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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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The Body within the body: How to achieve body movement and sensations through body augmentation

The Body within the body: How to achieve body movement and sensations through body augmentation

Humans are impossible to move without to feel. Senses define our movements. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how to achieve body movement and sensations though body augmentation. Through phenomenological research the body becomes the medium of expression and creation. Body augmentation enhances the movement and the sensation of the body through tangible and intangible sensations. The statement will be analysed with choreographic terminologies, architecture and neuroscience principles. How our bodies can move and sense with different stimulus?


1. Introduction

The human body by its nature has a constant need to move. Both animals, like the rest of the animal kingdom, have acquired certain movement qualities over the years which we associate with their particular species1. In order to achieve certain activities and behaviours, the human body creates conscious and unconscious movements that evoke the change in place, position or posture in relation to the environment . The body is a complex organism that comprises different layers, such us the skin, bones, organs, muscles and multiple sensorimotor units2 that give “signals” to the brain (see something here, and act accordingly there3 that are found in the nervous system of the human body. The compositions of all those elements are very important mechanisms that the body needs in everyday life movement but also are crucial functions tin contemporary dance and performance.


1. 1 Intention

This thesis intends to examine wether it is possible to achieve body movement and sensations through body augmentation to initiate movement, analysed and defined through choreography, architecture and contemporary dance. The following research will inform my new device for initiating movement though body augmentation using case studies, phenomenological analysis and relevant body augmentation projects developed by other artists such us Rebecca Horn, Stelarc and Oscar Schlemmer, none of whom are dancers nor choreographers, focusing on how they used relevant techniques of body augmentations, movement and sensations and what impact these have on the movement. Furthermore, for the purpose of this research, the achievement of movement though body augmentation, is extended beyond choreography and viewed through the prisms of understanding space, body, movement and sensations forwarded by philosophers such us Juhani Pallasmaa (1996), Brian Massumi (2002), Heinz Von Foerester (2003), Gilles Deleuze (1987), Edward T. Hall (1963), Manuel DeLanda (2002).


1. 2 Background

The body, becomes the mediator of sensations, feelings and movements. ‘Somatics’ come’s from the Greek word ‘soma’ which means body, meaning “the body in its wholeness”, it is a field of movement study that emphasises internal physical perceptions and experiences. Some choreographers and researchers like Isabelle Choinière use Somatics to inform their dance practices or to create new contemporary dances. The notion of Somatics, play an important role on the relaxation and the mindfulness of the body. It enables the mover to achieve sensitivity that starts from the inner part of the body, up to the skin which responds to external stimuli such us the sensation of touch. This notion is a fundamental pillar on the development of my project using it as a methodology to relax the body of the dancer in order to be able to respond to any stimuli that the device is producing.

In contrast with classical ballet, that include strict forms and movement predictability, new contemporary dance is another form of expressive dance that combines elements of ballet with more than one style such us jazz, modern and lyrical. Pioneer dancers/ choreographers like Martha Graham (1930) and Merce Cunningham (1990) believed that there should be freedom in dancers movements in order to allow their bodies to express feelings and emotions. Choreography is a compound word that literally means ‘dance- writing’. It comes from the greek words “χορεία” which is the circular dance of the ancient greeks and “γραφή” that means writing. The act of choreography is the process of getting your ideas out into movement, onto a body (yours or someone else’s), giving your dance an independent existence. It has a lot of similarities with an architect, which will be explained in detail in the following research.

Fig. 01 Feelings

Fig. 02 Body freedom

In dance the elements of time, space and weight are interconnected and are fundamental notions for the creation of a dance piece. Most dance compositions are a result of experience in relationship with all those three elements. One of the main creative process of a choreographic composition is often taught by “knowledge of description”. The teacher’s input is cognitive, he describes and guides the dancers with images, choreographic narratives etc and then the dancers based on their experience, have to improvise a combination of movements, phrase, with a beginning, middle and an end. Improvisation is the way of putting the analysed, theoretical material into the soma- psyche (body-spirit). Frequently, the result of movement composition is unpredictable and comes from experience, intuition and external stimuli/descriptions that is received from the choreographer.

Another creative process used by dancers and choreographers in the 21st century is contact improvisation. In comparison with plain improvisation, contact is explored between two bodies instead of one by the fundamentals of sharing weight, touch and movement awareness, the two bodies communicate by giving are receiving messages. The sense of touch and being touched, pushed and pulled, are very important for the generation of dance material. Being inspired by contact improvisation I have used it as a reference to develop the concept of my device focusing exclusively on the sensation of touch and use it as a means of finding weather the use of body augmentation as new dance means of generating original movements. Using similar principles of improvisation and contact work, with the use of my device, the dancer simultaneously originates and performs movement without preplanning it. The skin, becomes the mediator of received stimulus which is going to be translated and interpreted as movement within the body. With the use of somatics as a foundation of relaxation to the dancer’s body, the interaction and the responsiveness of the body during in the device is stronger and the experience and the sensations are more immersive.


1. 3 Devices

A device is an object or a machine that has been invented for a particular reason. In the world of choreography the notion of device does not only serves a purpose but also it is a system of motion production. In order to build a greater body of choreographic material, choreographic devices are ways of developing solid pieces of movement by enriching and extending the initial movement, adding interest, breadth and depth. The nature of devices is to have a certain goal, in contrast choreographic devices are conceptual devices as they are intangible and are used for the creation of movement.

Different dancers and choreographers have developed choreographic devices and system either to create notation systems or extract choreographic material and movements for dances. Such as Rudolf Laban (1930) who creates the Labanotation, a notation system to illustrated body and movement in space similar to the music notation, and the term of the Kinesphere which is the space within our reach.

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