Initial task for the following seminar was to answer three questions based on the excerpted text from Guillemette Bolens book ‘The Style of Gestures’. My personal approach was the attempt to connect and incorporate new information collected while reading the text with already existing interests and thoughts. For that reason, some additional questions arose which consequentially determined the structure and content of this seminar.
- Regarding the perspective of movement research: which are relevant differences between the terms ‘kinesic’, ‘kinetic’, kinaesthetic’?
Term ‘kinetic’ is an adjective that means pertaining to motion, caused by motion or characterized by motion. It relates to the motion of material bodies, and the forces and energy associated with that motion. In other words, objectively measurable aspects of motion.
In contrast, rather than to the motion itself ‘kinesic’ refers to a perception or understanding of movement (and motion). We often talk about kinesic intelligence. Intelligence is defined as ability to perceive information, and to retain them as knowledge and skills. Kinesic intelligence would then be ability to perceive kinesic information, that is information emitted by kinetic object (body).
On the other hand, ‘kinaesthetic’ can be understood as motor sensation, a sense or perception of motion. In some online dictionaries the term is defined as a sense stimulated by bodily movements and tensions that is mediated by receptors located in muscles, tendons, and joints, as well as sensory experience derived from this sense.
- What is the difference between motion and movement?
While differentiating three given terms, what attracted my attention is the usage of the terms ‘motion’ and ‘movement’ to define them.
Researchers in various types of movement-oriented disciplines often tend to use more one than the other. Collecting information from different internet sources I came to the impression that the people coming from the background of natural sciences prefer motion, while people from social sciences and art world tend to use movement more. It seems that motion has more scientific connotation than movement.
Nevertheless, they both refer to change in the position or going from one place to another in time and space. The difference being that motion is usually mathematically described by physical properties of that displacement (distance, velocity, acceleration, speed, and time), while movement often refers to the qualities or meaning of the displacement.
Movement usually implies purpose and/or meaning. Maybe we can even say that it is an entity, a thing, and not just a change in the position. A motion can be studied abstractly but a movement is not fully abstract because it is an entity. And although they both have kinetic features; movement also has sociocultural parameters and semantic properties. Here we can just mention gesture as a third term that can easily be put in this line of differentiation and who’s definition is more inclined towards the one of movement.
- What is the difference/relation between motion, movement and gesture?
The difference is very fine and delicate so usage can and does vary depending on the context.
From the perspective of a dancer my intuitive feeling of the motion-movement difference in its practical appliance seems clear. Continuously moving in a similar speed and quality for some substantial amount of time is something that I would describe as motion. In contrast, movement would be moving in shorter duration, with oscillating speed and differentiations in quality. Also, in this context, a thought that, motion is moving the body as a whole while movement is moving a certain part of the body, comes to my mind. And regarding gesture, intuitively I would say that it fundamentally has some additional specific meaning that it communicates. Defining and differentiating motion, movement and gesture in detail would require an extensive theoretical and practical research from the perspective of many different human agencies such as philosophy, sociology, psychology, arts, semiotics etc.
Not to stray away to much from the initial question, further, I will focus on the kinesic-kinaesthetic relation, or better correlation, as I understood it. For this purpose, I will mainly use all three terms (motion, movement and gesture) together, and at the end of the text I will review the difference once again in the attempt to establish the score for a practical research.
As I pointed out earlier, kinaesthesia is a sense, sensation, sensory experience, something that cannot be directly shared, externalized verbally or by any other conscious, structured, established ways of communication. One of the kinaesthetic assets is proprioception, that is a felt sense of owned embodiment, the inner sense which enables the body to be aware of itself. It can be understood as an inner experience of what it feels like to be/have that particular body. This gives kinaesthesia a phenomenological connotation. Phenomenology being a study of lived experience, of phenomena that arise from the subjective experience of being in the world. And if we jump for a moment to the field of psychoanalysis and refer to a Lacan’s perspective of the Self-Other relation. He establishes a concept that one of the possibly impossible things to know on the phenomenological level, that is on the level of subjective experience, is ‘how does it feel to be someone else’.
