[-empyre-] Sense as space

xéna lee pirolambita at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 26 20:33:14 EST 2010

Dear Alexander,

I am catching up with some discussions on this forum, and I would like to thank you for your input, which has been very thoughtful and helpful throughout.  You also write beautifully.  The 'sense' in the direction sense that you speak of, is what drives Lorna and I in our vision for what comes after the colloquium.  Indeed, the surface meanings of the term might be personified in us: Lorna is the sensible theorist concerned about the disconnect of the field from practitioners, and I am the crazy artist who is pure emotion and senses but paradoxically also an academic in the sciences....  So is the goal to hold a colloquium or a series of colloquia of incidental comings together of the sense and the senses?  That, we feel, would be limiting.  There is a whole that is greater than its parts, and that might comprise the totality of perception that comes about from the input of the senses and sense (anyone familiar with the brain sciences will know
 exactly what I am talking about).  From this whole then arises an emergent property that is a teleological 'sense', as you say, which is bigger than any of its former parts, for it takes on another dimension.  In this manner, the 'sense' that we speak of does not end with the most immediate meanings, or the immediate events, and I am grateful to you for pointing this out.


--- On Sun, 10/24/10, Alexander Wilson <01ek at parabolikguerilla.com> wrote:

From: Alexander Wilson <01ek at parabolikguerilla.com>
Subject: [-empyre-]  Sense as space
To: empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
Date: Sunday, October 24, 2010, 7:01 PM

Hello Empyrecists, 


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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... 

thanks,alexander wilson
Alexander Wilson


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