My body is a research tool
We think we are in control of our bodies. Telling it what to do and where to go. But our bodies play a massive role in collecting information about the world we live in. Our bodies are research tools and experience both neutral, positive and negative arousal when we encounter forces. This corporeal stimulation is automatically classified into a spectrum of actions, performances, and responses that form the foundation for our embodied memories. Furthermore, a lot of communication is carried out below the level of consciousness. My body responds before my mind even registers a stimulus and will react to and assimilate what I expose it to. Why then do we only discuss experience, intelligence and knowledge in relation to our brains? Our living, breathing bodies help us navigate our way through the world, and need to take centre stage.
I must admit that these research reports have at times been tremendously frustrating for me. However, it did bring me to an important realization. By placing myself physically at the centre of my enquiry I discovered that my body is a creative resource, it is a research tool. Embracing embodied practices gives us access to a whole new avenue of latent knowledge. It was an immensely cathartic and freeing experience exploring using this qualitative method and I could refine my practice with the support and encouragement of the MCFP tutors.
In this course I learned how to position myself and relate my practice to the fashion system. The body and fashion have a convoluted relationship. The fashion industry is an industry that primarily designs products and services for the human body. Strange then that we seldom talk about how the human body works, or engage with it specifically as a source of information. If we are designing fashion for the body, why are we not designing with the body?
Fashion is plagued by the same epistemological conundrum as other fields of inquiry. Within a holistic context fashion was made to evoke an embodied response – i.e. ‘this is my warmest jacket’ or ‘this is my most flattering dress’. Similarly, you experience a bodily reaction to a garment’s tactility – you think of it as soft, smooth or silky. Yet, when we discuss fashion in academic discourse, we focus on value production and analyze it through a standardized semantic lens leaving no space for lived experience, different bodily perceptions of garments or different to creating garments.
We need to break from this irony – a fashion system where we are obsessed with the commodified objective body vs one where we forget the living bodies – those of the designer, the models and especially the bodies who make our clothes don’t matter. How can we embrace and shine a light on the bodies that have essentially been disembodied and made invisible? I propose we connect with the absent bodies using physical bodies and embodied practices.
Through my #artletics workshops, I seek to encourage people to think of their bodies as sites of enquiry and engage in a dialogue with themselves through physical exploration. Through intention and attention, embodied practices give us access to a whole new avenue of tacit, implicit and explicit knowledge; a resource that can expand our perception of and reinvigorate our participation in the world. I hope #artletics can activate and reveal knowledge that our bodies know that our minds don’t register? I hope #artletics can expose what my body is soaking up or assimilating into my system without my conscious knowledge.
In the #arletics exercise workshops, I offer, I am trying to make participants aware of the importance of sense, and interpreting through their physical bodies. I realized a while ago that I work through and process issues while exercising, especially when I was cycling. When plagued by a question, it served me well to push it aside for a while. It was an automatic response since the task at hand required all my concertation. Cycling up a mountain is hard work; your muscles get sore and your breath is heavy. Furthermore, you have to practice constant vigilance and be aware of the traffic. In moments like these, I’m not focused on my mind but on my body. I take the language out of the questions I have and somehow put them back in my body. Later on, a solution might pop into my head. The question has systematically organized itself into an answer. It’s a form of expression emerging from my moving body that has unknowingly been held in. I can’t explain how it was processed and maybe it wasn’t even processed using language.
There is still much to explore but I still believe our bodies and movement have this tremendous potential to lead us to answers. It works in ways we cannot explain and cannot really systematize just yet. But I hope #artletics will serve as a springboard for exploring non-representational ideas i.e. non-cognitive to inform empirical metrics of the body’s potential. I also believe the invisible processing power of our bodies has the ability to connect us with other invisible forces, perhaps through ‘affect’ to intra-connect us. As discussed in detail before, I would like to apply embodied methodologies to connect to other bodies that are hidden from us and that might be suffering. Is there suffering finding us because we condone corrupt practices in the fashion system?
My drive to reconnect with the knowledge in my own body has illuminated the wider need for society to be given dedicated time and space to use their bodies as sites of enquiry. Let’s all practice #arletics and explore more!