Senses of Embodiment

Senses of Embodiment research workshop
17–18 May 2012

Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki

Venue: Media Factory, Arabiakeskus, Hämeentie 135A, 00560 Helsinki

This two-day workshop brings together researchers and artists form different areas in order to catalyze the dialogue between philosophy, artistic research and research into arts and media. The event is open to all. WELCOME!

The discussions and presentations will emerge from the ongoing research of the five projects (see below) presenting their work in the workshop. The aim is to map the different ‘senses’ of embodiment. Here the word ‘sense’ refers both to rationale for research on embodiment and to faculties of sensory experience. More specific focus is set on those aspects of embodiment that constitute a challenge for scientific reasoning: excessive and abysmal areas of experience and as well as artistic practices that find their motivation from beyond the conscious thinking, even from the inhuman modes of being.

Updated programme


10.00   Mika Elo: Welcome + intro

10.40   Lecture I: Esa Kirkkopelto: “Artistic Research as Medium of Change”

(30 min. lecture, 20 min. discussion)

11.30   Lecture II: Sami Santanen: “Dimensions of touch”

(45 min. lecture, 30 min. discussion)

12.45   Lunch

13.45   Workshop I: Photographic conditions of embodiment

– Media Aesthetics research group / Mika Elo and Miika Luoto and Tuomo Rainio

15.30   Coffee break

15.45   Workshop II: Seeing, Performing, Experiencing: Researching the Dancing Body

– Cecilia Roos and her research project

17.30   End

19.00   Dinner


9.30     Workshop III: Sense – emergence – space

– Alex Arteaga lecture and presentation of an installation

11.00   Lecture III: Sabine Flach:

“‘The Communication of Senses’ – On Aesthetics, Aisthesis and Media of Embodiment”

(60 min. lecture, 30 min. discussion)

12.30   Lunch

13.15   Workshop IV: Embodied interaction in collaborative music experience

– Koray Tahiroglu and PESI research project

14.30   Coffee Break

14.45   Lecture IV: Laura Beloff: “Between Wearable Technology and Wearable World”

(45 min. lecture, 30 min. discussion)

16.00  End


WORKSHOP I: Photography and embodiment

Mika Elo (Postdoctoral researcher, Aalto-ARTS, Dept. of Media)

The workshop consists of Tuomo Rainio’s performance and video presentations, Miika Luoto’s lecture and Mika Elo’s interventions.

Rainio has built instruments that on the one hand are functional and on the other hand somehow strange and instable. His perfomance with these instruments aims at bringing forth the process of forming of an image. Rainio studies the bordeline between real and potential being of images.

Starting from Merleau-Ponty’s reflections, in his last writings, on vision and the body, Miika Luoto discusses the way in which phenomenology opens toward a thought of difference, for which the sense of being is defined by the irreducibility of images.

Elo addresses in his interventions liveness and recording of images as well as pictorial improvisation.

WORKSHOP II: Seeing, Performing, Experiencing: Researching the Dancing Body

Cecilia Roos (Professor of Dance Interpretation at the University College of Dance in Stockholm), Katarina Elam (senior lecturer in aestetics), Cecilia Sjöholm (professor in philosophy Södertörns högskola), Anna Petronella Fredlund(doctoral student Stockhol University).

Our process has moved into a more interactive one. What interests us at the moment is how the understanding of embodiment may be transformed by doing. In other words, we aim at embodied understanding which is something else than the verbal one, although we try

to express it in words. In this way we work with both body and language. The workshop proceeds in four steps. We will start by showing a movement sequence on a film, then Cecilia Roos will dance it live. After that she will teach everyone a short part of it
in order for everybody to explore the difference in these three experiences of the same movement material. We’ll take time for writing reflections in between. The fourth step of our workshop will be discussions starting from everybody’s individual experience
of the movement material, first in small groups and then all together for a sum up. The questions that the groups will deal with are:

  • How do various conceptions of embodiment inform artistic work?
  • How do artistic work and art research inform the conceptions of embodiment?
  • How does your experience of a movement material change if you first see it, then learn it, perform it and after that watch it again?

It is possible to get hold of embodied experience by watching: one should not underestimate vision in this context. For us it’s important to explore embodied experience in the workshop through watching, as well as through learning and performing processes.
We are not focusing on aesthetic experience (even if it is always present in one way or an other).

The transformation of experience during the four steps of the workshop is potentially a very rich source for phenomenological study. That’s why we want to share a few movements with everybody, to give a glimpse of the way we work. Through this process we hope
to open up new approaches to embodied experience.

