• Somaesthetic Self-Care and the Politics of Taste and Transformation/Methodologies for Exploring Embodiment and Aesthetics
    Vol. 9 No. 1/2 (2023)

    Volume 9 (2023) takes the form of a double issue. Its first part is titled: “Somaesthetic Self-Care and the Politics of Taste and Transformation.” The thematic focus of the second issue is “Methodologies for Exploring Embodiment and Aesthetics.”

    Issue 1: Somaesthetic Self-Care and the Politics of Taste and Transformation.
    This issue was not the result of a special call for papers but the Journal’s interest in papers that advance somaesthetic research in useful, innovative ways. The four papers collected here relate to central somaesthetic issues of self-care, self-transformation, and the sociopolitical structures and hierarchies that shape somatic experience and values. Despite their variety, they all display how somaesthetics functions as a medium, framework, and critical method of transformation.
    Phengphan, Elstad & Bjorbækmo’s article, 'Yoga as an Auxiliary Tool in Students’ Lives: Creating and Re-creating Balance in Mindful Bodies,' begins with the recognition that student mental health is a global public health issue. This study operates on the premise that yoga constitutes a low-barrier, health-promoting activity relevant for students. Based on individual interviews with five students who participated in a 12-week yoga program and informed by phenomenology and somaesthetics, the findings reveal how practicing yoga involves learning and establishing new habits across several dimensions. The article sheds light on the broader significance of yoga as a self-care practice with the potential to promote health, well-being, and equilibrium in life.
    Gao’s essay, 'The Implicit Politics of Physical Beauty and of Artistic Taste in the Aesthetics of Winckelmann,' critically examines Winckelmann’s celebratory analysis of the beauty of the 'Greek profile,' showing its implicit political implications regarding racial, ethnic, and social privilege. She shows how Winckelmann connects the superiority of Greek physiognomy and Greek culture while relating both these forms of superiority to factors of environmental, social, and racial privilege. Gao then examines how such implicit sociopolitical factors inform Winckelmann’s theory of artistic taste and education.
    Horvath’s essay, 'The Clamorous Silence of the Body: On Shusterman’s Somaesthetics” examines the transformations somaesthetics has introduced in various fields of philosophy and culture by examining the impact of Shusterman’s work. She takes as her main focus the topics raised in a recent anthology devoted to Shusterman’s work. Those topics extend from ontology, pragmatism, and politics, to ethics, aesthetics, and the arts. Particular attention is paid to Shusterman’s work in performance art with the Man in Gold, who is described as the philosopher without words, who strongly expresses his thought through action and gesture. This explains Horvath’s title about the clamorous silence of the body.
    The last piece of article in Issue 1 of our double issue is Shusterman’s “Self-Transformation as Trans-formation: Rilke on Gender in the Art of Living” that discuss the idea of transcending the limits of one’s given identity or current self. Among the very different ways of pursuing self-transformation, this essay explores the idea of gender transformation that seeks to transcend the conventional male/female gender binary, a transformational transcendence to something trans. It explores this idea through a close reading of Rilke’s famous poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo” and his Letters to a Young Poet in which Rilke seems to gesture toward such transformation.

    Issue 2: Methodologies for Exploring Embodiment and Aesthetics
    In antiquity and the Middle Ages, philosophy was at the center of knowledge acquisition and comprised many different subject fields such as morals, mathematics, astronomy, and music. The differentiation of the sciences only accelerated in modernity, forming many different disciplines. Philosophy remained concerned with fundamental questions about the nature and values of various phenomena and concepts. Today, there is even a discussion about whether philosophy counts as science or whether it belongs to the arts. Some branches of philosophy have developed methodologies with the objective of validating their findings analogous to scientific standards. Conceptual analysis, phenomenological reduction, pragmatic methods, and experimental philosophy are very different methodologies, but all of them are trying to incorporate ways of validating their philosophical theories and their truth value. Other strands have developed methods that do not try to cater to scientific validity but prioritize common sense or intuition in an attempt to transcend existing discourses and discover new ones. Not surprisingly, the choice of the validation format characterizes not only the philosophical approach but also its subject field.
