Theory Seminar: The Shape of Behaviour 4

Maurice Merleau-Ponty expressed that outside things are ‘encrusted in the joints of my body’. Robert Morris expressed a similar sentiment in his essay ‘Notes on sculpture pt.2’ where he talked of how we experience sculptures though our movements around them,  e.g. the way we compare ourselves to the monumental, step back, get up close and be swallowed by it. When i see a cube from its 3 visible sides, the object doesn’t cause sight, nor do I interpret it as a cube but I am purely motivated to see a cube because of my physicality in the world through my movements through my joints.

For perception to occur, a situation is needed. For perception to change, a new situation is needed. For instance when feeling a texture, if the hand doesn’t move one cannot feel any textures merely the the textured thing. If the hand moves then a texture can be felt, yet if it moves too fast, this reduces to noise. The thing dictates the speed needed to perceive the texture and in such a way we gear our perception to the world. An experiment was conducted into this where the image entering the eyes was reversed, vision therefore being vertically flipped, the subjects who then engaged with the world more were able to more quickly adjust to the flipped view and their brains saw the image correctly.

Morris and Alphonso Lingis in this both agree that to make sense of the world, one must engage with it. Morris’s works create a subject who is engaged with the world and who finds clarity and articulation in the work. If I see something as real I perceive it not only from my point of view, to see the world I have to be in the world, therefore I must be something that is also seen and so one is de-centred. Meaning is created by the image of the world as seen by the body and by the body as seen by the world. Further then is an idea that Robert Smithson engaged with, that as we are de-centred from the world, the world doesn’t have to just reflect ourselves but can reflect itself.

This brings up the idea of the Gestalt (the perceivable form) and how we classify them through family resemblances. The perceivable form of a particular colour would be called green therefore because it bares a family resemblance to other colours that repeatedly give me a similar sensation and o we form this inner idea of a colour not by sensation but by our relationships with others that fall under the same family resemblance.


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