Hi All:Given that there is a bit of discussion about my article going on here, I thought I'd just chime in and let you know I'm lingering in the background and listening as a member of the list, and appreciate and welcome all of your responses (although I'll point out it gets cut off in the middle, at least in this mail - the whole article can be found at the link below). I'm here if anyone has any direct comments or questions they'd like to say or ask me, or if you want to pass my email address along to anyone else who might, for that matter.... I'll also mention that I'm currently working on my PhD dissertation, which takes a longer look at some of the ideas presented in the article, and would be happy to send it along after submission at the end of the year, if anyone has interest and lets me know.
The promised link: http://rhizome.org/editorial/1969 Warmly, nathaniel http://nathanielstern.com On Nov 1, 2008, at 3:32 PM, Johannes Birringer wrote:
passing this on to all, with the author' s permission Von: Yvon.Bonenfant Gesendet: Do 10/30/2008 10:38This text (Nathaniel Stern's review, see at bottom) is of great interest to me. The ocularist bias in theunderstanding of embodiment has been a perpetual source of frustration for me in terms of my own creative process and its interface with academic discourse. Working with texture, fabric, and extended vocalsound for the last years, the senses involved with the act of embodiment have largely been hearing and the haptic. Besides the Marks' (2002) workon haptic video and the recent Senses in Performance (2007) Banes/Lepecki collection (in particular the articles on by Fisher and Welton), as well as Pallasma's (2005) ideas about haptic architecture, and some works in French addressing the haptic in contemporary visual art, I find that real, felt, experiential frameworks for the sensation-embodiment interface are fundamentally lacking in academicdiscourse, particularly when the senses other than vision are engaged. Iknow there have been endless critiques - particularly in French scholarship - of the domination of thought by the eye, but these critiques are made in the language of the eye.However there is a wide body of work about the felt notions of embodiment that come from variousstrands of the psychological, ranging from body psychotherapy tohumanist psychological theories and increasingly neuropsychology. These are often linked to the sensation-emotion-action-reaction continuum. It is difficult to dialogue about these in the world of performance theory because a/few people know about them and b/the philosophies of embodied experience are often much better at describing and analysing embodimentfrom an ocularist perspective rather than engaging sensation activelyand c/there is a Foucauldian and Deleuzian derived suspicion of all thatis psychological. Somehow we need to find ways to 'talk' about art through the generation and reception of haptic sensation and not just through ocularist-analytic languages, and not just through observation (for phenomenology is a form of observation! = ocularist) and to find radical new languages for articulating the experience of embodiment rather than 'cold' analysis of it. I am working on this in my own way, bit by bit, with an experimental tactile publication this December and through other experiments, but this is a lonely field and we all have very far to go, whether our work engages with technology or not.I hope readers of this message understand that I am grateful for the wide body of work that has attempted to theorise beyond the mind-body divide.However I want to strive for work that talks in the lanugage of touch and hearing. I want the very fingertips and nerve endings to do the 'talking', the skin surfaces to do the listening, and still understand this as a form of rigour.If a group of any kind were set up to address these issues, I'd be mostinterested. I don't have time to spearhead right now, though. Yvon.Bonenfant *****************+****** hello Katy,hello all:oh, thanks for your extensive response, this is very good, what you say,and i want to reflect on it,...i was wondering whether everyone in the performance / dance community had already adopted the term embodiment and how they use it, as I cme across it first in the context of "embodied artificial intelligence" and engineering/computer science problem solving regarding design principles ofr intelligent systems (and a few years back, those systems involved developing useful algorithms and robots). I also think you are making assumptions about "participating" in such an installation or set of rules/algorithms, and thus about the intelligence of the system, yes?Johannes Touchkate wrote Sent: Sat 10/25/2008 7:13 PM Dear Johannes, thanks for bringing this back... I am not sure that I agree with you here... when you say..."Embodiment, here applied to the interactional setting of the show, is a category of phemenological assumption now used so frequently and relentlessly that one must tell oneself that one ought to know what it is, and i am notalways sure. "I think it is more than just the interactional setting that is determiningthe meaning of embodiment.It is the fact that the audience become the subject of the installation, their movement ( a kinesthetic experience involving action and reaction to their own image) is the subject matter of the projected shaddows in one example given. (Then they become the spectacle for the next