    Philosophical aesthetics follows a similar pattern. Originally, Baumgarten states that "[a]esthetics (as the theory of the liberal arts, science of lower cognition, the art of beautiful thinking, and the art of analogical thought) is the science of sensory cognition" (Baumgarten, translated by Shusterman, 1999). Yet, Baumgarten's use of the term science is questionable since he perceives aesthetics as made up of analogical thoughts, which is a very different modality of knowledge than the rationality of science. Baumgarten is not proposing aesthetics as an investigation of lower cognition but as lower cognition proper, including the art of beautiful, analogical thought, which brings aesthetics close to poetics. This somehow excludes it from science proper. However, Baumgarten asserts in § 10 that aesthetics does not exclude science; rather, they should be thought as belonging together and practiced jointly. For him, aesthetics also comprises practical exercises with the aim of sharpening the aesthetic sensibility and creating artful expressions.
    Since Baumgarten's initial ideas, at least in a European context, philosophical aesthetics has solidified its place within academic research with a methodological focus on primarily analyzing cultural artifacts and expressions (mainly works of art) to base the development of aesthetics as a theory of art and, recently, also of other aesthetic artifacts such as design and everyday objects.
    Only recently, aesthetics as a practical form of knowledge acquisition has been rediscovered by artistic research, claiming that aesthetic perception plays a formative role in artistic creation and realization. When defined as research, this form of knowledge generation must reflect on its methodologies and knowledge bases. This brings it closer to academic research than often wished for by proponents of artistic research.
    Somaesthetics and pragmatist aesthetics form part of philosophical aesthetics. As a philosophy (Kremer), it often quite naturally applies philosophical methods such as critical and analytical reflection and contemplation, presupposing that existing knowledge is incomplete or obsolete and in need of further elucidation or a whole new theory. Yet, one of the founding ideas of somaesthetics is the inclusion of not only pragmatics but also practice. Somaesthetics' ameliorative ambition of self-fashioning cannot be accomplished as an analytical and cognitive endeavor but needs practical somatic exercises. For philosophical aesthetics, somatic exercises are not part of philosophizing proper but are rather treated as objects of analysis. One's own somatic experiences are the empirical data if collected in a structured and consistent way, but as a research activity in its own right and sometimes even only the context or background of the philosophical investigation. Somatic practices such as yoga, tai chi, and dance, on the other hand, have their own methods and methodologies.
    But what about somaesthetic practice, understood as the integration of analysis and practice? Which types of methodologies can be applied to explore the aesthetic nature of embodied practices, habits, norms, and experiences? How can we examine the aesthetic realms of embodiment in detail—for example, in the arts, sports, politics, religion, health care, or everyday life? In which ways have various approaches—such as philosophical reflection, conceptual analysis, phenomenological reduction, pragmatic methods, experimental philosophy, thematic analysis, ethnography, or artistic practices—been used to address embodiment and aesthetics? What are the methodological difficulties of investigating somatic practices, especially their experiential dimensions? Is practice itself an academic methodology, and how can its experiential findings be validated academically?
    Somatic practices and embodied reception are notoriously difficult to account for academically because neither physiological data nor philosophical theory can capture the experiential dimensions of embodied aesthetics. This special issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics deals with methodological aspects of investigating and applying somaesthetics, embodiment, and somatic experiences.
    The issue begins with Anne Tarvainen’s article “How to Apply Somaesthetics?— Practices and Methods in the Somaesthetic Approach.” It proposes ways to methodically apply the analytic, pragmatic, and practical dimensions of somaesthetics by considering what defines a somaesthetic inquiry, how we could evaluate our methods, and why it is essential to articulate somaesthetic knowledge in an accessible and credible way. The article illuminates the main characteristics of somaesthetics and outlines some possible methodological directions, especially for researchers, pedagogues, embodiment practitioners, artists, and students.
    The next articles shed light on concrete somaesthetics practices. Shira Berger’s “Art as 'The Third Skin': A Methodology for Exploring 'Spatial Repetition' in Trauma” explores the potential of using art-based research to analyze repetitive paintings made after trauma, to understand psychological mechanisms that stem from the body. She proposes a multi-disciplinary approach combining psychoanalysis and art to describe the concept of the “third skin” as a psychological-spatial repetitive mechanism originating in the body and striving towards healing, which provides the basis for a methodology that enables us to see repetitive artwork as a visual embodiment of repetition in trauma, as well as a lens through which to understand it.
