Intercorporeality and Technology: toward a new cognitive, aesthetic and communicative paradigm in the performing arts
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The goal of this thesis was to reassess the relationship between the moving body and technology, and more specifically, to focus on recent perspectives in the performing arts which inscribe new manifestations and dynamics of cross-pollination between the somatic and technology. According to Dr. Andrea Davidson, 'Such research has rarely been formally identified with the specialised field of somatics' (2013, p.3). The thesis thus proposes to reflect on the experience and conception of the performative body in the link it entertains with technology. Investigating this relationship, it defines a new paradigm, that of an 'interfaced intercorporeality'. This paradigm is constructed with special attention to a different relationship revealed between the interface and the notion of a corporal potentiality or 'interval'. In particular, the thesis focuses on the concept of a 'collective body' based on this relationship and on practical research conducted within the framework of my research, along with the methodology that supported it.
The research and creative work that are presented derive from experiments I conceived, conducted and participated in making. My analysis is thus based on direct experience. The relationship between the somatic and technology notably led me to focus on the notion of embodied cognition or 'bodily knowledge' and for this, to re-examine the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. As a consequence, this return to the experiential also required revisiting definitions given by the Greeks concerning the aesthetic as a reference to sensation and the ability to perceive. The thesis approaches the body as the ground and basis for creating work, as well as for testing the effect(s) that technology has on it. Experiments conducted sought to develop greater sensory and perceptual awareness in order to invest the relationship of somatics/technology in a dimension that could potentially constitute a transformation of self, of one's relationship to others and to the world.
Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological existentialism formed the basis for explorations made to forge links between the somatic and technology. However, it is important to clarify that my intention was not to make an analysis of phenomenology per se. It was rather referenced as a means to explain the framework of my research in relation to lived experience, sensation, and specifically, to my creative approach involving new technologies. Merleau-Ponty's methodology includes subjective, first-person accounts of 'lived experience'. Third-person accounts, or so-called 'objective' positions, are also included. These accounts are then shown to evolve towards an ecosystem of interaction and movement in order to experience and test the production of theory and practical experimentation involved in the methodology I adopted.
The thesis incorporates knowledge from several disciplines, but principally from the field of dance and technology. Highlighting sensorial and perceptual phenomena related to the transformation of the body through technology and subjective experience, it takes into account an interdisciplinary perspective that is linked to this problematic. The thesis begins with an introduction to phenomenology in which the concepts and positions of Merleau-Ponty are outlined, including those of anti-dualism, the lived body, the ontology of the body, corporeality, intercorporeality and the flesh. Chapter 1 looks at the evolution of this philosophical movement throughout history and continues with a history of the body in phenomenology, an analysis of certain applications of phenomenology in the field of dance and subsequently, in the specific field of dance related to technology.
Chapter 2 comprises a literature review. It also presents the bases of reductionist thinking, the proposition of a return to integrative thinking and issues concerning instrumentalisation, the double and the complexification of the self. It further examines the history of ideas surrounding the relationship between the body and technology, notions of the real-virtual-actual and a history and problematics of the interface. It concludes with a presentation of theories on the notions of potentiality, the interval and real-time.
Chapter 3 presents my artistic background, an historical overview of the trends and principal ideas that have influenced my work, as well as an examination of the field of dance and technology from the point of view of its history and more recent developments.
Chapter 4 is dedicated to an analysis of the research methodologies employed in the practical research for this thesis and identifies related issues. An analysis of problems encountered with existing methodologies notably highlights a need to invest in other methodological modes for practical research of an interdisciplinary nature. The chapter continues with a presentation of some of the methodologies currently used in the field of dance related to technology. The principles underpinning the specific creative research methodology I experimented with are then presented, proposing an adaptation of the aforementioned methodologies in order to respond to the dynamics of collective research of an empathic nature that are specific to my approach and also in order to invest in the link between the somatic and technology my project proposes. This proposition modestly attempts to respond to the lack of methodologies observed in the field of artistic practical research.
A discussion of the experimentation involved in the practical research for the thesis is made in Chapter 5. Two creative experiments are analysed. Their aim was to investigate and develop a collective physical body composed of five dancers in constant contact, whose movement and relationships create what I call a 'collective sound body'. This collective entity produces sound in real-time which is simultaneously spatialised. The analysis takes into account the ways these two bodies are interdependent and constantly interrelated.
Schematically, the first experiment served as a basis on which to found principles related to the collective body, while the second experiment developed them. The chapter further outlines creative strategies that were employed to test principles of self-organisation linked to sensation and stemming from the somatic techniques employed. It also returns to some of Merleau-Ponty's main concepts that were implemented and tested in performative experience: intercorporeality, the lived body, the dynamic of continual transformation and the principle of coexistence. Lastly, Merleau-Ponty's investigation of sensation and perception and his concept of sensory chiasms are related to the experiments' multisensory exploration and theme of intersubjectivity which are then proposed as leading to the possibility of intercorporeality.
Chapter 6 forms the conclusion and seeks to identify new knowledge generated in the thesis. Essentially articulating another vision of the performative body as developed through its contact with technology, the findings, both practical and theoretical, bring to light a different understanding of the body rendered through a dissolution of psychophysical borders in the development of the performative model I called the 'collective body'. The thesis further proposes that the 'collective body' and its evolution as the 'collective sound body', open up the path to a new approach to interfaces and further, to what I propose as a theory of interfaced intercorporeality. This research aims to reintroduce the body and its specific intelligence in the understanding and building of relationships that can be renewed. The technology used in these experiments was considered as a physicality and the activator of a reconfiguration of sensory-perceptual processes that the thesis argues can lead to the final paradigm of 'interfaced intercorporeality' it proposes.
References to the documentation included on the DVD are found throughout the thesis but mainly in Chapter 5. Along with the theoretical research presented, the two artistic explorations created are documented on the DVD.As I do not have copyright permission to upload the DVD, it was removed for copyright restrictions
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