person and so object buthave created and left the legacy of their own embodied experience).The term embodiment is used loosely these days (in my experience) to express anything that involves a physical aspect of an experience that is expressed through or in the body, i.e, or a sensory response expressed in a movement. The sensory motor aspect of the nervous system requires that a sensory input from any of the senses including touch generates a motor response. Awareness that this is happening is the embodiment aspect, the realisation for the mindin the moment that one is moving in response rather than thinking it.In my view a verbal response is as valid as a motor response and so as an embodied response, just as walking away and not participating could be, howeverit is still a response but not termed embodied because it is not the"corporeality" of the moment here, they are wanting a fuller engaged body basedresponse... reflexive not predetermined or conceived?Fifield is provoking thinking around the limited range of response that we have in contemporary society being based more on high brain rather than "of thebody" type;"He says that contemporary society comprehends bodies, and by extension the world, almost exclusively through linguistic and visual apprehension. They are defined by their images, their symbols, what they look like and how we writeand talk about them."In the installations the space between viewer and the experience is mediated by the embodiment moment, the viewer is no longer standing back observing but actively participating and expressing in the space, it becomes a livedexperience. (social?)Again this is an assumption that the more general responses (higher brain ones) are not also embodied, that the viewing experience, the presence of spectator is not also in some way an embodied experience as the affects are still happening but not manifesting in movement that then becomes subject matter? The provocation here is experiential, moving away from the dependence oftechnology (the mouse and keyboard). Maxine Sheets Johnstone is great on all this... the corporeality, thetactile kinesthetic aspect of being. This work is of the same philosophical standpoint. Massumi and Johnstone seem to sing from the same song sheet.Have just spent 2 luscious days with Doug Rosenberg working with these very questions. When the body the object of the experience is it disembodied, (e.g. 2 dimensional representation)? Can the subject matter of the virtual world be experienced in an embodied way? How is it different when the realperson is performing within this environment?simply and by way of clarification; when I place myself in the installation I am the subject, the mover, making gestural signs or expressions of being. I then becomes the object when projected onto a wall or screen, into a virtual space, through direct feed from the camera.. I am embodied as long as I am dancing in front of them, but disembodied when seen on the screen? How so if I am selecting and creating the image, the moving body is mine? My experience is embodied, my relationship to the projected me is also embodied, experiential, live, resonant, not spoken, written, analysed, linear, edited... etc.I (and so the content) become objectified and disembodied if the people experiencing it cannot relate or respond to it in other than "linguistic or visual apprehension"? I don't go along with that totally, as even the visual perception is supported and informed by our past experience and sensory affinities, associations that inform our response as much as the experience does... so I may be moved by the quality, the sound waves, the colour, the scale and so affected in my gut as well as in my visual cortex... so hmmmmm is that not also embodied response? Here not so, the debate is around a fuller integratedbody based experience?The whole experience can become participatory if others take my place in front of the camera and become the mover and image, seen by others, the viewers, does this then become social? I guess so as then we are collectively contributing to the experienced event over time. The essential aspect is about the lived experience, that involves more than the interpretative, languagebased response, and technology. I don't know if this elucidates... Katy In a message dated 24/10/2008 19:45:07 GMT Daylight Time, Johannes.Birringer@xxxxxxxxxxxx writes: hello all: not sure whether this review (below) was forwarded by Simon for us todiscuss, but i now have had time to read it, and am very grateful to find out aboutthis exhibition and the way (the writer says) it introduces or stagesparticipatory experiences of embodiment, action/reaction patterns, sensorialexperience of ourselves/the space or environment, etc .Embodiment, here applied to the interactional setting of the show, is a category of phemenological assumption now used so frequently and relentlessly that one must tell oneself that one ought to know what it is, and i am notalways sure. Same goes for affect(s).i wonder whether others felt like commenting on what is written here, andhow you read it or sense it ? regards Johannes Birringer Dap Lab ************************ Action, Reaction, and PhenomenonBy Nathaniel Stern on Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 at 11:55 am.In his book, Parables for the Virtual, Brian Massumi calls for "movement, sensation, and qualities of experience" to be put back into our understandings of embodiment. He