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Thinking of the Body as both Rootedness and Breakhrough

Final Report Summary - MOVING BODY (Thinking of the Body as both Rootedness and Breakhrough)

The project MOVING BODY investigated the essential role played by the expressive body in shaping both individual (consciousness) and collective self (society and culture). The main goal of this investigation was therefore to significantly contribute to the development of a more integrated view of the living body, which would better recognise the strength and value of our full involvement in motion in all the activities that shape our inner formation, and also create something as “spiritual” as collective memory, exceeding the “capacity” of just one individual and “just one generation”. In order to meet this overarching goal, the project thereby concentrated on the phenomenological analysis of some representative bodily experiences and activities, involved in performing arts, viewed as paradigmatic cases of being-in-motion. For each of these experiences, I drew from the phenomenological analysis of representative case studies and examples: the bodily experience of being-in-motion involved in painting, as conceived by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Klee, Paul Cézanne and Paul Valéry; the bodily experience of being-in-motion involved in musical improvisation, as it seems conceivable from intuitions in Merleau-Ponty's work and reports provided by some famous musicians; the bodily experience of being in motion, involved in the act of writing, as described by Marcel Proust and Paul Valéry; and finally the bodily experience of movement which we perform as spectators of visual arts. The main and final goal of this investigation was therefore not just to create a powerful image of the moving body as a “means of recognition” between humans, but also – and above all – to show that from that base the theory of communication between human beings and human societies (i.e. either individual or collective bodies) takes off in a new direction. The central idea is that communication between individual and collective selves elaborates an emotional need for bodily contact that is gradually replaced in human beings by symbolic collective acts whereby participants are joined in one performance and feel as one. In this kind of communication, mental contact, accomplished through gestures and bodily expressions, has replaced physical contact, needed by social creatures. However, the original emotional need for bodily contact and intimacy is still the driving force that underlies motion in symbolic acts and makes language music-like in performing arts. The project thus succeeded in embracing a living idea of language and, especially, of art-language, as a “milieu of recognition” that enables human beings to recognise each other as belonging to the same community, giving unity and cohesion to their irreducible diversity and multiplicity. The project also resulted in providing an extended and more integrated view of the human body, including the most important implications that such a view of the body grasped in its active, practical form, as an active and expressive body, has for our understanding of phenomena such as consciousness, social and cultural empathy and creativity. The second achievement was to show that non-practical movements, especially expressive, emotionally engendered ones, are certainly the first crucial physiological factor in communication between human beings and human societies. Along this line of research, the project succeeded in showing that what may have led to the formation of verbal communication and understanding was a prior sort of symbolic action, the vocal and gestural accompaniment of the earliest communal expression of formalised feeling, realised in musical expression and ritual dance, which have led to the creation of a transcultural space of dynamic shapes in which different cultures and configurations of humanities can interact dynamically with one another.

The final results and their potential impact and use (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The final results of the project MOVING BODY go in at least four directions:
1. First, the project resulted in providing an extended view of the human body, including the most important implications that such a view of the body has for our understanding of phenomena such as consciousness and creativity. The project resulted in showing that only a coherent theory of the body, grasped in its active, practical form as a moving, gestural and expressive body, is the pre-condition for an authentic philosophy of embodiment, body and soul referring to already abstract moments of that dynamic. Along this line of research, the project succeeded in providing a new theoretical account of the dynamic process lying at the origin of the self and its conscious agency as an alternative to the model offered by Francisco Varela in his studies on auto-poiesis (self-creation) of the living being and on the relationships between “body-action-perception” (the theory of enaction). The project resulted in discovering that inner motion, and its awareness, is the foundation for the unity of sense experience, and an immediate and embodied means of access to the unreflective fund of experience that precedes and exceeds visual and mental cognition and promises to extend significantly the current notion of the human mind.
2. The second achievement was to create a powerful image of the moving body as a “means of recognition” between humans and to investigate how it is involved in shaping the collective self through the symbolic framework of expressive forms it creates when its vision becomes gesture, in other words, as "primordial expression".
3. The third achievement was to show that non-practical movements, especially expressive, emotionally engendered ones, are certainly the first crucial physiological factor in communication between human beings and human societies. Along this line of research, the project succeeded in showing that what may have led to the formation of verbal communication and understanding was a prior sort of symbolic action, the vocal and gestural expression of formalised feeling, accomplished in musical expression and ritual dance.
4. This topic has potentially vast implications in two mains fields: aesthetics and sociology. In my project, I explored in particular the contribution that such an understanding of the moving body can make to the attempt to understand how works of art and shapes, produced by bodily acts, set in motion the spectator who perceives them. Along this line of argument, I explored more specifically how such an extended view of the human body can be relevant to the following objectives: examining our relationship with the expressive forms of human feeling; revisiting the whole phenomenon of aesthetic reception from the idea of a potentially dynamic subject; and finally deducing the most significant consequences that such a conception of the spectator-actor can have on our way of arranging museum spaces, as a necessary condition for increasing the aesthetic experience (the emotion) in the observer while he perceives. In this sense, the project might find a concrete application in the practices and arrangement of public spaces and, in particular, museums. The project can thus be relevant to contemporary studies on perception and aesthetic strategies involved in the organisation of public spaces, such as museums and art exhibitions, and in the evaluation of their effects on designing new lifestyles and grouping spaces.

The researcher has created a personal website on her research domain, which contains some information on the project and which has been posted on the website at the following address:
luciaangelino.wordpress.com.
A page on the site web of the faculty has also been created.
The address is: http://philo.ulb.ac.be/whoswho/whoswho.php?id=b412d8b9fa43f047159146cfe8e3517a&faculte=philo