[-empyre-] Sense as space

Alexander Wilson 01ek at parabolikguerilla.com
Mon Oct 25 10:01:29 EST 2010

Hello Empyrecists,

   Thanks Renate for introducing me to the list. Though I have not yet
posted, I have been following the discussions for a couple of weeks now.

I'd like to write down a few thoughts, post Making Sense Colloquium, and
hope they may spark some new tangent discussions.

A lot of my theatre and art work has dealt with the idea that sense as in
meaning and sense as in sensation, is inherently tied to a third homonym, at
least with the french word "sens" : sense as direction or orientation. This
lead me to conceptualize sense as space, space which is not only physical
and through which our bodies move, but a heterogeneous space that also
includes psychological space, that is, spaces through which our minds move.
Sense as meaning and sense as sensation are etymologically derived from the
idea of earlier words meaning "to find ones way" or "to orient oneself"
(see proto indo-european base **sent-,* which means "to go"). So spatiality
is extremely important if we want to look at sense holistically.

If both are minds and our body are *in *sense, that is, if they orient
themselves within sense in a holistic manner, then we must think of the mind
and body as one entity. I have often used the term “topological body” to
refer to this, though it is somewhat misleading. The idea comes from the
topology of non-orientable forms in topology, like the mobeius strip and the
klein bottle, the definitions of which give us a way of thinking how the
outside, physical world, could be continuous to the internal mental world.
If one were to stand on a gaint klein bottle's surface, one might get the
impression that the ground on which he stands has an other side, below his
feet, as it were, when in fact this “other side” is continuous to the “side”
he is standing on : the klein bottle only has one side. Likewise, the
topological body only has one side. The inside mental space of the subjet
extends continuously into the physical world outside. The topological body
is thus both mind and body.

In my work with Parabolik Guerilla Theatre, I have often treated the
question of the difference between “having sense”, that is, merely being
determined by the space in which the topological body is embeded, and
“making sense”, that is actively participating in the constant
reorganization of that space. Merleau-Ponty wrote about the difference
between *parole parlée* and *parole parlante* in this way.  It is possible
to “use” language in a non creative way, whereas it is also possible to
create through language, to reveal through language something other than
what a word means on a merely semiotic level. This creative use of language
is *poïesis*. But this distinction between having sense and making sense
extends to areas which we don’t usually call language : gestures also adhere
to this principle. The body is constantly involved in automatic gestures, it
relies on innumerable unconscious gestures that “make” no sense but "have"
sense, that is, the body is on constantly decoding sense which is already
there, inscribed in the repetitive processes which make up our present,
inherited from the past. However, there are ways in which the body can
attempt to become *poïetic, *and take part in new encodings of sense, create
new propagating processes, revealing new meanings, new ways to move, new
ways to interact with the world (or be the world).

In our practice with Parabolik Guerilla Theatre, Japanese Butoh has been a
huge inspiration, and from the very beginning was part of our physical
training regimen. Butoh deals with exactly this idea of transcending the
usual gestural and postural automatisms that are only decodings of sense. It
is and active attempt to not be determined by sense, but actually take part
in producing it. The idea of a topological body and of sense as space also
ties in with butoh’s sense of the body and space, where the exterior and
interior are incessantly forced to exchange places. A common interpretation
of butoh is that in it’s practice, the body no longer moves through space
but that the reverse is happening, the space moves through the body.

I could go on and on about these ideas but I’m already rambling. Renate said
at Making Sense colloquium to try to keep our posts short, so I’ll shut-up
for now...


alexander wilson

Alexander Wilson
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