says that contemporary society comprehends bodies, and byextension the world, almost exclusively through linguistic and visualapprehension. They are defined by their images, their symbols, what they look like and how we write and talk about them. Massumi wants to instead "engage with continuity," to encourage a processual and active approach to embodied experience. In essence, Massumi proposes that our theories "feel" again. "Act/React," curator George Fifield's "dream exhibition" that opened at the Milwaukee Art Museum on October 4th, picks up on these phenomenologist principles. He and his selected artists invite viewer-participants to physically explore their embodied and continuous relationships to each other, the screen, space,biology, art history and perhaps more.Fifield is quick to point out that all the works on show are unhindered by traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom computer software allows each artwork to "see," and respond to, bodies, colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of other new media- specific explorations -- such as networked art or dynamic appropriation and re-mixing systems -- it also accomplishes something most museum-based "state of the digital art" shows don't. It uses just one avenue of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into what their practice means, and why it's important. "Act/React" encourages an extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our own surroundings. As the curator himself notes in the Museum's press release, "If in the last century the crisis of representation was resolved by new ways of seeing, then in the twenty-first century the challenge is for artists to suggest new ways of experiencing...This is contemporary art about contemporary existence." This exhibition, in other words, implores us to look at action and reaction, at our embodied relationships, as critical experience. It is a contemporary investigation ofphenomenology.Near the entrance of the show, Scott Snibbe's Boundary Functions (1998) begins by literalizing the fine line between publicly constructed and personally constituted space, between "you (plural)" and "me." As his audience members cross the threshold onto the interactive platform, the work draws and projects a real-time Voronoi diagram around them. No matter how many people are present (and moving) in the installation, each gets a continual partitioning of exactly the same size: lines that separate them. Snibbe says his initial inspiration for the work came out of a desire to reveal how we relate to one another, how we define ourselves and the physical space of our bodies through, and with, those around us. When he turned it on, however, his revelation wound up changing that relationship itself: we immediately want to use our bodies to trap or destroy or trick the piece and what it re-presents. It was after seeing his own creation in action that Snibbe began referring to himself as a "social artist" -- given that he doesn't just reveal, but actually affects,social behavior. Further into the exhibition space, this is followed by Snibbe's DeepWalls(2003), where viewers' shadows are recorded and played back in a grid of sixteen cinematic squares. Participants dance and shake and explore with their shadows between the projection and screen, and every active performance snippet is stored as a silhouetted animation in one of its comic book-like boxes. Each video sequence replaces one that was there before. Here, we are creating embodied and dynamic signs within a greater, collaborative structure; we continuously find and make our own language and meaning with and through our bodies.We tell and re-tell and co-tell embodied stories, through movement.Echo Evolution (1999) is the next work on show, produced by Liz Phillips, an artist effectively working with interactivity for 40 some-odd years. It asksfor viewers to navigate through a large dark room, and responds withreal-time noise and neon lights. Where you move, how quickly you do so, and where others are in relation to you and the space, all direct the piece's output. Although potentially the richest piece in its complexity, the non- transparency of the interaction and its rules unfortunately made this work the weakest on the exhibition. Most viewers were trying to understand how it worked, rather than exploring their bodies in relation to that interaction. I've seen far better installations by Phillips, and think this one was an ineffectual choicein the context of the greater show.Brian Knep's premiering Healing Pool (2008) continues his explorations of biologically inspired generative algorithms. This room-sized petri dish features a floor that is covered in projected "cells" that active participants walk through/over, leaving tears and empty space in their wake. The installation then "heals" itself by growing new cells as seams and scars, never again to repeat any of its previous patterns. Knep's work pushes at the conceptual boundaries of how we understand growth, healing, organic structures and temporal inter-activity. It's a work that is mostly playful on its surface, and extremely subtle in its visual difference over time. So subtle, in fact, that it's very easy to miss its doubled gesture towards emergence theory: both how simple systems can create complexity, and how our embodied interactions, whichseemingly change little, have lasting and forever-changing effects. Simon Fildes