Response to Garth’s Question re definition

My response to Garth’s suggestion is two-fold.

1. On the one hand, I am cautious about finding a description at this point, and I am including my thoughts about that. On the other hand, the question has had me thinking a lot over the past week, recognising the era in which we are living and the place of body-focussed responsive/interactive artworks wherein technology is the crossing point. In that recognition there is a new wondering about the reasons for exploring “thinking through the body” and a sense of how work like Feldenkrais can be a medium for understanding.

In “The Elusive Obvious” Moshe Feldenkrais 1981, he asks with emotion “If you come across something obviously new to you, in its form at least, please stop for a moment and look inward” . He discusses at the end of this book the place of technology in our current world, in terms of replacing slavery; how in the past, “slavery was essential for the growth of cultures, allowing the ‘masters’ to learn, to build, to write, to think” etc. But he recognises the trouble we are in, how we have to relearn, for today’s world needs a new “calibre of brain”. He predicted that “…the middle aged will have to provide for the young until the age of 25 and for the old over 55. We can now see that unless we learn to think about things we know in alternative ways, unless we widen and deepen our freedom of choice and use it humanely, the real abolition of slavery will begin as a disaster” 155

So, “thinking through the body” can be defined as an absolute necessity for our times, as a means of accessing more of ourselves (our brain, nervous system), therefore learning to think in a new way by looking inward, by knowing ‘oneself’.

Feldenkrais as a method asks the practitioner to move with another from within the reality of another’s body – for the sake of re-membering the way of the body’s movement.

[The quotations at the end of this post from “The Case of Nora” address more about the “how”].

2. About my concern about defining just yet. The challenge in articulating what we think “Thinking Through the Body” means at this point is that we might form an “agenda” of sorts, and risk contracting toward our tendencies to shape our experiences to satisfy an end, and all the while we may have strayed, missing possibly …the point …

The subtle nature of the process sparked by our physically coming together in Workshop 1 might be missed. Can we hold the question open, so that we are continually thinking, engaging without knowing and feeling the sensations of being stimulated yet not understanding, seeing what we rely on to know where we are and what we think?

Regarding Garth’s earlier question “How do we (as interactive designers) get to experience through touch?” to George’s iteration “How do we get to experience through the touch we facilitate as makers in responsive electronic systems?” could we find a question around verbalising awareness of sensation of movement as a means to making meaning? Lizzie has provided us with a tool. I am curious to explore ways of applying the recall processes in a Feldenkrais context. I’ll be sending recorded “Awareness Through Movement” lessons to everyone & it might be interesting for others to independently consider how an experiment might take shape.

I recommend reading Moshe Feldenkrais, 1977, The Case of Nora, Harper & Row, in which Feldenkrais unravels… “learning in which quantity grows and changes to a new quality, and not the mere accumulation of knowledge”… Learning that is elusive and “can go on for more or less lengthy periods of time, apparently aimlessly, and then a new form of action appears as if from nowhere”.

I have pasted excerpts below to perhaps mirror something of what I’m trying to say.

Quotes from ‘The Case of Nora’ :

[MS_Moshe is referring to how he is working with Nora (who suffered a severe & unusual stroke) toward relearning the function of writing]

p. 71. “It is a large step to make a body stimulation into a designed movement on a surface of the environment. Just think how simple sensations of movement become meaningful when one can verbalise awareness of the sensation or the movement or both.”

p. 68 “I realized that people can have a sensory experience and have no awareness of it. A sensory stimulation is really not an experience, just a sensory stimulation. There is no meaning to it before there is an internal query as to what one feels. Unless one looks for a meaning, there is none in the stimulation and none in the sensation of the stimulation.”

p. 69 “Stimulations below the threshold of pain have no significance without awareness; awareness gives them meaning. Or maybe the discernment of meaning means awareness”.

p. 72 “Differentiation is discrimination with initiative and is the evidence of the successful process of learning. Note the wording I am using. It is important to follow the steps of action instead of thinking in abstract words. Nora’s action was passive until something grew in her which bubbled over somehow, one way or another. Then the passivity gradually turned into action…Learning is turning darkness, which is absence of light, into light. Learning is creation. It is making something out of nothing. Learning grows until it dawns on you.” [MS_I am reminded here of George’s description of his FI lesson – having the “aha” experience]

p. 78 “The first years of a baby pass in learning to see, to walk, and to speak, and the infant is still largely sensory and auditive”.

p. 79 “We have no inkling of the outside world when we arrive in it. The stimulation of the senses carries no information except that senses are being stimulated. The beginning of our acquaintance with the outside world is sensory and entirely subjective, and so for a long time we know only a sensorial entirely subjective reality. 80 We are, however, never alone; we are always in communication with other human beings such as parents and teachers. Without ever stopping to think, we behave as if all the others have the same subjective reality. Yet there are as many subjective realities as there are subjects… Objective reality …is reality as experienced by all men. It limits and restricts your subjective reality and mine to that on which all others agree. Subjective reality is anchored in us and is as real as our bodies; objective reality is the measure of our sanity”.

p. 91 “Body awareness enables us to know we orient ourselves. In (adults) the complexity is even greater. For an infant orients himself as an animal does, but an (adult) knows how the get “there” and in “time”.”

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