Reviewing body has been always depicted for several aims

 

 

Reviewing
history of art, it is seen that human body has been always depicted for several
aims and in several media. However, the point that whether the concept of human
body has been also widely considered, and whether it has captured enough
attention becomes an important question in history of art. Bodily awareness and
maybe the concept of body despite its richness have attracted relatively little
attention in the field of art compared to massive use of human body in media. As it has been frequently mentioned in
literature, human being usually aims to use body, but forgets to reflect upon
it, and body is always immediately present to the subject (Merleau-Ponty, 1945;
O’Shaughnessy, 1980). Is not this a peculiar feature of human body? Personally,
I always have a huge number of questions about body and bodily awareness. This
essay studies bodily awareness and a form of performance art in which the body
is the center of act, Butoh Dance, in order to find some overlapping
philosophical and artistic information about the bodily awareness and also the
function of bodily awareness.

We
have body made up a variety of components and sensations. We feel our body in
mysterious ways. We are aware of our body and the world by the body. I see the world by opening my eyes while I
feel the motion of my eyelid. I can feel that my legs
are crossed and that my arm is raising while I am looking at surrounding world. I feel tired and thirsty. I
feel cold. I feel my teeth begin to chatter. My back itches. The way we relate
to our body, including the way we perceive it, control it and affectively react
to what happens to it, is unlike the way we relate to other objects. All we
experience is this constant blurry fuzzy “feeling of the same old body always
there” (James, 1890, p. 242).

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Hijikata Tatsumi, the founder of Buoth dance, distinguished
Brain and body such that he believed that Brain is not totally a part of the
body. Hijikata’s statement finds an echo in recent work in cognitive science.
According to the cognitive scientists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, contrary
to the Carte-sian view, “the mind is inherently embodied, reason is shaped
by the body, and since most thought is unconscious, the mind cannot be known
simply by self-reflection” (1999:5).  (MIT) “The
body is not one more among external objects” (MP, 1945, 92) . In addition,  From Merleau-Ponty’s point of
view, there is a difference between the objective body made of muscles, bones
and nerves and the body that we experience in pre-reflective awareness known as
the lived body. To be more specific, the lived body is not an object that can
be perceived from various perspectives. As representing the body necessarily
involves adopting an objective stance on the lived body, it cannot be even
represented. The objectified body could then no longer anchor the way we
perceive the world (bodily awareness, 2015, p10). And also from Hijikata’s opinion a body eluding
meaning annihilating language is the body in Butoh. “What is my work? Yes, it’s
my self” and “I’ve nothing to show you but my own body”(para.2). According to
Hijikata’s sentences it seems that for Hijikata the central part of butoh is
the body not the concepts that can be applied to it. To
show that for Hijikata, in his search, it never was the danced vessel for
artistic catharsis but the body in dance and the danced body that is genuinely
human and beyond expression – the primal body.

 

Butoh dance, founded at the end of the 1950s by Hijikata Tatsumi
(1928-1986, born Yoneyama kunio) is one of the most influential forces in
contemporary performance scene. As Okamura (n.d.) holds that “the body in
performance Butoh rejects being the medium to represent the sign” and body in
butoh butoht-ai “is a body essentially liberated from being a tool”
(para.9). T.Kasai (2000) hold that “one of the key words for understanding is
the butoh body butoht-ai in Japanese, meaning a physical and mental
attitude so as to integrate the dichotomize elements such as consciousness vs.
unconsciousness, and subject vs. object” (p.353).
Hijikata once wrote, “Since the body itself perishes, it has a form. Butoh
has another dimension” (1998:295).

 

 

Our
body is quite distinct from anything in the world for us. We can be effective ????? ???? and
affected ????? ???? in our interaction
with the world merely by our body. In fact, there is a duality of interaction
as a result of which specifies our body as a specific thing. What makes our
body so special may be that unlike other physical objects, not only do we
perceive it through external senses, but we have also an internal access to it
through bodily sensations. To be more specific, there is a duality of access to
our body known as the touchant-touché phenomenon. When we
touch our knee with our hand, we have a tactile experience of our knee from the
outside (touché), but we have also a tactile experience of our knee from
the inside (touchant), and the same is true of the hand (bodily
awareness, 2015, p3). But when we
feel our knee is touched by another one, we only have a tactile experience of
our knee from outside (touché) and as Arthur Danto claims what the
touched person and the touching person perceive is a mystery ?? ???? ?????  .It seems that our perception of touchant-touché phenomenon
make us aware of our body, bodily awareness. Tactile sensation is the most
powerful sensation which bridges between our body and the external world.
Although there is another sensation that cannot be easily neglected, vision,
classically one draws a contrast between bodily awareness and visual awareness.
And also, as Arthur Danto claims vision and perception are two different
sensations. He presents an example that one can see the motion of a feather on
my foot but never can feel the tactile sensation made by feather merely by
vision sensation while it was found
that perceiving another individual acting partially activates the same regions
in the brain as when one is acting (Rizzolatti et al., 1995; Decety et al.,
1997).