Furthermore, we conclude that it is not possible to feel kinaesthetic sensation of another person’s body since it is an inner experience. Nevertheless, the development of the embodied cognition theory in past decades, as well as interest in bodily discourse research has brought to light a way in which kinaesthetic knowledge can be, to some extent, communicated.
We as humans are constantly indulged in the process of perception, a process of collecting and interpreting sensory information from our environment. When we get encountered with motion, movement or gesture we perceive kinesic signals. This perception of outer manifestations combined with inner kinaesthetic sensation of our own body makes it possible to understand, recognize and even anticipate perceived motion, movement or gesture. And also, the same process enables us to mentally simulate motion, movement or gesture when encountered with pictorial or linguistic representation of it. In other words, we can understand kinesic as outer, and kinaesthetic as inner aspect of motion, movement or gesture.
- Does the kinaesthetic knowledge, the kinaesthetic sense of our own body conditions which kinesic information we can perceive?
- And if yes, what constructs the kinaesthetic sense in the first place?
- Explain the term visuomotoricity
I believe that here we can connect with the next question that introduces the term visuomotoricity, by saying that development of visual and motor skills, and their integration play a significant role in the establishment of kinaesthetic sense. It seems logical because kinaesthesia as a sense of one’s own embodiment must be, to some extent, conditioned by how much and in which way our motor and visual skills are developed in the first place.
Visuomotoricity is a term that addresses visual and motor skills, or better to say their integration. It is the coordination of body’s movements and what is perceived by eyes. Visual motor integration is described as a required skill for normal functioning in our society.
Most sources that I have found regarding this topic are orientated in a very scientific and technical way. Describing what are visual skills, what are motor skills, how do they correlate, and what is the proper way of functioning for humans. We can find many exercises that enable proper development of these skills as well as how to therapeutically improve them. Any deviation from what is considered normal way of functioning is defined as deficit, as malfunction.
After spending some time thinking about this topic, I understood how disturbed I am with these classifications of what is normal and how things should be. Already before, I knew I have an aversion towards defining what is normal and what is not when it comes to the example of mental states, mental health. And even now, when it comes to much more tangible things like visual and motor integration the same aversion arose.
I do not have any conclusive thought in the mater, except the feeling of wonder.
- I wonder how could these, I will call them, differences in visuomotoricity be creatively used?
Following the line of connecting visuomotoricity with kinaesthetic sense, for which we said has a phenomenological connotation, that it is something in its very core internal and subjective. And even though today we have knowledge, tools and technology to fix a lot of deficits, I wonder why do we have such a strong urge to fix everything according to the standard of normality, especially when it comes to artistic expression. Wouldn’t it be also valuable if we give the chance to ‘those people’, who are very often marginalized, to express themselves according to their inner sense of their own body?
Here I am not implying to artistic expression as a therapy nor education about accepting the diversity. I am saying that maybe it is possible to not consider these differences as deficits or lack of something at all, but as completely equal and valuable state of being. That each subjective sense of one’s own body in equivalent.
Coming from the perspective of movement research we could, for example, establish two group of people. First group being what is considered normal functioning visuomotoricity. And the second, with what is defined as some malfunction in visual motor integration. We could set a certain score that than is work through with both groups separately. In the end both results are put together in a creative representation. What would be interesting is to see how the same score would be executed by these two different groups, and what meaning would performed movements have since on the operational level they would probably look very different.
- What value, if any, could this kind of process have in understanding where does the meaning of movement/motion/gesture come from and how do we actually conclude the meaning?
- Explain some of the strategies which might be (or: you find helpful) to understand the MEANING of movement and gesture
I would add movement, gesture and motion to the question, because of intuitive feeling that there is a certain connection and difference between all three terms, and especially when we think them inside of bodily discourse.
In the end of the text I will propose an idea how to score a practical research on the topic.
Understanding of the process how does meaning occur can be approached from many different aspects but it always seems to have philosophical nature. Most common approach to the phenomena of ‘meaning’, refers to it from the perspective of language. This is logical since language seem like one of the most explicit example of human’s collective consensus about meaning of all things that could be possibly imagined. To say that something has meaning, is actually saying that something has a purpose which can be signified of explained. In order to have meaning something has to have a purpose which people are able to signify of identify with. Thus, language understandably comes as an obvious example.