    The article “Weeping out Loud – Embodiment in the Contemporary Lament Learning Process” by researcher Elina Hytönen-Ng and artist Emilia Kallonen explores the role of somatic practices and experiences in the process of learning to lament. The authors introduce us to the ancient Karelian lamenting tradition, its manifestations in contemporary Finland, and the ways laments are taught today in workshops and lamenting circles. The article shares Hytönen-Ng's autoethnographic observations from her participation in such a circle facilitated by Kallonen. The authors emphasize the significance of somatic and somaesthetic approaches in teaching lamenting.
    Jiyun Bae and her paper “How closer can methodologies approach life?: The study of ‘bodily knowing’ in Japan” looks at the concept of “bodily knowing" or "shintai chi" that has emerged in Japan since the 1990s in sports and exercise science, education, and cognitive science. Bodily knowing encompasses skills, movements, and knowledge rooted in the body. The paper highlights existing methodologies in bodily knowing research, including analyzing sports and movement skills, exploring aesthetics in everyday life, and self-support research by individuals with disabilities, revealing aspects that traditional scientific approaches may neglect and offering insights into constructing a potent methodology for bodily knowing research.
    Ulrik Søberg’s “The Somaesthetic Body and the Phenomenological Consciousness: Fundamentals for Embodied Experience as Knowledge” describes fundamental idea-historical and philosophical-anthropological connections between the body and consciousness and how they still form the basis of the concept of "man" today. Through analyses of ancient body perspectives, a Hellenistic and a philosophical Taoist, a methodical philosophical practical approach to being human is outlined that aims at a philosophical involvement of all modalities of the individual. It is a view on knowledge in which the body exists as a central somaesthetic fixation point. Søberg’s analyses outline the potential for the place for the body and emotion and their role in educational philosophical practice, as more than a tool for health and learning and more than a medium for the self to express itself through but as a crucial part of the foundation of human knowledge.
    The last article, “Somaesthetics and Methodology: A Dialogue,” is comprised of five separate parts that together form a dialogue. The contributing authors are Falk Heinrich, Max Ryynänen, Stefano Marino, Aurosa Alison, and Elena Romagnoli. The dialogue's topic is somaesthetics and methodology, addressing questions such as: What are the relevant methods for somaesthetic inquiries and practices? What are the methodological difficulties? Which important dimensions do methods and methodologies exclude? The article consists of five pieces, each addressing questions and propositions presented by the other participating authors.

  • Body, Space, Architecture
    Vol. 8 No. 2 (2022)

       The relationship between body and architecture is substantial. It can be regarded as the principle according to which the design of habitability is connected to that of the body living and relating in space.    The body moves in the surrounding space and, in addition to figuring itself as a biological and natural presence, it is configured to all those meanings that correspond to it. In fact, space, as well as being architectural, can be social, cultural, institutional, and political. And so can the body.
    About the involvement and reconnection of the body with architectural design, Maurizio Vitta, a historian and theorist of architecture and design, refers us to the principle of “habitability”:
       The dwelling tells the story of the inhabitant, draws the figure of the inhabitant, represents the inhabitant before others and for others to the extent that it is shaped by those who inhabit it. The way of shaping the architectural environment through the use of space, the distribution of furnishings, the choice of furniture and furnishings, the subtle hierarchy imposed on objects, the patterns of use of utensils, the laborious selection of images, are so many narratives of a personality that is inscribed, mostly unconsciously, in the domestic environment in order to be reflected in it. (Vitta, 2008, p. 27)
       Beginning with Vitruvius, classical thought emphasized the correspondence between the body and the architectural complex as an example of beauty and harmony. The homo bene figuratus becomes a canon of perfection, in which the concepts of measure and proximity correspond. Similarly, Le Corbusier’s Modulor has affected modern culture not only in terms of the correspondence of the body’s distance in space but especially regarding the conception of a mode of measurement stemming from the body itself.
