendix 3) whilst inflicting sensual stimulations on body. 

Finally, I will perform this piece partially dressed. I choose to do this to signify the progression in my practice from studying the sexualised, objectified female body to studying the perceptual values of the lived body. 

My practice now calls attention to the instability of self-perception and the misconception that surrounds our understanding of the perceiving andthe perceived, lived body. Reflectively, I was already exploring this avenue with ‘Schneider’s Pendulum’, recognised or not. 

 

 

 

 

*

Superficial Schema: a central mapping of somatotopic information derived from tactile information.

(Head and Holmes, 2011)

Appendix 1

 

In Heideggerian schema, it is man-as-subject who orders the world and produces it for himself, as a picture (Jacques Lacan’s Ego theory also follows this template). Feminist philosopher, Dorothea Olkowski discusses this stating that; ‘the world becomes a picture and is able to be modelled because man looks upon it and represents it. In setting the world before and in relationto one’s self, man places himself at the centre of all relations.’ (Olkowski, 1988). In the discussion of ‘Being and What-Is’, Heidegger suggests that in pre-Socratic Greece, man was looked upon by the world (‘what-is’). In modern epoch, man does the looking and ‘what-is’ became an object of mans scrutiny. He goes further to state that when man becomes the determining centre of reality, he sets what is present out as object in front of him. Man is no longer looked upon, or an integral part of ‘what-is’ but is the one who presents it (Heidegger, 1962). Heidegger argues that when ‘what-is’ is reduced to mere schema, there is a halt in being, a halt in all lived experiences.

 

Phenomenology tells us that we understand ourselves as the measure by which the rest of the world is measured. This is habituated through most philosophical theories surrounding the body. By separating ourselves from all that we experience; society becomes a portrait. Divided by ‘the spectacle’, we live, a social relationship between people, mediated by the image (Debord, 2011). Lacan suggested that the spectacle preserves the unconscious, the self-taught image produced in the ‘Mirror Stage’ and the Ego. 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix 2

 

 

‘Body Schema’ 

A combined standard against which all subsequent changes of posture are measured. 

(Head and Holmes, 1911)

 

‘Body Image’

An internal representation in the conscious experience of; visual, tactile and motor information of corporeal origin.  

(Head and Holmes, 1911)

 

In his paper, ‘Body Schema and Body Image – A double dissociation’(Paillard, 1999) neurologist, Jacques Paillard argues that body image and body schema can be disassociated, pointing out the unresolved relationship between consciousness and body problems in psychoanalytic and phenomenological literature. In the case of blindsight and numb sense, cognitive and sensory motor levels of stimulus processing can be connected to notions of body schema, confirming Paillard’s view; eg. Schneider was capable of reaching out to touch an object without being able to directly perceive it. 

 

Appendix 3

 

 

Most of what we know about the natural body

And the way it embodies

Are specifications based on pre-established misinterpretations 

Of the body as

Merely a natural body.

We are habitually underestimated.

 

This is not merely a body.

This is an organ

An instrument of sensation

Of perception. 

 

This is your tool.

This is your mechanical implement.

You are the seeing machine.

This is your ‘eye-body’.

 

You, yourself, 

Your subject

 

You are both perceiving 

And perceived.

You are the measure,

And the measured.

You are internal 

And you are external.

You are simultaneously I, me and now 

As well as, an integral, tangible material of co-existence. 

 

We are schematically akin;

 

The body

The mind

The subject 

The object.

The arm extension

The paint

And the paintbrush

The space

The time.

 

They are relative

They are I,

And, they are you.

 

We are the experience.

The function of habit.

The sensual stimuli.

The intuition. 

 

We understand our experiences through the immediate perception of 2 eyes.

Of the immediacy of your height, weight, size.

Of your schematic understanding.

 

Alter this.

 

Self-sabotage; 

View the body differently

Understand yourself from the other.

 

Listen to the Body

The Mind-Body

The relationship

The dialect

 

The conversation

 

This is your measured, mechanical, problematic body.

Listen to your body sounds.

Walk in truth.

 

Explore your properties

How they are received

How they are measured

 

I plug my ears,

Returning my attention to my functioning body.

 

I pin my skin,

Altering my sensual stimuli 

registration and regulation.

 

I fast,

Concentrating my body conscious 

Desire derived from hunger

My body is recycled.

 

The body,

Its actions,

And its perceptions -

Extended into the relationship between body, material and the material world surround. 

 

A change in the body.

A change in the thing.