Embodied memories – so what?

I don’t fully understand notions of embodiment but am persuaded and fascinated by articles and talks which explore ideas connected with embodiment. This reflection emerged as I worked on 40stitches40minutes.

My interest in embodiment and embodied memories was awakened as a result of hearing a talk by Pia Kontos. I am interested in dementia and how to sustain communication with people with dementia – which goes beyond words. Pia Kontos gave examples of how people with dementia with limited speech could still interact with people. At the heart of communication was the ability to pay attention, in particular to gestures. For example, don’t just pay attention to the person crying/making a noise – what else are they doing, are there clues. Kontos showed a film of a woman with dementia who had her pearls removed from her whilst she ate – this caused the lady consternation. Over time a member of staff noticed how the woman loved to play with her pearls and found a way for the woman to keep connection with the pearls and eat – peace was not only restored but the woman looked like she was safe in her space -her life and world recognized. She had been noticed for who she was.  Kontos gave a most moving account of observing a Jewish man who never spoke. Kontos and her team created a Jewish ceremony for the man and almost immediately the man began to sing prayers. The world had become recognizable to him.

My analysis suggests that corporeality is an active foundation of agency that sustains selfhood at a prereflective level and facilitates awareness of surroundings, engagement with the world, and interaction despite even severe dementia.(Pia Kontos) 

Art, i argue is not merely a symptom of human need but a symbolic articulation of our embodied experience and understanding of the world ( Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin)

I heard about embodiment at the same time as i got in to art. I work with textiles using knitting and crocheting. The act of crochet involves connecting fibre to hook. I do freeform crochet so am less interested in creating a garment or following a pattern. Over the years i have thought about how making has sustained a sense of meaning or helped me make sense of situations which at times have felt overwhelming or beyond immediate comprehension. I hold the hook and fibre close to my body and shapes and forms appear. In no way do i think they are a literal interpretation of what is going on in my body (indeed i hope they aren’t!) but i do think that there is a connection- which i find difficult to describe.

I am approaching the end of a piece of work 40stitches0minutes  which draws on a difficult period from 2011. Back then I crocheted through that time- almost without thinking. I just needed something to do with my hands and to somehow quieten my mind and not think about the waiting and wondering. 40stitches40minutes has made me think about what my body was going through then and what is happening now. The time then was hard, confined and brutal. Looking from now and working with black yarns time and memories feel more fluid and soft. There is an intermingling of me then and now that seems to transcend fixed seconds and minutes.


Art and embodiment  http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=291

Selfhood and embodiment  http://arcade.stanford.edu/occasion/alzheimer-expressions-or-expressions-despite-alzheimers-philosophical-reflections-selfhood

Embodiment memory https://embodimentblog.wordpress.com/tag/embodied-memory/

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