 

Now
this question arise that is bodily awareness a kind of perceptual awareness? In
other words, am I aware of my body in the same way as I am aware of the sea in
front of me?  One difference is that I
see and hear the sea, but I am aware of my body from the inside thanks to the
body senses, which go beyond the classic five senses. Yet, if those body senses
behave like sensory systems that lead to perceptual experiences, then there
seems to be difference between my awareness of the sea and my awareness of my
body. Another way for bodily awareness to be perceptual would be if it resulted
not only from information conveyed by body senses, but also from information
conveyed by more classic sensory modalities, including vision and
audition(bodily awareness, 2015,
p13).

It
can be concluded that our awareness of the world differs from our awareness of
our body. Then, it can be a beginning to define a peripersonal and
extrapersonal spaces. There is the bodily self and then there is the rest of
the world. Between the self and the external space, there is a neutral zone surrounding
the body, not merely related to the body and also not merely related to the
extrapersonal space.  It is known as peripersonal
space. Therefore, there is a fundamental difference between our perception of
our body and our perception of other objects and even more the rest of the
world because of the nature of the body.

In
conclusion, bodily awareness is the awareness of oneself qua subject.
One can therefore self-ascribe bodily properties as well as mental properties
to the self without self-identification. Hence the object of such judgments,
the self, is not a Cartesian ego, but a bodily subject of both mental and
physical properties (Bodily Awareness, 2015, p23).

 

The
function of bodily awareness

Stressing
the importance of the body for the mind actually constitutes one of the main
claims of the recent approach of Embodied cognition (see the entry Embodied
Cognition) (Clark, 1997). The body is said to affect not only perception,
emotion, and action, but also higher mental processes. Gallagher (2005, 247)
concludes: “nothing about human experience remains untouched by human
embodiment”. In this part, there is an overlapping idea between bodily
awareness and butoh dance. To be more specific, it seems that butoh is a kind
of practical dimension of bodily awareness. First we need to know about
perceptual awareness and its function.

 

Merleau-Ponty
emphasizes how the lived body anchors the awareness of the world. Similarly,
O’Shaughnessy (1980) argues that bodily awareness is a major determinant of
perceptual awareness by spatially structuring it. When I see that the book is
on my left on the table, my visual experience of the book is spatially
organized by my body in two distinct ways. First, the book is directly located
relative to the location of my body. Second, even the location of the book
relative to the table is determined by my body. It is only from my perspective
that the book is on the table. From the spider’s perspective on the ceiling,
the book is under the table. Bodily space thus orients external space by
offering spatial axes such as up and down, left and right, front and back.

The
influence of bodily awareness on perception has been said to go beyond
anchoring reference frames. According to some, bodily awareness affects not
only how we perceive the location of objects, but also their other properties,
including affordances or what Campbell (1994) calls causally indexical
properties. Causally indexical properties like the weight of an object have
immediate implications for our actions. As such, they depend on the state of
our body that will carry on the actions. For instance, some results indicate
that the effortful experience of wearing a heavy backpack makes slopes look
steeper and distances seem longer (Proffitt et al., 2003). The authors
concluded that what we feel determines what we perceive. However, these results
are controversial (Durgin et al., 2009). (Bodily Awareness, p23).

Hijikata’s decision to work on the
Japanese body can be seen as incidental: in his search for the butoh body,
Hijikata had to remove external influences from his work, and the body he dealt
with, his body, was Japanese. He dealt with his own body as the material for
his dance (article).  Hijikata’s sentence
“I come from Tohoku, but there is a Tohoku in everybody. There is a Tohoku in
England” (as cited in Holborn, 1997, p.
9)
seems to be a metaphor. By accepting that the lived body anchors the awareness
of the world, knowing the nature of lived body as an origin of perception which
leads to know the world is a meaning that Hijikata’s statement includes. He
studied Japanese body because he was from Japan, Tohoku, but there is a Tohoku
in England.  More than the nature of the Japanese body, it seems that
what Hijikata
tried to unveil was the nature of all bodies.
It is possible to argue that Hijikata’s butoh was
incidentally Japanese rather than inherently, that
his unveiling of the Japanese body was a step in the unveiling
of the human body. The focus on the
weakened body in his later work seems to validate the hypothesis (article).

Hijikata’s definition of butoh, “Butoh is a corpse standing
desperately upright” (as cited in Fraleigh,
2010, p.
67),
and his focus on the weakened body at the end of his career tend to show that the exploration of the Japanese body was just a step in his
search for a butoh body devoid of any
of the conventions of society.

