Somaesthetics and Its Consequences in Contemporary Art


  • Peng Feng



somaesthetics, soma, life, flavor, senses, subjectivity


A dominant theme in Western visual art is the naked body. But a painting or sculpture representing a naked body is different from the real naked body. Vanessa Beecroft’s performances employ real naked women so that viewers confront the real body instead of its representation. However, the body employed in Beecroft’s performances is not what somaesthetics considers to be the true soma, a sentient, purposive body subjectivity. Yann Toma’ and Richard Shusterman’s photography project of Somaflux shows the body as energetic. But the energized body on the photos is still an object and so not yet soma. The real soma should be both subject and object. The China Pavilion at 54th International Contemporary Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia did not treat body as object but subject. In the Pavilion, visitors did not view bodies as objects or body representations, Instead they experienced themselves as perceptive somas, thus making the China Pavilion a more appropriate example of somaesthetics in contemporary art.