       The identity relationship between space and Leib is consequential; architecture lends itself to the reasons of the living body, a body that is not reduced solely to physical presence but also includes a set of symbolic and pragmatic meanings: “Very roughly speaking for the moment, Körper denotes the physical body as object, while Leib typically signifies the lived, feeling body or the body as intentionality or subject” (Shusterman, 2010, p. 207). The pragmatic value of the body is reflected in its improvement, and in this regard, the distinction that Richard Shusterman introduces regarding soma and the body is evident:
       Somaesthetics can be provisionally defined as the critical, meliorative study of the experience and use of one’s body as a locus of sensory aesthetic appreciation (aisthesis) and creative self-fashioning. It is therefore also devoted to the knowledge, discourses, practices, and bodily disciplines that structure such somatic care or can improve it. If we put aside traditional philosophical prejudice against the body and instead simply recall philosophy’s central aims of knowledge, self-knowledge, right action, and its quest for the good life, then the philosophical value of somaesthetics should become clear in several ways. (Shusterman, 1999, p. 302)
       The key to understanding Somaesthetics is in is in the enhanced quality of life that is achieved through the enhancement of valuing of the body. This dynamic, according to Shusterman, also applies to the relationship between soma and architecture: “If architecture is the articulation of space for the purposes of enhancing our living, dwelling, and experience, then the soma provides the most basic tool for all spatial articulation by constituting the point from which space can be seen and articulated” (Shusterman, 2011, p. 288). Architecture, beginning with the soma, can be conceived as a necessary tool for the improvement of our lives—visual coordinates, depth, verticality, size, gestures, and the relationship with our surroundings are all features aimed at being able to improve the quality of habitability and thus of being (Shusterman, 2011, pp. 288–290). In addition to these, there are real identifications in which soma is reflected in the structure of the building; in fact, to be qualitatively appreciable, a building must be appreciated for its beauty and function—must ideologically represent a space—and so must the body (Shusterman, 2023).
       There is a correspondence between somatic conditions and architecture, and increasingly architects and designers are using this relationship to highlight people’s use of shared and private spaces. In recent years, discussion has developed about the somatic use and experience of spaces, particularly in the city, but also of objects and private spaces. In this regard, Shusterman has often dwelt on these issues by addressing the issue of Somaesthetics as a principle that can be used in design and architectural projects. At the International Conference organized at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow in 2021, “Body and Public Space,” he presented a lecture entitled “Soma as and in Space: Public and Private.” In 2022, he presented a lecture entitled “Somaesthetics and Design” at the Cyprus University of Technology (Department of Fine Arts); and in 2023, he delivered a talk entitled “Soma and Space” at the International Conference organized by the Department of Architecture of the University of Bologna dedicated to “The Historical City as a Critical Reference and Role Model for Innovative Urban and Metropolitan Development.”
       The interest on the part of engineers, architects, and planners in general has been increasingly directed toward this dialogue, in which the soma acquires a double value, as follows: 1) that of experience in relation to the perceived reality and 2) that of the pragmaticity in relation to the reality to be built. It is with this in mind that the idea of dedicating this issue to the relationship between the body, space, and architecture was born. Indeed, the body and architecture dialogue through the concept of space, which is declined in increasingly transdisciplinary ways.
       Indeed, in the contributions, we find many keywords such as city, experience, soma, gesture, relationship, urbanism, built, environment, and virtual. In fact, the distribution of articles is based on the multidisciplinary encounter and experimental reading of the relationship between soma and urban, private, and virtual spaces.
       The argument of the body as a relationship between emotional experience and architecture is the focus of the article “Motion and Emotion: Understanding Urban Architecture through Diverse Multisensorial Engagements” by Tenna D. O. Tvedebrink, Lars B. Fich, Elisabetta Canepa, Zakaria Djebbara, Asbjørn C. Carstens, Dylan Chau Huynh, and Ole B. Jensen. The authors consider some experiences located in Budolfi Square in downtown Aalborg in northern Denmark. In addition to the livability of Budolfi Square, this paper addresses a very interesting proposal—that of using a body-centered approach to analyze the relationship between human body sensations and the urban context. The article also presents a discussion of the relationship between somaesthetics and architecture, in which the authors focus on the living body as theorized by Shusterman and the elaboration of Neuro-Architecture —that is, the empathic experience—from a neurophysiological background. The moving body, in this way, becomes the object not only through the theorizing but also through the planning of living spaces. The experiential approach to architecture is at the center of the discussion.