In a conversation with Mishima, Hijikata recalled an experience
that had a strong impact on him:

In the meantime, I saw someone with cerebral palsy grasping for an
object in such a manner
that his (her) hand was not aiming directly at the object, but rather, after a
few trials,
took a great detour and approached and finally managed to reach it from the opposite direction. I then realized that it was precisely the
course of movement I had been
teaching my students. That was a huge encouragement to me (as cited in Miyoshi, 1988, p.
200,
personal translation). (article)

 

Another example
of the influence of bodily awareness concerns social perception, that is, the
perception of cues in other people indicating their mental states like facial
expressions. Since Lipps (1900), it has been recurrently suggested that when
perceiving other people’s actions, we mentally simulate or re-enact their
bodily movements (Goldman, 2006; Gallese, 2001).

It
was found that perceiving another individual acting partially activates the
same regions in the brain as when one is acting (Rizzolatti et al., 1995;
Decety et al., 1997). Shared cortical networks have also been found for
empathy. Brain imaging studies have shown overlapping brain activity when
subjects feel pain and when they observe another in pain (Singer et al., 2004),
when they feel being touched and when they see another being touched (Keysers
et al., 2004), when they inhale disgusting odorants and when they observe
disgust-expressive faces (Wicker et al. 2003)  (Bodily Awareness, p24, 25).

What makes
motor and affective resonance special is that it goes beyond mere conceptual
sharing. One does not share abstract knowledge about the observed action or
emotion; one shares what might be called embodied knowledge or knowledge in a
bodily format (Goldman and Vignemont, 2009; Goldman, 2012; Vignemont, 2014c).

 

Perhaps, one of
the Hijikata’s work can be a suitable example of sharing knowledge in a bodily
format. This was in sharp contrast to his work up to that point, which
always was changing. Shiki no tame no nijushichiban included kabuki-like
outward movements, which Hijikata himself performed. There were Yufu (courageous woman)
characters who bent their knees and backs deeply with their chins sticking out.
This transitional phase preceded a new style of dance for Hakutobo, which was
characterized by concentrated, contained movements for female performers. The
incredible transformation of Ashikawa into a bowlegged midget-like figure and
the com-plete changes of her masklike facial expressions were striking and
surprised the audience. What Ashikawa showed was the result not only of
practical work on the body, but of the words Hijikata bombarded her with as
they worked alone in the studio. His words were metaphors for his body. He was
trying to convey his body to her through his words. Ashikawa responded to this
word/ body procedure enormously. Ashikawa even said that an exchange of bodies
occurred (1990:164). (MIT)

It
seems that Hijikata could share knowledge in a bodily format
not only for audience but also for the dancer by using words .As, Hijikata’s
words-her actions: a methodology that used words to create definite forms was
being established during this period (MIT), considering the words in should be
noted.

 

Hijikata trained his dancers and choreographed works using words.
Ultimately his dance was notated by words called butoh-fu (butoh notation). A
tremendous number of words surround his dance. It should be noted that scientists
argue that language is physically based. In addition, in child development
studies it has been observed that children empathize with objects as if they
were human beings, projecting their own emotions onto them. The psychologist
Heinz Werner called this “physiognomic perception.”8 A two-year-old
boy, seeing a cup lying on its side, said, “Poor tired cup!” An-other
called a towel-hook “cruel.” Werner wrote, “During the
physiognomic period of childhood it is the very absence of polarity, and the
high degree of fu-sion between person and thing, subject and object, that are
characteristic” (Werner 1948 I96I:72). Similarly, in his lecture
“Kaze Daruma,” (Wind Daruma) published in this issue of TDR, Hijikata
describes placing a kitchen dipper in a field to show it the world outside. As
close as Hijikata’s ideas seem to those of cognitive scientists, linguists, and
psychologists, he was also very different from them because he was a poet,
always attempting to capture amorphous life-life that resists being settled in
any particular form. Hijikata tried to create his own universe with his own
language. That was one of the reasons he kept changing his themes and styles:
he wanted to avoid getting trapped in a static form and losing life. (MIT)

“There is a moment when words are uttered from a body” (p. 66). According this Hijikata’s
statement it can be understood that the language is a part of our body which
leads to perception like the other part. Instead of liberating the body from
language, Hijikata tied the body up with words, turning it into a material
object, an object that is like a corpse. Paradoxically, by this method,
Hijikata moved beyond words and presented something only a live body can
express. That is the essence of Hijikata’s butoh. Hijikata saw human existence
as inextricably part of the body. But this body only comes alive when it is
chased in to a corner by words and pain-that is, consciousness. He rigorously
practiced this point of view with his own body and life (MIT).

 

sThrough words, Hijikata’s method makes dancers conscious of their
physiological senses and teaches them to objectify their bodies. Dancers can
then “reconstruct” their bodies as material things in the world and
even as concepts.7 By practicing the exercises repeatedly, dancers learn to
manipulate their own bodies physiologically and psychologically. As a result,
butoh dancers can transform themselves into everything from a wet rug to a sky
and can even embody the universe, theoretically speaking (Kurihara 1996).(MIT)