WORKSHOP III: Sense – Emergence – Space

Alex Arteaga (Visiting Professor and Head of the Auditory Architecture Research Unit at the Berlin University of the Arts)

My presentation in the workshop “Senses of Embodiment” will be structured by two intertwined elements: a lecture and an artistic production. The lecture will be organized in two parts. In the first one I will refer to my recent philosophical reflections on the three major topics of my current work: sense, emergence and space. Starting from one of the central thesis of the enactive approach to cognition – “living is a process of sense-making” (Varela 1991) ­– I will expose my interpretation of the term “sense”. The two main aspects of this interpretation are: the idea that sense is a co-emergent process and that this process occurs due to the bodily, sensorimotor activity of autonomous systems coupled with their environments, primarily without the production and manipulation of signs. On this base I will propose a clear differentiation between sense and meaning. I will end the first part concretizing this general theory in the case of the emergence of space. In the second part of my lecture I will present a modality of aesthetic practice – sensuous framing – that I defined in my PhD. This aesthetic practice is based on the enactivist concept of cognition and thus relates directly to the concept of sense exposed in the first part. The artistic production I will show during my lecture will be produced in Helsinki in the previous days to the workshop. It will be a new video project of my research framework “emerging environments”. This framework is devoted to the creation of aesthetic strategies that provide access to the process of emergence of the environments where the projects take place. The theories exposed in the lecture constitute the reference to this framework and thus to this new work.

WORKSHOP IV: Embodied Interaction in Collaborative Music Experience – PESI research project

Koray Tahiroglu (Postdoctoral researcher, Aalto-ARTS, Dept. of Media)

New mediated forms of participative music experience make demands in terms of intuitive, coordinated and responsive interactions. These forms of interactions can be explored in the relevant social interaction context. This workshop will discuss the social dimension of collaborative music-making, in particular in the form of bodily and situated interaction. The workshop will facilitate a practice to understand more about bodily interaction of participants in relation to their location, distance and their coordination as a group, which will be used as indicators for sound producing events. Embodied interaction in Collaborative Music Experience workshop will give participants an opportunity to exchange knowledge on embodied experience of social interaction and discuss specific challenges for deploying engaging activities within the same domain.


Esa Kirkkopelto (Professor for Artistic Research, Finnish Theatre Academy): Body, Invention and Institution

The lecture will present an argument according to which the  process of artistic research carries out and displays a certain change, it articulates itself as a medium of invention. This medium compares itself with our given modes of perception and behavior that, insofar as they are given, consist of as many perceptual and behavioral institutions. The acting and speaking human body plays a central role here. It appears and makes itself accepted or rejected, understood as our fellow being or as a stranger. The body constitutes the only verifiable place and moment in the sensory fields surrounding us, where the words we use find their momentary and precarious meaning and state of rest, where the language that always risks to evade us – its signifiers, letters, signs, symbols and gestures – gets reconnected, instituted in the sensible and, hence, made aesthetic. From this perspective, the human body is clearly a medium of instituting, i.e. an instance. Is it only one possible instance among others, or does it somehow engage all of our understanding concerning both mediality and instituting?

Sami Santanen (Researcher at Factulty of Arts, Helsinki Univeristy): Dimensions of Touch

The lecture will consider the philosophical challenges faced when thematizing the sense of touch. The approach is informed by the pathic moment of touching. The focus is set on phenomenological tradition of thinking of touching and embodiment.

Sabine Flach (Visiting Professor and Reseach Scholar in Art Theory, Modern and Contemporary Arts at  School of Visual Arts in New York City):

’The Communication of Senses’ –  On Aesthetics, Aisthesis and Media of Embodiment

“The senses communicate with each other insofar as they open up themselves to the structure of objects” writes Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his Phenomenology of Perception and continuous to explain the relevance of an actively perceiving, embodied subject to experience the fragility and brittleness of glass, the hardness of steal, the ductility and plasticity of the burning iron or the softness of falling shavings.

On the basis of those classical concepts of phaenomenology this lecture’s emphasis is it to expand theoretical approaches of current embodiment-theories and their understanding of the relationship between bodies, senses, actions and environments. Already Merleau-Ponty’s sentence refers implicit on the relevance for an awareness for aesthetic and aesthesis experience. This lectures aim is it to shed light on the significance of  aesthetics, aesthesis and media for an understanding of embodiment – or more concrete: the hypothesis of this talk will be that there is no understanding of what embodiment actually is without the endorsement of aesthetics, aesthesis and media. This becomes even more relevant for a clarification for senses of and for embodiment. The thesis will be debated with examples from contemporary art and art-theory.

Laura Beloff (Researcher and Media Artist, Helsinki / Plymouth): Between Wearable Technology and Wearable World

The lecture considers wearable technological devices as constructed new human faculties, which impact our perception of a human body and our relation to the world. The presentation introduces the author’s developed figure and concept of the Hybronaut. The Hybronaut is a concept evolving within the field of the arts. It considers a human as a construct of multiplicity of relations within a heterogeneous network; an organic entity that is enhanced by technological and networked wearable devices. In other words, the Hybronaut presents a practical and critical investigation into the merger of organic and technological and its relation to human and his relation to the world.