       Lukáš Makky’s paper “Aesthetic, Somatic, and Somaesthetic Experience of the City” emphasizes the somatic and aesthetic aspects of the experience of the city. In fact, Makky argues, like Shusterman, that architecture provides the framework for experience. The body is always the starting point, but in this case, the direct references are to John Dewey and Walter Benjamin regarding an aesthetic sensibility capable of experiencing. All the inhabitants of a city can consider themselves involved in the aesthetic experience of the everyday. Similarly, the experience of the city can be considered from the somatic point of view—that is, through the living body. Makky, at the end of his argument, inserts the case study of Alcazaba, the Phoenician fortress in Malaga on which the city’s strong identity—and consequently the experiences that could be created—depend.
       In addition to the topic of aesthetic experience, this issue makes apparent two other aspects—that of inclusive design and that of digital change in new conceptions of virtual reality (VR) spaces. In Mark Tschaepe’s essay “Somaesthetics of Discomfort and Wayfinding: Encouraging Inclusive Architectural Design,” the object of analysis is the body’s orientation within cities and public spaces, often directed by satellite navigators. Tschaepe highlights the sense of discomfort and anxiety at the moment we lose our orientation in an unfamiliar place. In this regard, he uses discomfort as a starting point to be developed through somaesthetics, with a view to better orienting people in a city. That discomfort not only makes it possible to design, through somaesthetics, better spaces, such as hospitals, where discomfort is related to a physiological need or lack, and garages, as in the case of orientation.
       VR is another area showing the applicability of somaesthetics in the design and perceptual fields. In Jessica Fiala’s essay, “Sensing the Virtual: Atmosphere and Somaesthetics in VR,” interest lies in the new avenues that virtual application offers to the realms of atmosphere and the body, moving simultaneously in both real and virtual space. Indeed, the sensation of space amplifies our perceptions, bringing the place of the virtual closer to concreteness. In the studio projects of Design I/O (, Fiala emphasizes the designers’ interest in creating a virtual environment capable of simultaneous interaction with the virtual body and the physical body. In this way, the proprioceptive aspects of somaesthetics are stimulated by two conditions—the programmed and the instantaneous. Another very interesting example is the documentary Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon made by the Munduruku community in 2017. With this film, the audience is immersed in the Amazon basin via the reconstruction of the sensory elements of the Amazon rainforest that are appreciable in different booths. Here, the five senses are stimulated by smells, noises, lights, and materials that augment the virtual reality and vice versa.
       Complementing these contributions are two essays and an artistic statement, which emphasize the importance of an artistic and pragmatist analysis of the relationship between somaesthetics and built, political, and design environments. The topics of these pieces are based on somaesthetic involvement, which is analyzed through specific contexts, including soundscape, design, and politics. In architecture, in fact, the importance of sound or silence is often argued ; the issue of hearing has been researched several times in the fields of atmosphere and architecture (Zumthor, 2006). In this regard, the paper by Bálint Veres, “Notes on the Aural Aspects of Built Environment,” connects the built environment with the acoustic dimension. Here, the multisensory dimension of the kinesphere cannot be excluded in the design world. Veres offers a reflection regarding our sensations and perceptions of architectural and artistic environments, capable of considering acoustics as a physical term.
       In this way, the art world has increasingly used the sphere of somaesthetics, and Bartlomiej Struzik offers an artistic statement exposing a new configuration of somactive art in his contribution “Is Space Recognizing a Form? A Contributory Study for the Theory of Somactive Art.” The subject of his exposition is that of sculptural art connected to places, which together create and restore memory. Moreover, the movement of the body in space amplifies the identity recognition of space. The materiality of sculpture, in this context, can do two things: in the case of the artist, one can recognize oneself in the act of creation; in the case of the audience, one can recognize the identity of what is created.
       In addition to artistic performativity and fruition, in built environments, some contexts relate back to somaesthetic involvement. For instance, gesture is a form of expression and communication but also a symbolization in political and social realms. Pradeep A. Dhillon, in Architectural Gestures in International Relations, manages to provide a careful analysis of the gestural relationship with established forms of expression in the embassies of Belgium and the United States in New Delhi, India, and Finland in Canberra, Australia. The somatic dimension of the Wittgensteinian gesture is not only the signification of the architectural project but also of what happens somatically in the configuration of the project itself. Dhillon’s reference to Wittgenstein is inspired by Kantian transcendental idealism, in which the function of the body is no longer to be considered solely as a medium but also as a bonding element, a network capable of being the backdrop for our activities in the everyday, private, and public spheres.
