This site holds collections of art projects and performances over the past couple decades. Currently, my art making has changed form – into working towards a neuroscience degree, doing this one-on-one embodied support work.
As well, I often research, blending dance/movement theater, improvisation, and sensing/mindful practices – with – group research investigating social cognition. More on that below and here.
In a variety of ways, I hope that my science study can continue to integrate in-with my art practices – with underlying goals of fostering curiosity, conversations and connections amongst people and nature.
Group-Research – Social/Ecological Cognition.
“Perhaps there is more sense in our nonsense and more nonsense in our ‘sense’ than we would care to believe.” – David Bohm
In this work, I held a mindful movement research sessions with small groups of dancers. Then, I interviewed each participant individually. I asked about their sensation-based experience during their interaction with one other dancer. I looked at the same moment of improvisation from the perspectives of these two dancers – how they felt their bodies respond. Research Interviews can be found HERE.
How are Cognitive Science, Mindful Movement + Sensation-Based Interviews Related?!
About Cognitive Science – Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses. Cognitive science is an interdisciplinary study of mind and cognition (including neuroscience, philosophy, computer science, psychology, among other academic disciplines) aimed at understanding more about cognition and mental functions.
“Cognition is something that you bring forth by … doing it actively … affect or emotion is at the very foundation of what we do … reasoning is almost like the icing on the cake. Reason is what occurs at the very last stage of the moment-to-moment experience emergence … the early stages are rooted in the sensory motor surfaces … you can [feel] the emergence … as it happens. It starts out from this soup, the entire organism in situation.” – Francisco Varela
The enactive approach – embodied cognition – 4E cognition – these are names used to speak about various theories within cognitive science. Some core ideas include: cognition is an active, on-going process; cognition is not just something that happens in the brain, rather it is a process involving the whole body in active engagement with the world; cognition is not just something that happens within an individual, rather cognition is always bound to social, cultural and physical contexts; cognition is a process which extends beyond a body via the use of tools (notebooks, computers) and via concepts/language; cognition is a relational, embedded process. That is, the ongoing process of cognition does not just happen within one’s body because one is never in isolation from others, from the environment. Rather, it is through interaction of an organism with-in their environment that knowledge, meaning and understanding arise.
Where 4E cognition seeks to widen the range of processes considered relevant for understanding and knowing, body-based awareness practices could be seen as having long understood and already busy working to improve the functioning and effectivity of the ongoing chit-chat/feedback loop happening between the various levels of organization in ourselves (our entire body-mind.)
They could be seen as sister efforts: 4E cognition intuits that the body/environment/etc is very important in knowing/understanding, and is out and about to test and show this in controlled experiments or field studies. Body-integrated awareness practices seek to tap into the ability of bodies and our awareness of its ongoing activity to facilitate more effective or wholesome regulation and integration. (Annika Lübbert contributed to this writing).
What is body-based awareness/somatics?!
This sort of work refers to a way of being-doing, any activity. It is exploring what being alive feels like. What are the sensations you notice as you sit here, have a thought, experience an emotion, smell this room… Much like sitting meditation comes in many varieties, the exact exercise or mode of exploring what it feels like is limitless in possible variations (such as narrow or broad focus, interception or proprioception, etc.) The term somatics was coined in 1979 by a white-westerner, to talk about practices which had been around for centuries – such as vipassana meditation, hatha yoga, qi gong. As well, the term was meant as an umbrella term for a few modern forms of awareness practices like Mabel Todd, Elsa Gindler, or F.M. Alexander’s work – and, for practices which explicitly blend ancient and modern styles, such as Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Ida Rolf or Moshe Feldenkrais’ work. More on body-based practice/somatics, here.
About Sensation-Based Interviews
Through a dedicated practicing of noticing what it feels like to be alive, practitioners can FEEL a lot of the on-going process occurring in-with-and-around themselves. That is, more nuances of experience come into conscious awareness through dedicated practice.
This interview style is able to support both expert and non-expert practitioners alike – to find detailed, nuanced descriptions of sensations (which are often only possible to describe after many years of practice.)
This interview style deals with how it feels to be in interaction – rather than dealing with meaning-narrative or habitual thinking layers of experience. I often refer to this as a ‘sensation layer’. Interviewees regularly report gaining insight into their whole lives simply by exploring their sensation layer response. Even exploring rather inconsequential moments, 10 seconds of life – via sensation layer description – regularly produces significant ‘a ha!’ moments for participants.
I find this interview style fascinating and important-feeling because it seems to reveal the “moment-to-moment emergence…as it happens” (Varela); it highlights the sensory motor system (and the entire body) in ACTION, continuously; it highlights the idea that cognition/sense making/thinking is a relational process – and not just a feedback loop within one’s own body – but, in fact, this sensation layer highlights the experience that each of us are in a feedback loop in relation to our entire environment. It is a narrative of the soup of experience. “It starts out from this soup, the entire organism in situation” – Varela (an earlier draft written with annika lubbert).
FUTURE RESEARCH + INFLUENCES
Along with neurophenomenology, what I hope to see flourish within cognitive science are such focuses as:
Cognitive Sentiopectology – Quantitative investigation of biological processes related to cognition, with a specific focus on the pectus tissue, horizontally combined with qualitative accounts of the structure of experience (how aspects of experience are sensed-felt), in the aim to study knowledge and understanding.
Cognitive Sentiosomatology or Cognitive Sentioecology – Quantitative investigation of biological processes related to cognition, including the study of material substances, as in physics, chemistry, biology, and botany, horizontally combined with qualitative accounts of the structure of experience (how aspects of experience are sensed-felt), in the aim to study knowledge and understanding.
In this, sentiopectology is to cognitive neuroscience as sentiosomatology/sentioecology is to cognitive science. While cardiophenomenology is actually close to sentiopectology, it is distinguished in that 1. it does not limit pectal focus to cardio dynamics, and 2. it does not imply that the philosophical modality of phenomenology is used as the means of qualitative investigation of that which can be sense/felt.
My work is based on Neurophenomenology/Varela – Three Gestures ; On Becoming Aware; Elicitation; Micro-Phenomenology; Gendlin’s Focusing; and my own experience as a practitioner working with implicit knowledge forms. My primary bibliography can be found here.
*Please feel welcome to use any of this research for personal learning! To use these forms for teaching material, therapeutic or all other purposes: include citations and paypal $ to gertrudious AT gmail.com. All materials on this website ©