Panel: The Performance of Experience

Camille Buttingsrud, Embodied Reflection

Philosophers investigating the experiences of the dancing subject (Sheets-Johnstone 1980, 2011; Parviainen 1998; Legrand 2007; Legrand & Ravn 2009; Montero 2013) unearth vast variations of embodied consciousness in performing experts. The phenomenological literature provides us with definitions of reflective self-consciousness as well as of pre-reflective bodily absorption, but when it comes to the states of self-consciousness dance philosophers refer to as thinking in movement and a form of reflective consciousness at a bodily level – as well as to dancers’ reported experiences of being in a trance and yet hyper-aware – we are challenged in terms of terminology and precise descriptions.

After empirical research on dancers’ experiences and studies of the above-mentioned philosophies of dance, aligning this material with Husserl’s and other phenomenologists’ descriptions of reflection and embodied self-consciousness, I find it plausible to acknowledge the existence of a third state of self-consciousness; a reflective state experienced through and with the embodied and/or affective self.
The interviewed dancers describe their bodily self-consciousness on stage with terminology phenomenology traditionally uses on the order of reflection: they are (bodily) attentive, explicitly aware of the other and the world, disclosing their experiences through transformation (by means of the body), (affectively and/or bodily) articulating what they experience pre-reflectively. This could indicate reflection, yet, there is a simultaneous lack of thinking and rational control, reports of artistic black-outs, someone else leading their arms and legs, being in a trance.

There seems to be an experientially lived as well as theoretically seen experience of the self where the subject’s bodily aspect of self “thinks”/reflects/accesses herself as object through/in/by means of her embodied activity, in which she is completely immersed.
Embodied reflection is neither mystical nor exclusively experienced by artists. It is the universal human experience of being profoundly focused through non-conceptual aspects of the self.

Ivani Santana, The Network and The Dance, or a cognitive artifact embodied by a situated cognition

This article discusses the dancer in the telematics environment according to the Embodied Cognition perspective. Grounded on the concepts of Situated Cognition, Extended Mind, Cognitive Artifact (Clark, 2003), “Actionism” (Noë, 2004, 2012) and Body Image and Body Schema (Gallagher, 2005), two artistic projects will be analyzed: “Personare”, networked performance between Brazil, Chile and Portugal (Santana 2014) and “Memoirs in Time”, an interactive telematics installation with three distributed niches (Santana, Canavezzi, 2014). If the perceiver (the dancer) knows this world through her/his sensory motor skills and these are in play when s/he interacts with this milieu (Noë, 2004), it’s possible to conclude that the telepresence brings to the dancers different ways of how to perceive the partner and how to perceive oneself, and so, new body images and body schemas will arise, which are responsible to play an active role in shaping our perceptions (Gallagher 2005). This embodiment process in this environment is consonant with the understanding of the human being as a symbiont who has coupled the artificial devices created in our culture (Clark 2003). Thus, the humans can be considered cyborgs because their mind and self are coupled in cognitive artifacts, it means, the humans are able to use no-biological systems to solve every kind of problem. The artists (choreographer, dancers, musicians, etc.) and the engineers/programmers off-load cognitive work into this world making the telematics field a cognitive niche built with cognitive artifacts involved in a process of organizing functional skills into cognitive systems (Hutchins, 2000:8). The artists, engineers/programmers and audience are embedded in a cognitive niche full of artifacts that expand their minds and re-size their bodies.

Stahl Stenslie, Embodied Perception in Somatic Sound – telepresentation

The paper presents artistic and practice based approaches to innovative haptic interface technologies for creating interactive compositions and user experiences inside of a periphonic, 3D sound space. Somatic sound is here presented as a) as technological innovative musical instrument, and b) as an experiential art installation. One of the main research foci is to explore embodied experiences through moving, interactive and somatic sound. The term somatic is here understood and used as in relating to the body in a physical, holistic and immersive manner.
The Somatic Sound project explores sound installations where the user can i) corporally control the playback of multichannel sound through touch, and ii) simultaneously experience a three-dimensional audio space as a physical continuum. The project combines the production of music through touch-based, multi-channel 3D sound with the simultaneously placing the performer into the position of a listener. The research investigates how this enables new and innovative interpretations.

The paper will discuss different theoretical approaches to somatic sound from Descartes to Pragmatism and Phenomenology. It will apply Heidegger’s description of breakdown scenarios to analyze ‘natural attitudes’ in the meeting with human computer interfaces and more generally with technology. Fundamental here is the often-misunderstood difference between Heidegger’s Present-at-hand and Ready-at-hand concepts. Focusing on the importance of physical experience, an argument for embodied consciousness is advanced. This argument follows from a dialectic comparison of Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the natural attitude: the way we behave in the world as if it is not problematic with Shusterman’s notion of Somaesthetics.
Contributions of the paper will be introduction of new discourse of what embodiment implies in media art and demonstrating this through artworks where embodied interactions turn action into meaning. Further the paper will outline new practices of inquiry and knowledge making through the emerging field of Somatic Computing.

Doris Dornelles de Almeida, Multisensorial experiences and embodied knowledge of professional dancers during ballet class

This research aims to understand the role multisensorial experiences plays in professional ballet dancers’ acquisition of embodied knowledge in their daily ballet class. Ballet classes, rehearsals and performances are all situated in specific socio-cultural settings, and form the core of the professional and symbolic embodied knowledge dancers experience. The ballet class is a daily practice that has a special place in the dancers’ lives as it that follows them even on holiday.
Whilst this research is rooted in Dance Studies, other fields such as Neuroscience, Cognitive Psychology (Cognitive Science), Humanities (Philosophy, Anthropology and Phenomenology of Perception), will be touched upon when relevant.

Although academic interest in the senses has grown (Van Ede, 2009), there is a neglected field within ballet studies concerning the relation between sensual information and acquisition of skills by dancers in the daily ballet class. My personal experience as a professional dancer for the past twenty-four years and as researcher for the last five motivates this study. My earlier work on dancers’ embodied identity in ballet class, rehearsals and performances was useful as a stepping stone for this sensuous ethnography with professional dancers.

The methodology included ethnographic descriptions, my active participation in ballet class and rehearsals, interviews with dancers, video recordings from these practices and performance analysis of ballet practices.
I argue through a phenomenological perspective, that in the ballet class professional dancers acquire embodied knowledge through a dynamic interplay of sensorial bodily experiences, such as vision, audition, smell, touch, breath, heartbeat, body temperature, pain, pleasure, kinaesthesia, fatigue, energy and emotion. Better understanding of this thematic can enhance teaching and learning methods in dance.