Contemporary society seems to be on a resolute quest to erase the human body: significant developments in virtual reality, social spaces that rely solely on digital interface, automation and drones, self-driving cars, the quantified self... represent efforts to make our world a bodiless one. And so many of our learning environments are taking these dangerous cues - teaching only to the mind and instrumentalizing the body to exhaustion.
This dream of disembodiment can and must surprise us, especially considering that throughout time people have used their bodies as means to multiple ends: they have been perceived as vessels to contain our souls, proxies that spirits and deities can use to communicate with terrestrial beings, canvases where society imprints its norms, models to understand and shape whole cities, sites and tools of the deepest learning. In this sense, the human body can be understood as the ultimate medium.
The Bodies as Media working group was formed to explore the many ways in which the human body mediates experience and knowledge. During our time working together, we explored ancestry and memory, ecology, emotionality and creativity, death, etc., etc., etc., through the body. The culmination of our investigation is a tool (a deck of cards and a set of wristbands) with instructions on how to perform a learning ritual that aims to “turn on” people’s body awareness and prepare their bodies to learn, work, and trust others in any given learning community.
An article by Nelesi Rodriguez and Eugenia Manwelyan, "Of Vessels, Conduits and
Instruments" about the findings of this working group was published in the journal Inmaterial. Read it here (PDF).
For more information about this working group, contact nelesirodriguez[at]gmail[dot]com.
Working Group Members:
Nelesi Rodriguez is a Venezuelan-born media educator, researcher, and practitioner. She’s a Fulbright Scholar with a MA in Media Studies from The New School. Her research focuses on contemporary subjectivities and understandings of the body as medium. Nelesi often employs creative practice as a tool for inquiry. At the same time, her creative and intellectual explorations inform her pedagogy. Currently, she teaches at Parsons School of Design and conducts research at The New School.
Eugenia Manwelyan is a dancer, choreographer, and educator. She is a co-founder and Director of Eco Practicum, and is the Managing Director of the Food + Enterprise Summit. As a visiting faculty at Columbia University, Eugenia has worked on environmental planning and arts projects in India, Vietnam, and Jordan, as well as a youth theater and peace-building project in Israel and Palestine. With a passion for democratic education and civic engagement, Eugenia is committed to taking part in the effort to reorient humanity toward sane and respectful coexistence with one another and the environment.
Danessa Santana is a Dominican artist born in 1989. Her art is focused on the psychedelic experience and the altered state of consciousness achieved through dreams, meditations, trips, and other aleatory experiences that shape and transform the human psyche. She has a background in advertising and a deep interest in latin american magical realism, resulting in images with different readings and full of symbolism. Her media include paper, paint, graphic design, and performance art. She is currently represented by Casa Quien.
Sarah Max Beck
Sarah moved to central Florida in 1989 with her family where she grew up along the shores of Lake Harney and the Saint John's River. She helped raise cattle on her family's ranch while she studied fine art at the University of Central Florida. After graduating she worked as studio manager for Ke Francis and the Hoopsnake Press. Her work with reclaimed plastics has been included in several exhibitions including the Florida Contemporary at the Orlando Museum of Art. She helped produce work for James Sienna and Flying Horse Editions and is now working in NYC with studioHydrostatic by designing and building ecological systems installations. She is also an active NYC beekeeper.
Robert C. Beck
Beck studied fine art with a concentration in printmaking at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida; then drawing and painting at the Lyme Academy of Fine Art, Old Lyme, Connecticut. He was a collaborative master printer for the University of Central Florida’s fine arts press, Flying Horse Editions for ten years. His work appears in the collections of museums, as well as public and private collections, including the city of Winter Park; the Morse Museum of American Art; the Museum of Florida Art and the Timucua Arts Foundation. He currently cooperates a bio-art research project, studioHydrostatic, with his wife Sarah Max Beck in Brooklyn, NY.