       Increasingly, somaesthetics is being taught and illustrated in schools of architecture and academies of fine arts in order to understand how the livability of places is rooted in a connective tissue that is within everyone’s reach. This democratic reading of the discipline helps us to understand how everyday life can also be improved through a new design reading of spaces and objects. I have had the good fortune of introducing the theory of somaesthetics on several academic occasions—the first time was in 2021 within a doctoral course, “Philosophy of the Architectural Interior,” in the School of Architecture and the School of Human Sciences at the Federico II University of Naples, during a lecture entitled “Somaesthetics. From Architecture to Design.” For a second time in the same year, I introduced this theory during a three-day workshop at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, entitled The Living Body: A Multimedia Experience. Most recently, in 2022 in a lecture, entitled “From Gestalt to Somaesthetics” at the Academy of Fine Arts in Naples, I presented these ideas. Simply from the titles of these contributions, the importance of the aesthetic discipline in many areas of performance and design is evident.
       Even more so, from reading the rich contributions of this issue, what emerges is the openness of using somaesthetics in the development of architectural contexts, as well as design in virtual worlds and those of augmented reality. This means that resorting to primary sensations still remains a fundamental matrix of our knowledge.

    Shusterman, R. (1999). Somaesthetics: A disciplinary proposal. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 57(3; Summer), 299–313.
    Shusterman, R. (2010). Soma and psyche. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 24(3), 205–223.
    Shusterman, R. (2011). Somaesthetics and architecture: A critical option. In Chair for Theory and History of Modern Architecture Bauhaus-University Weimar (ed.), Architecture in the age of empire, 11th International Bauhaus Colloquium. Weimar: Verlag der Bauhaus-Universität, pp. 282–300.
    Shusterman, R. (2023). Somaesthetics and Architecture: A Critical Option [Unpublished insight]. In Chair for Theory and History of Modern Architecture Bauhaus–University Weimar (ed.). Architecture in the age of empire, 11th International Bauhaus Colloquium. Weimar: Verlag der Bauhaus-Universität, pp. 282–300.
    Vitta, M. (2008). Dell’A bitare. Torino: Einaudi.
    Zumthor, P. (2006). Atmospheres: Architectural environments—surrounding objects. Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag GmbH.

  • Aesthetics and Body Experiences in Health Care
    Vol. 8 No. 1 (2022)

    Studies in health and health care comprise a broad field encompassing medical treatment, prevention, and care for older and permanently sick people. The area includes many healthcare practices and practitioners: doctors, nurses, care workers, alternative practitioners, etc. Thus, health studies are subject to a broad and interdisciplinary area that has different ways of understanding what health is and how health is studied (Naidoo & Wills, 2015). Drawing on various scientific fields, discourses of biology, medicine, cultural studies, psychology, social policy, and sociology are all intermingled in health studies. Traditionally derived from natural science, an objective biological construction of health has dominated health studies and health care in the West (Naidoo & Wills, 2015). Here, the body is considered a collection of matter-based functions, where dysfunctional bodies can be restored by repairing or replacing broken parts. Likewise, medicine dealing with physical and mental health aspects and dysfunctions relates to the body as a means—or obstacle—for performance. One of the consequences of the medical approach is that the body can never be strong and effective enough, as shown by the intricate relationship between medicine and elite sports. In this case, body work and bodily health are understood as performance machines, and the body’s training is valued as something done (Aldridge, 2004). In health care, bodies are seen as targets of daily care in terms of personal hygiene, medical treatment, exercise, proper nutrition, and medication. Bodies are treated as almost mechanical objects of care in the sense of concern and worry. This is considered low-ranked and even dirty work performed as paid bodywork on the bodies of others (Twigg, 2000).
