Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Biogram for a Physiology of Language OR: a blueprint for an architecture of meaning

In his post: "the physiology of words", João proposes an exercise where for every word a physical bodily motion is performed, and visa versa.

When we think about it, each word already has a physicality of its own. It does something to the body when it is pronounced, it makes us move in a specific way to type it out our write it down. It involves the body and directs its movement. Artaud was very involved with making words corporeal, and Valère Novarina is very involved with expressing the corporeal-properties of words themselves. These two approches are very different, but should be though of together.

The meaning of a word cannot be separated from it's physics: it always influences both our mind and our bodies in a coextensive movement. It acts upon a mind-body assemblage (which we should probably just call “body”), making us move within virtual space (ie: thought-space, mind-space, memory) at the same time as we move through physical space to either pronounce the word in the larynx-tongue space or write it down in the line-backgound (ink-page) space, etc. But since all these movements through space are always perfomed as one continuous gesture, the differences between these different spaces is not categorical. They are all co-extensive to each other. A complex multispace.

So it would be interesting perhaps, as a companion or extension exercise to the one suggested by João, to try to explore what it is each word makes us do, how the words make us move when we are not "performing", that is when we are unintentionally moved by the words, when we are already beyond the word in the flow of motion, and not "in the present" of a consciously performed action. And with every move, ask ourselves what spaces these movements create, and try to map these spaces with each other. The resulting map would be a blueprint for an architecture of meaning: a diagram or even a biogram. As a model of meaning, it would be, of course, always provisional and non-exhaustive. Yet it would most probably be a more accurate description of what meaning is than, say, a semiotic or linguistic structure: not a network of signs with laws of syntax and grammatical logic, but a cooperatively constructed architecture that bodies live in and move through, an architecture that shapes the way we think and move, but that is always open to change, forever being built by the bodies moving through it. Then João's exercise could also be an attempt to change that architecture, to associate new moves and new spaces to each word, allowing us to go places the words or concepts usually do not allow.

BTW : This experiment is actually a central part of my PhD research. I’d be pleased if anyone would be interested in cooperating on such an exercise. I could help facilitate it’s co-structuring.


Anonymous said...

Alexander, thanks for this.
What I have in mind when suggesting the word-physical action movement is precisely to momentarily step out of the automatisms and 'givens' of the mind-body continuum and have a taste of what the body speaks/hears on an infra level, on a level before control and judgement kicks in.
I see this movement as a playful warm-up practice, as a way towards embodying words and 'wording' bodies in ways other than the usual.

London Archaeologist and the Windowless Consultant said...

I'd agree that such a map would be more accurate than the linguist or semiotician's, but also suspect that, paradoxically, it would be so open to interpretation as to be, less a description of any real terrain than an invitation to create alternative maps. I wonder whether street photography, now unjustly derided by many of the most sophisticated theorists, hasn't long been honing such a tool in the form of all those shots where the built environment, signage and passers by enter into clearly significant but semiotically entirely open relations. Two such maps of the visual unconscious that come to mind: