.3. The Receiver – The Empty Body

What are the influences on the contemporary viewer?
What are the main perceptions of today?

 

In our dreams house and body are identical.

[1]

[2]

 

Scenario 3:         
All media totalized we already live in a kind of 360°-designed environment. Everything gets more and more perfection: the doctor presenting you the tooth paste on TV is as young as he was when you watched this commercial 20 years ago, data remains in the internet, you can access the same videos you watched as a child, and the life cycles of the things you use in everyday life are that short that they have no chance to age with you and you got used to them dying in front of you day by day, and the world around you is that complex – you know, because you have access to it – that it won’t notice when you die. You, as a receiver of this, won’t have a problem with all this madness, were it not for one thing. The only thing that is actual aging and transient: your body.

This is a striking media example that illustrates the main body conflict:  On the one hand, we are irrevocable bound to our body. It is the not changing initial situation. But the surrounding is and was always constantly moving/ in transition.

This adds on to the conflict we already saw in the first scenario: The individuum of today seems to have a fractious relationship to its body. But what exactly causes this?

There is an almost schizophrenic behaviour that we live. On the one side, we grow up learning a lot about our interior, of popular science and our general common knowledge about anatomy. On the other side the thoughts about it and the dealing with it overstrain us.

The architect Hans Hollein, who researched many interactions between people and space, once stated:

The execution of sacred rites and the erection or designation of holy places belong to the first activities of man. Equally whether obvious or disguised, they help to set up life. Some modern civilizations lost their ability/capacity to/of death rituals. This is a sign of viability loss. [3]

In the previous chapter, we saw that the closed but transcendental and the open but dead body made way for the living and self-organizing body. And alike the connection of the individuum to its body became another. But, of course, we cannot directly extrapolate from one to the other, because a lot of other factors play a role over here. But I want to emphasize the strong need to feel at home that the filling of the emptiness with life and sense and the appreciated house analogy show. So how to give the mind a home (to rest) again? Like for example the work of Fritz Kahn shows, it is possible to combine the harsh reality, the science, with the wonder and aesthetics, the metaphysical.

 

[1] Free after Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1913

[2] Raquel Díaz, Corazón de una abuela. (Heart of a grandma), 2014. Retrieved from
https://raqueldr.blogspot.nl/2014/09/septiembre.html

[3] Translation of Hans Hollein: „Das Vollziehen sakraler Riten und das Errichten oder Bezeichnen heiliger Plätze gehörte zu den ersten Beschäftigungen des Menschen. Gleich ob augenfällig oder getarnt, helfen sie, das Leben einzurichten. Manche heutige Zivilisation hat ihre Fähigkeit für Todesriten verloren. Das ist ein Zeichen des Verlusts der Fähigkeit, zu leben.“. Retrieved from Wikipedia, June 8, 2017.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hollein

.3.1

 

In the beginning was the empty body

 

At this point I want to talk about confronting a person with its body house:

I asked different people[1] to draw their body like they mostly imagine/perceive it – no matter if medical of metaphysical. I focused on younger participants, because those are mostly affected from our developing media scene and are, therefore, open for the newest discoveries and techniques on a natural basis. The results I analysed on basis of the mainstreams I investigated in the previous chapter.

 

The closed body – Insecurity – Creativity
Being not used to depict or even see something daily, give some participants a certain insecurity, because we don’t want to depict something wrong that we know is crucial.
Others enjoy that it is a dark space for their eyes/mind and immediately filled it with imagination (PIC 1, 4, 6 ,8, 10)

The dead body
None of the drawn bodies contained bones. Possible explanation: We like to imagine our body alive. We mostly see bones in overexaggerated, almost stereotyped, designs and then it mostly symbolises death. But we are used to it – it does not “scare” too much.
Moreover, bones mostly vanished out of our direct environment. Most food does not contain it anymore and seldom we find an almost completely rotten cadaver in our intensively managed rural country sides.

New world
An innate curiosity and a modern virtual gaming environment make us like to discover and explore new worlds. So, we are still open for the adventure in us. It rather seems to be a playground than a quest for meaning. But it gives a pleasant experience.

Science and simplifications
For us, the body interior detached more and more from the practice of dissection! We get most information out of school and popular science. (Organs in PIC3 and 7 (and 2), Muscles in PIC9) We like to imagine our body in the colours of the depictions that looked the nicest, the most aesthetic. Simplified means for the inner body less pink and red and less secretions and … Most people aren’t used to the sight of raw meat and don’t like to see themselves as only a piece of meat.
Also, our brain gladly accepts well executed basic forms. And mapping and defining things is a pure structure thing. We are used to well-designed logos and icons with a clear statement.

House analogy and the living body interior
We want to identify with our own body – we want to feel alive and at home. Little homunculi (PIC4,6(,8)), separation in chambers/scenes(PIC9), no complete room that overexerts. Especially the head gets identification features (PIC1 and 6). In PIC10 a lively garden is built.
Moreover, feeling at home in body may be difficult because of the focus on the exterior. You see a lot of drawn faces (PIC (1,2,) 8,9,10). But we can also get something positive out of this: We favour to recognize and depict the face, because it is the centre of emotions and feelings.
The little gear wheels you see in PIC 8, plus the cyborg-like glooming eye even gives the impression of Fritz Kahn Industrial Palace, or just a simple robot.
There are a lot of objects and scenarios drawn which suggest motions and environments with much more detail. This can be connected to the circumstance that we are used to well animated documentations that show cells, microorganisms and more fantastic things move like living creatures. Maybe also child cartoons like “Once upon a time…life” play a role over here.