There seems to be a universal need for meaning in humans. Ability to define meaning of things around us is the biggest form of consensus ever possible to achieve on a level of human spices but at the same time it is fundamentally intrinsic. And every aspect of human life can be put in question once it gets observed through the lens of meaning, exactly because of its intrinsic and philosophical nature.
In the internet search ‘What is the meaning of meaning’ the first shown result struck me as interesting. As a noun it is described as ‘what is meant by a word, text, concept, or action’; and as an adjective ‘ intended to communicate something that is not directly expressed’.
This I understand as somehow paradoxical, self-contradictory. And especially the second definition of meaning — ‘ intended to communicate something that is not directly expressed’ — caught my attention. Part of that sentence ‘something that is not directly expressed’ insinuates that there is something behind of whatever is directly expressed. Some information is given externally but only when the external stimuli merge with inner experience of it, the meaning occurs.
Approaching now the understanding of meaning from the bodily discourse, in reference to the Bolens text, and keeping in mind what was earlier said about kinaesthetic sense. We could hypothetically make an analogy between meaning and kinaesthesia by postulating that meaning of motion, movement and gesture is also a sense, a sensation, experience. The same as we cannot sense the kinaesthetic sensation of another person, we cannot truly externalize meaning.
When we see a motion, movement and gesture the meaning comes in a form of a sensation. I don’t think we can know the meaning; we can only feel/sense the meaning. Or at least, first we feel it and sense it, and then we might be able to, in some cases, rationalize it, become aware of it and even verbally externalize it when we get asked. This suggests that the act of communication is occurring, exchange of the sensation. Of course, this is extremely helpful and necessary in many aspects of human life in order to keep the established society going. But I personally question this necessity when it comes to art.
- Aren’t we, possibly sometimes going too far with establishing meanings in art?
- Why is so important that everything has to have a meaning?
At the moment when it gets externalized verbally it becomes a part of what we call reality. In this process it first becomes psychological and then sociocultural phenomena. And at this moment, in my opinion, it loses its most valuable aspect, it loses the life lived in the internal world of endless imagination, possibilities and sensations. Instead, it gets thrown out, pushed in the world of Symbolic order, world of semiotics, context and conventions. And from being an endless possibility it becomes a certainty.
Scientific revolution in the early modern period enabled the emergence of modern science and the growth of scientific knowledge. During the 19th century scientific knowledge became professionalized and institutionalized. This period of human history denotes a global change of worldview. Since then religious worldview got replaced by scientific thinking that is getting more and more incorporated in the society. And today there is an overall feeling that we value things more if they can be scientifically proven. We tend to approach everything scientifically, even art. And yes, there are so many aspects of art that can be discussed in the scientific, or better to say technical way, but meaning is not one of them. Scientific interpretation is the one poorest in meaning. The more things become comprehensible the more they seem pointless, meaningless. Completely scientific estimation of art wouldn’t say anything about its meaning.
And since it is impossible to directly communicate our subjective internal experience, and there is no such thing as objective meaning, maybe we just have to rethink some things.
We should simply change the approach to meaning. Ultimately meaning cannot be scientifically estimated or objectively deduced. Meaning can be felt and sensed, it is a subjective look and feel of things. We should always give time to ourselves to experience meaning, put ourselves in a state of experiencing the sensation of meaning in our inner world of endless meaningful possibilities. And instead of verbalizing it we can internalized it even more and express the experience of it through our own artistic creation. Incorporate it in our already existing content. Create something unique and new out of all of it. This artistic expression will then produce sensation of meaning in those who encountered it. And like this, we enable the circle of artistic exchange to flow.
All our existence is social activity. This means that our bodily concepts such as bodily image and bodily schema, both being connected with kinaesthesia and kinesic intelligence, are also social constructs. Bodily image as cognitive perception of one’s own body, and bodily schema as practical attunement to its environment that gets updated when the body moves.
This triggered a thought. In my bachelor thesis I have postulated the hypothesis that says that every artistic creation belongs to a certain ideology and certain foundations of beliefs and views which are socially constructed. This means that the artist is also a social and political context in which artistic creativity emerges. From this we can understand that not only that our artistic creation is a reflection of ideology in which it exists but that in its very base it is determined by it. In this sense every performing activity is ideological.
