Firstly, a big thankyou to CRUMB and Adinda for supporting this
conversation. Its a great chance to connect with others working in this
field and address some important issues.
Before responding to Kristinaıs post (great blog!) Iıd like to explore this
idea of going beyond just science or therapyı and examine what we imply
when we say just therapyı, since this is something Iıve been moving closer
to in my recent work, The Heart Library Project
It seems to me that there is considerable overlap between the
theoretical interests of contemporary (critically-engaged) art,
psychoanalysis, and somatic bodywork (i.e. Body-Mind Centring, Feldenkrais,
Alexander etc.), and most of this comes down to the strong phenomenological
flavour of much of this work. Considered in this way, there are a lot of
interesting conversations that could be developed across these disciplines.
Phenomenologically aligned clinical practices have much to offer other
disciplines in relation to their understandings of/approaches to the
subject/subjectivity, the processes and situations through which it evolves,
and techniques for engaging people in sustained, imaginative and physically
embodied processes of reflection and action.
The main difference between artı and clinical practice, as I see it, is in
the social context surrounding a persons experience, and the instrumentality
of these practices in relation to the clients motivations, and the
contractual obligations that accompany this instrumentality (you-the client
have engaged me the therapist/tutor to assist you in moving through some
difficulties you are encountering).
But even here, the boundaries are slippery: a survey of the diversity of
contemporary arts-health practices will reveal that even in traditional
health care settings (hospitals, nursing homes, healthcare centres etc. )
there is a growing appreciation of the value of creative arts practice in
the rehabilitation and empowerment on the whole person. Lizbethıs work in
arts-health is a great example, as is the work of Manchester based Arts for
Health http://www.artsforhealth.org/ (thanks to Uni Newcastle, Arts-Health
research centre, NSW, Australia!)
The designation of arts-health practice as artı or art therapyı is fairly
arbitrary, and I sense, fairly irrelevant to the people engaged in these
practices: we need the art-worldıs acknowledgement to the extent that we
are dependant on funding that is determined through peer-review systems
(i.e. Australia,UK?), and wish to remain involved in conversations that take
place in contemporary art theory and practice (which remain, for me at
least, of great interest!). Of course the sheer messiness and emotional
intensity of these processes are always going to be a barrier for fine arts
curators focussed on an aesthetics of precision, distance and coolness, but
thankfully we still have curators and producers prepared to take on
genuinely challenging, and potentially messy processes like these (i.e. full
of vulnerability, raw emotion, intimacy etc.). As contemporary artists
re-engage with communities, ethnographic methodologies and relationally
focussed aesthetics, these distinctions become less important.
DUALISTIC PERSPICTIVES: BIO-SENSORS, SPORTS-MONITORING SYSTEMS etc.
Kristina, I know what you mean, and its a good point when you raise the
implied separation of body-mind in these designs, but its worth
acknowledging that these designs have moved into the realm of individual
personal practice (i.e. People actually use commercial biofeedback systems
like Heartmath, Journey to the Wild Divine etc. on a daily basis) and this
integration into personal practice, can sometimes do more for the
embodimentı of holistic methodologies, than our various prototype
experiments and exhibitions. Richard Shusterman has discussed the normative
dimension of these type of practices in his various writings on
Somaethetics, in relationship to Foucault's critiques of body-shaping,
normative institutional practices. I wont go into this issue today, but I
suggest its just important that people have access to a diversity of tools
and practices, regardless of their socio-economic situation.
What concerns me at this stage is the way various commercial biofeedback
companies stake out IP claims on what are essentially millennia old
meditation practices, or fundamental psychophysiological phenomena
(respiratory sinus arrhythmia, breath awareness, visualisation of
energy/warmth moving through the body etc.)... I realise that thatıs what
businessı do, and have read Pine and Gilmore's The Experience Economyı
(economic progress = taking things that where previously free and abundant,
and selling them back to people as value added/transforming experiences),
but the socialist/anacho-syndicalist in me wants to counter this notion of
economic progress! As an artist exhibiting in not-for-profit government
supported cultural centres (perhaps naively) I think this is where I can
make a contribution: providing freeı (i.e. common-wealth supported) public
experiences that inspire and motivate audiences to engage with these
processes and issues in their own lives, in their own way.
