Bodies of Artifacts

15-12-2020

Call for Papers, Journal of Somaesthetics vol. 7 no. 2

The relationship between the human body and cultural artifacts, such as design artifacts, artworks, and religious artifacts, is both fascinating and peculiar. For example, various art forms depict human and non-human bodies or use them as a point of reference. However, the body of artifacts has been neglected by philosophical aesthetics. Due to the dominant aspects of Western culture, artifacts have until recently been largely treated as “parenthetical” objects transcending strictly corporal matters. Artworks and religious objects are predominantly represented as intrinsic aesthetic or spiritual values and ideas that rise above their physical relation to the human body as well as other mundane considerations in general. In addition to fulfilling a functional purpose, design artifacts are aesthetic objects. An exception to this is portraiture, which is usually taken as a vehicle of the portrayed person’s “essence,” providing access to his or her personality and even bodily presence. Conversely, in an Eastern Christian context, iconic portraiture (i.e., a painted portrait and its material base) is an agential medium for the spiritual powers of the depicted Saint, which are projected into the believer’s actuality.

The increasing importance of, for example, minimal art, performance art and body art in the contemporary art world since the middle of the last century has invited us to rethink the complex interconnections between the human material and sensing body and artifacts by granting the artwork an agential body of its own. Michael Fried (1997) judged minimal art as theater (and not art), as a minimal art object creates a relational situation with the onlooker. Moreover, Arthur Danto (1999) claimed that artworks are representational entities that are marked by some sort of agency activated by being subjects of human experience and interactions. However, artworks’ generic dependence on humans does not mean that once a work of art has come into existence its “agency” can be taken from it. The significance and importance of art as culture and world-instigating artifacts (see, e.g., Heidegger 1950) has often been discussed on the basis of hermeneutics. However, a question remains as to whether artifacts become bodies that exhibit features other than mere matter or semiotics for aesthetic purpose.

Advances in cognitive sciences (Newman et al., 2014), philosophy of mind and language (Muñoz-Corcuera, 2016), and law (Andina, 2017) have shown that objects of art are similar to us then we have realized and that humans tend to have serious and intimate relations with them. For instance, both humans and artworks retain their (ontological) identity over time, even if they undergo various changes (e.g., getting old, being restored, or even being duplicated), and have legal rights that must be protected. Further, humans have moral obligations toward artworks (to them as objects of cultural heritage, to their inner “truth,” and to their authors).

Despite our knowledge that artifacts cannot sense and feel and thus act as agents, humans often make them subjects of passionate relations such as love or hate, which are traditionally reserved for the animated world, and thus project their feelings and emotion onto objects of art. The proposed considered shift in the conceptualization of the human body and its perceptual, affective, and emissive capabilities might be a promising starting point for reframing the bodily nature of artifacts.

This is especially evident when we consider artifacts that aesthetically create places as something experienced and reconceptualized by humans. Places are not mere sites; whereas a site refers to a geographically and geometrically understood space, a place is characterized by existential and inter-bodily dimensions. Examples of such place- and bodily-oriented artforms are architecture, gardens, and installation art as well as emerging artforms, such as interactive art or even food art. Placing the human body as a referential point for the constitution of place gives somaesthetics a unique opportunity to study these artifacts and ways of aesthetically experiencing them.

Somaesthetics is a promising framework for investigating an artwork’s body and its complex and interactive dimensions. Somaesthetics pinpoints the importance of differential linkages between theoretical analysis, pragmatic contextual effects, and actual practice as the experiential component. Hence, the framework of somaesthetics can open a multifaceted investigatory space of appreciation by focusing on the somatic relations between artifactual and human bodies. Artifactual bodies might, in turn, question the somatic and situated dimensions of human existence. Furthermore, the presumed agential-bodily dimensions of artifacts might contribute to the development of somaesthetics.

These questions might be addressed in artistic, designerly, and academic research. Is it possible for artistic research within, for example, bio art, body art or interactive art to shed light on issues that have been overlooked by somaesthetics? And, how can artistic or design research and academic research complement each other in the development of somaesthetics?

Submissions may address these and related questions/areas:

  • Do artworks have bodies, and if yes, in what sense?
  • Does the act of loving/hating/admiring artifacts presuppose or construct an artefactual body?
  • Does, and if yes, in what way does the poietic process of creating an artifact involve the construction of a relational body (as in the tale of Pygmalion)?
  • Can artifactual bodies be considered vehicles of energetic transmission? Are artifacts extensions of the artist’s body, and how is the artist/designer present in the body of the artifact?
  • Does body, pornographic, and erotic art presuppose the artifact to be a body in order to be effective and to establish an affective relation between the artifact and the observer? Can there be intimacy between artworks and observers, and if yes, how could this be conceptualized?
  • What are the differences and dependencies between the notions of medium and body in the contemporary world? Does the usage of human bodies as a means of artistic and aesthetic transmission invite us to rethink and possibly reframe the concept of an artistic medium? Does the medium have the same relation to the artwork as a body does to the human person?
  • How do aestheticization and “artification” change our notion and perception of human and non-human bodies?

Do not hesitate to report on hands-on experiments – and please do not hesitate to ask any questions regarding the issue.

Please, submit your proposals online: https://somaesthetics.aau.dk/index.php/JOS/about/submissions

Contact

Guest editor Adam Andrzejewski, a.andrzejewski@uw.edu.pl 

Editor-in-Chief Falk Heinrich, falk_h@hum.aau.dk

Schedule

May 15, 2021: Deadline for the articles (online submission)
August 15, 2021: Peer reviews returned to the authors
Sept. 15, 2021: Deadline for submission of accepted, redrafted articles
Late 2021: Publication of the issue

The Journal of Somaesthetics is a peer-reviewed, online, academic research journal devoted to research that advances the interdisciplinary field of somaesthetics, understood as the critical study and meliorative cultivation of the experience and performance of the living body (or soma) as a site of sensory appreciation (aesthesis) and creative self-stylization.

https://somaesthetics.aau.dk/index.php/JOS/about