The first week of Winter/Spring Term began with an induction to Expressing the Unseen: Embodiment, Form and Art & Design. We would be looking at the theory, philosophy, practice and design of our understanding the body shape. The investigation of understanding the body will be through history, film, painting, anthropology, archeology, design, architecture, philosophy and phenomenology.

The tasks for the term are:

  • Choosing a philosophy as a toolkit to present our opinion on 27th of February, 2014
  • Document any interest and findings related with our subject on sketchbook
  • Essay (2500 words) and PDP by the end of term – 15th of May, 2014

By the end of term, we are expected to have more understanding to answer these key questions:

  1. What do these conceptions of body and embodiment have to do with art & design?
  2. How do these ideas shape how we think about our practice?
  3. How can we utilise such ideas within our work?


How do images mean what they mean? Can emotions be made visible? These questions has been explored by an artist, Kandinsky and his peers who were searching for an art that somehow unite the senses.

Philosophy of Mind: Embodiment

“The best biology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and phenomenology available today teach us that our human forms of experience, consciousness, thought, and communication would not exist without our brains, operating as an organic part of our functioning bodies, which, in turn, are actively engaged with the specific kinds of physical, social, and cultural environments that humans dwell in”. 

Mark Johnson, 2009, The Meaning of the Body, p.1

He believed that the brain controls the body and how we see the world or our perception of the world.

He also said that “Mind/body dualism is so deeply embedded in our philosophical and religious traditions, in our shared conceptual systems, and in our language that it can seem to be an inescapable fact about human nature” […]

“We postulate a “higher” self (the rational part) that must seek to control the “lower” self (body, desire, emotion)” 

Johnson, 2009, p. 2

There’s a dichotomy; divisions into two parts, kinds sub division into halves or pairs; division into two mutually exclusive, opposed groups that involves system of perception, attitudes and beliefs. A person’s ability to meaningfully engage their past, present & future environments and connect it with rational. How one thing connect or relate to one another by experience and monitoring our emotions. There’s a continuity which brain operates experience and consciousness.

Art makes visible the invisible processes of embodiment (e.g senses and feelings) visible through its creation. The viewers then be able to see the embodiment through perception of the work.

The Biological roots to arts

“Both strong and weak responses, such as uneasiness, anxiety, tingles down the spine, increased heart rate, and sweaty palm, can be evoked by art. I propose that art uses many of the same releasers that are present in natural stimulus situations to evoke these responses”

Aiken, 1998, p. 109

The theory was based on Charles Darwin’s primal senses as he studied the expression on animals and men. Artists would use lines to express the perspective of the image by speed, pressure, angle or flow.

“Zigzag lines, as sharp and pointed shapes, are likely releasers of fear. Early work indicates that pointed lines have an emotional effect that differs from curved lines. For example, in 1924 Poffenberger and Barrows had subjects match adjectives to lines and found that sad, quiet, and lazy were matched to big curves, merry and playful were matched to small and medium curves and small and medium angles were matched to agitating and furious”

Aiken, 2013

There’s a connection between ‘Words to draw by’ exercise in my subject course and embodiment theory. In ‘Words to draw by’ we were asked to try to express or describe words in forms of drawing, painting and collage. The exercise is to practice the art of expressing artist’s perspective of the words and try to communicate it to the viewers. Emotions can be made visible by uniting the senses. Emotions is projected through quality of line (mark making) base on speed, pressure, angle or flow.

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I personally think that both Johnson and Aiken theory naturally work better together. In order to understand the whole picture, I use my senses, experiences and memory which build my perception of the things I see, hear or feel.


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