PRACTICAL CHALLENGES: BIOMETRICS
I was going to talk about this from a curatorial, exhibition design
perspective, but Kristinaıs mobile work has got me interested in the issue
of accuracy more generally. Having exhibited bio-sensor works for the past
six years, Iım interested to get everyone else's experience with regard to
the accuracy of data that can be collected in public exhibition settings.
Iıve found it very difficult to ascertain the accuracy of my readings.
Acknowledging the value of ambiguity in an interactive design, and the role
it can play in facilitating reflect, Iım also at a point where I would like
to be able to fulfil what I believe is an unspoken contract between artist
and audience in these works that the lights, sounds, sensations being fed
back to them, are in actual fact, a reflection of something biological
process that is ACTUALLY taking place, and not simply interference noise
from them wiggling the sensors around, or bugs in my Max/MSP patch etc.
Iıve only worked with stationary interactions, and still face challenges
with the accuracy of data. Key weak points include sensor contact, timing
problems with CPU related calculation errors, and signal processing
errors/noise between the sensor and the computer. No one needs to know this
dirty little secret! and I certainly donıt go out of my way to talk about in
press! Iıve worked around this so far by focussing on other aspects of the
interaction, and this has been worthwhile and rewarding (i.e. Relational
aspects of the experience, reflection of experience in interaction, inviting
people to explore how different emotions alter the work etc.) but feel its
time I see how improvements to the accuracy and reliability of these systems
could alter the experience of the work for people using it.
This is about a transition from proposition to practice, and the range of
experiences unique to actual practices (i.e. Such as might be experienced in
clinical biofeedback or somatic bodywork).
Well, Iıve run out of time to write more will get back in a few days.
Thanks again, and look forward to all your contributions
Mobile 0417 566 425 (International 61 417 566 425)
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> In my view, many of them make us see our own bodies as objects or machines
> that can be trimmed, controlled, kept in balance - separate from ourselves,
> our dreams, our experiences of being in the world, in our bodies.
Katrina, I fear its even worse that that corporate institutions and people
designing for them probably ARE interested in trimming, ballancing and
controlling THE WHOLE PERSON, INCLUDING our dreams, experiences and being in
the world. Just take a look at reality TV the various IDOL contest, So
you think you can danceı etc. tragic monocultural imperialism, all wrapped
up in a rhetoric of achievement, transformation and the realisation of
personal dreams. How does NOKIA position itself in relation to these
socio-economic trends, Iıd be very interested to learn more.
> 11:01 AM, NEW-MEDIA-CURATING automatic digest system at
> [log in to unmask] wrote:
> I am also really looking forward to this discussion - and in particular, I
> am keen to discuss the value implications and the dualistic perspectives
> (separating mind and body) that many of the bio-sensor, health- or
> sports-monitoring systems enforce. In my view, many of them make us see our
> own bodies as objects or machines that can be trimmed, controlled, kept in
> balance - separate from ourselves, our dreams, our experiences of being in
> the world, in our bodies. I think this connects to Hannah's idea of
> relating to something else than the "objective".
> In my own work, we have been trying to use bio-sensors to connect scraps
> and bits of our everyday bodily experiences to various social events in the
> world and our own accounts of what has been going on. We have tried to
> create a systems that do not tell the user what they have experienced but
> instead provide materials to reflect on.
> An example from my group is the Affective Diary system:
> http://www.sics.se/interaction/projects/ad/ Another example is the Affective
> Health system: http://affectivehealth.blogspot.com/
> In short, both systems logs users' movements (accelererometers) and arousal
> (GSR). Affective Health also logs pulse. These data are then representated
> back to users in evocative shapes, forms and animations that do not *tell*
> users what they are experiencing, but are open- ended "surfaces" that they
> can inscribe meaning into in various ways. A lot of people really like our
> systems, but there are also those (mainly academics who have not used the
> system) that object to them, feeling that it is sad that we should have to
> have technology to communicate with ourselves. They fear it is a kind of
> prosthesis and that it distances ourselves even more from our corporeal
> My question is therefore: is it possible to use bio-sensors and create for
> embodied interactions that relate to our whole selves - subject/ object,
> body/mind, rational/irrational - and what would that mean? And am I right
> in claiming that a lot of existing systems convey a conceptualisation of
> the world that makes us think of the our own bodies as objects rather than
> our lived embodied experiences?
> Anyway, this was a very brief introduction of what I find fascinating in
> this field. Before writing tons more, I look forward to seeing more of what
> others have been thinking of relating to this field.