The head – The centre
All participants filled the head, at least with something, and especially with identification features (PIC1 and 6). We can’t leave the head empty, of course. And it will remain a main centre of our felt consciousness. So how to connect the head with a more complete/comprehensive body house?

The question is quite easy to answer: Immersive media – like 360°-visualisations – that connect the heads movement with a certain body visualisation.

[1] 34 participants out of different ages and living conditions, from 12 to 42, European

.3.2

 

The Responding Body – The Heart of the Action

 

The drawing test also helped me to figure out the heart as the organ with the strongest individual AND cultural connection, as a centre of empathy, which I could use as the main object in my final visualisation.

To find out a bit more about the features of our heart, let’s approach it with another experiment:
There are various kinds of meditation and concentration experiments. Maybe you came across one in the kindergarten or the sport classes: You close your eyes and travel through your own body, try to “purely” feel and concentrate on different parts of your body or different processes, like breathing and your heart beat.
More favoured by children are, of course, that kind of stories that implement phantasy worlds, when your spirit travels through positive, imagined environments. It reminds of a lot of fantastic and atmospheric depictions we looked at in the last chapter. It is the enchanting aspect I will also use in my later depictions.
On the other side, the own body and its rhythms is the frame work of this experiments that let you get aware of your physical body. And one of the methods that ensure a relaxed drifting through peaceful worlds, is the reduction and control of the heartbeat. Also in natural science, the heartbeat perception is frequently seen as a method to test interoceptive awareness.[1]

When I let people draw, especially the children even started with the heart. And one participant, who only drew the heart answered to the question “Why he drew it”: “Because it is there”.

That brought me to the resonance effect: When you do something extraordinary – running, stress, feeling in love – your heart beats more intensive. So, in the “most important”, the extraordinary, moments it seems to behave like “Yes, I am your boss! What is happening here?! I will take over command now!” This may be the reason, why it gained so many characteristics over the time, like “the nervous heart”, “the loving heart”, “the heart of stone” and so on. And this figurative language can be easily translated into images.
In the “worst cases” the heart even shows up in the form of blood, which is also a form of resonance. And today the blood is even more connected with the heart, now that it is its proofed pump.
Also stomach and lungs give feedback. Therefore, one could argue that there is a strong connection to those organs as well. Especially you serve them directly, with food and oxygen. But this relation is quite material based (PIC6) (Also see “the stomach as plebs or busy market” in the heritage chapter).
Moreover, the human is more in love with his thoughts. But he doesn’t like to think of his brain and a lot of body chemicals to “do” his thoughts, so most of the time in every-day life there is no such organ as the “brain”. But there is the heart that is connected to so many emotional pictures.

And on the other hand is a scientific system one can easily understand nowadays (See blue and red veins and arteries in PIC7). The hearts’ extents, the veins and arteries, and like this the whole blood cycle, is the widest spread body system. You can also easily deduce it to draw it without knowing it completely, because it has a natural structure. Especially the lungs are often resembled in tree-shapes (PICS 1,3,5,7).
With the heart’s liquid, the blood, we encounter the most striking colour of the body, a visual focus. Before people start to colour any part of the interior in its actual main colour pink, the veins will be emphasized with red (and blue). Therewith it also becomes the most “remarkable”, when it leaves the body. So, in contrast to all the other main fluids, it only belongs to the INNER body that I thematise. And also the heart is thickly coloured in almost every picture (1,2,3,5,7,9).

In the first chapter’s research the heart already attract attention, as the “sacred heart” in Christianity, because of the frequent division of the body into two or three where the heart almost always played a role, in the people’s centre thinking and visualisation, and as the strongest cultural connection, especially in religion. There you can find various depictions of rituals, like in the Egyptian Judgement, the Aztec Sacrifice, the Hindu heart chakra and another Christian ritual, the Eucharist with its as Christ’s soul embodied wine. And like the historian/anatomist Fay Bound Alberti confirms in her book “Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine, and Emotion.”: Before the heart pump was described in 1628, in science the body was cardio-centric.[2]

Therefore, I concluded that this will be the most favored organ, to show the viewer that the body is a cultural construct with a rich heritage. The heritage chapter provides a lot of visual material about the heart and its social empathetic character that contributes to a strong mind-body relationship. Thus, an expressive mind-body-development can be illustrated with its help!
Also, the head will remain a main centre of our felt consciousness. But we can easily connect the head with a more complete/comprehensive body house with immersive media – like 360°-visualisations – that connect the heads movement with a certain body visualisation.
But where will this experience take place and how exactly? The next chapter will implement the heart-house into a VR-space.

 

[1] “There is a long tradition arguing that perception of bodily activity can shape emotion and cognition” In Dunn, Barnaby D. et al., Heartbeat perception in depression. Behaviour Research and Therapy Document, 2006, 1

[2] Fay Bound Alberti, Matters of the Heart, 39