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The Physical Experience: How the Body Shapes Art?

February 3, 2011

On the cusp of the ocean, originally uploaded by creativeisthmus.

On the heels of yesterday’s post, it feels appropriate to talk about the body. My body, your body, anyone’s body. The body as home, the body as a place we live in and a venue through we which this thing “self” experiences the world at large and life. Religion and culture have a long-standing and at times tenuous relationship with the body. From yogic practices to self-flagellation, religions have varied and polarized practices along with a bevy of rituals and strictures regarding what one does with one’s body, how, when, why, where and what that means both in a social context and on a spiritual level. Wow! To me that’s just phenomenal and is very real evidence that our bodily experiences are and have historically been meaningful and important to our lives.

I see this reflected as well in our artwork–across traditions and disciplines. Why does anyone care about portraiture? Images containing nudity or sexually explicit material? Look back at the many versions of the Pietà that have been created. The definition given to the body of Christ, Mary and anyone else present in the scene lends emotion and story to works drawn from marble, paint, wood and other media. Images of the body tell a story and connect us to our own body, our own physical experiences. Art in motion like dance and performance art or art that involves the physical experience such as music or architecture: all involve and are deeply tied to our experiences in the physical body. It’s everywhere!

For me, I think of my body as my home and I have noticed how very much my physical state and physical experience reflect my internal state and mental/emotional climate. When I’m anxious or under stress, I will often feel that tightness in my musculature and posture; when life is feeling chaotic or out of control, I notice how I almost subconsciously try to compensate for this by putting more effort into my dress, trying to keep my physical space in control. Et cetera, the list could go on.

So, to provoke thought and in honor of the body and it’s role in society, I pose for you several questions:

What do you feel like in your body? How do you pay attention to it? When are you most aware of your physical body? How do you take care of it? How does your body play a role in your art or artistic process?

To happy playing, honoring life’s experiences and our own physical bodies.

Cheers to you!

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