And if we follow Slavoj Žižek’s theory of ideology where he points out how there is no way to be out of ideology, there is only possibility to be aware of its impact on us. Connecting it to the postulated hypothesis. The only thing we can, and I believe we should do is to be aware of this ‘deterministic’ aspect of artistic creation as much as possible. We have to understand that as researchers, theoreticians and practitioners of art we have a certain social responsibility because with our artistic agency we are in constant communication with society, that is ideology we live in and create in. Personally, I find this extremely valuable thought because it indicates that art can be used to make the rest of society aware of this omnipresence of ideology. We can take Bertolt Brecht as a good example of the idea how art could play a role in undermining dominant worldviews (ideology) and the potentiality of creating social revolution. He managed to inscribed his philosophical and political believes in his dramaturgy. And although I am not insinuating to any revolutionary act I do believe in a interconnectedness of all aspects human’s agency inside of inescapable ideology.
And all that we said about how visuomotoricity conditions kinaesthetic knowledge and it determines kinesic intelligence and how all of that is determined by the society, suggests that this is true. Everything is connected. And so are we all. Just by the fact that we have all these cognitive and bodily ways to communicate, exchange, learn, teach, recognize, anticipate, understand, give meaning, express etc. All these means and tools have been given to all of us. And although they are not given to us in the same way, they do connect us. In addition, they give us the possibility of artistic creation. Because if we get back to the hypothesis, all artistic creation in the same ideology is influenced by the same conditions. We are all exchanging same information, recycling each other’s ideas to express something in a unique way, something new. That’s the beauty of all art, that is its true meaning.
APPLIANCE IN PRAXIS
It was evident that the approach to the topic of embodied cognition in Bolens’s text is one from the perspective of literary narrative. On the other hand, my approach to the text was to draw out ideas from which would be possible to construct the score for embodied research process.
What will be described is an initial structure upon which the research process can be based. The main subject of research is to find inner subjective sense of the motion-movement-gesture difference. This process is to be initiated with tasks and sub-tasks. In order for these tasks to be contextualized and to make a connection with the content of the Bolens’s text we will use pictorial representation and literary narrative.
Score will be based on two things:
- Translation process of kinetic actions from pictorial representation to a literary narrative, then to the embodiment, and lastly to representation of that embodiment
- The differentiation of motion – movement – gesture and how to approach them from subjective bodily experience perspective
- Select the pictorial representations
- 5 abstract images
- 5 naturalistic (opposite of abstract) images
- Analysis of pictorial representation
Observe each image and answer following questions:
- What do you see?
- How does it make you feel?
- Which motions – movements – gestures you recognize?
- By your own intuition, what events preceded the ones represented in the images, and what event follows after?
- Literary narrative
- Write down the answers in a form of a narrative, story
- In the spirit of free writing, construct a short story for every image
- Pay attention to: what and/or who is in the image; what are the kinesic information you perceive; what feelings, emotions or sensations it produces
- Give each image a title
- Analysis of the text
- Separate: nouns, verbs and adjectives
- Approach, nouns – by distinguishing between animate and inanimate objects; verbs – by differentiating motion, movement, gesture; and adjectives as different qualities of kinetic actions
- The answer to ‘ How does it make you feel’ leave as a sensation given by the pictorial representation. During the process always have it as a ‘reminder’. Spend some time just looking at images with a clear mind and letting yourself to be overwhelmed with the sensations the image produces. Just observe your state. Write notes.
- This is the process of translating the sensations from the pictorial representation and literary narrative into bodily kinetic expression
- Construct specific tasks based on the material generated through the previous steps
- Representation of embodiment
- Live performance as a final result
Banks, K., and Chesters, T. (Eds.) (2018). Movement in Renaissance Literature: Exploring Kinesic Intelligence, Swizerland: Springer International Publishing AG
Bolens, G. (2012). The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press Books
Johnston, Adrian, “Jacques Lacan”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
Smith, David Woodruff, “Phenomenology”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
Speaks, Jeff, “Theories of Meaning”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),
Shannon, J. (n.d.) Visual Motor Integration: What is it and How to Develop This Skill
Squiers, A. (2012). The Social and Political Pilosophy of Bertolt Brecht, Michigan: Western Michigan University