    Only recently have aesthetic artifacts and practices gained attention within health studies and health care. Aesthetic dimensions are often seen in beautifying hospitals and nursing homes’ spatial interiors and surroundings (wall colors, mural art, posters, paintings, sculptures, recreational parks, etc.). Likewise, the benevolent effect of aesthetics is seen with cultural experiences (theater, music, poetics, and narratives) and aesthetic experiences in and with nature. Evidently, there are good reasons for this. However, we argue that the aesthetic dimensions of the lived body are an important and valuable addition and sometimes even a substantial means for a good or better life (Shusterman, 1999), especially for people with permanent health conditions and older people. Somaesthetic practices are also a means of healing.
    Somaesthetics surpasses external beautification and aestheticization because it posits aesthetic attention within our somatic self as the center of healing and improvement. Somaesthetic practices focusing on bodily awareness and experiences can be benevolent and supporting in health questions, and this has several reasons. First, somaesthetics questions the predominant thinking that sees the body as an object to be manipulated and enhanced. In contrast, somaesthetics proposes the experiencing of one’s own body as an integral part of well-being and meaning-making. Second, somaesthetics suggests a more fluid continuum between health and sickness that focuses on acceptance and improvement through somatic aesthetic practices and awareness. Thus, somaesthetic practices can support healthcare by emphasizing the aesthetic experience and awareness of the situated body and its actions. Likewise, the theoretical dimension of somaesthetics can contribute to an altered and ameliorative understanding of health, sickness, and situated well-being.
    This issue about aesthetics and body experiences in healthcare presents three articles that deal with different aspects of healthcare, attending to human lives from the cradle to the grave. The first article, ‘Crafting Atmospheres for Healthcare Design,’ is authored by Esben Skouboe (architect and researcher) and Iben Højholt (composer and sound studies researcher). It addresses the healing and empowering agency of a somaesthetic design of delivery rooms for both parents and midwives at work. The article sheds light on a design process that considers the aesthetic preferences and somatic associations of prospective users of the delivery room. The chosen methodology is reflected in the interactive components of a delivery room that offers various aesthetic atmospheres through visual projections and soundscapes. This allows users to create a very personal and aesthetically rich atmosphere as the context for one of the most critical situations in life. The second article, ‘Breathing in Mortality: Demedicalization of Death in Documentary Films,’ is written by Outi Hakola and explores how cinematic narratives in documentaries represent death and the dying body. The somaesthetic focus is on breathing as life’s most basic sign and function. Breathing is either hindered by medical technology or set free in a demedicalized natural death. The third article, ‘Care Practice as Aesthetic Co-creation: A Somaesthetic Perspective on Care Work,’ by Britta Møller, focuses on the somaesthetic communication between care workers and elderly people in nursing homes.
    The three articles study different care locations: a delivery room at a hospital (Skouboe/Højlund), intensive care units and hospice units (Hakola), and care practices in nursing homes (Møller).
    All three articles stress that (medical, cinematic, and welfare) technologies have appeared as signs of modernity that standardize and make healthcare practice more efficient. This also heightens the status of the field as an essential part of a technologically advanced society. Hakola describes how cinematic media has built an image of scientific technology as something with authority and sociopolitical importance. Møller points to welfare technology as something that gives status by enabling a distanced position to the body in care work. Skouboe and Højlund stress that medical technologies in functional and institutionalized delivery rooms assimilate machine rooms to which patients are alienated. However, Skouboe and Højlund also stress that this type of technology is necessary and life-securing; new additional technologies to create a somaesthetic hospital room design might be considered “unserious hippie-like initiatives conducted by management.”
    Hakola finds that the medicalization of death and dying freezes embodied time, as it can prolong life and give time for relatives to make decisions about life and death. However, these technologies also override the agency and subjectivity of the patient. Hakola argues that, at least temporarily, technology overtakes patients’ subjectivity, as patients are left unable to breathe for themselves. Medical technologies create a blurred and unstable image of the person (Hakola) and passive hospital patients (Skouboe/Højlund). Medical instruments can dehumanize and isolate patients at the moment of death and force them to let go of their agency (Hakola).
    In response to this situation, Skouboe/Højlund stresses that hospitals need to be conceived as more than just spaces for efficient and secure physical treatments; hospitals are also places for significant life events and memories for life, such as giving birth. Hakola’s and Skouboe/Højlund’s studies highlight the embodied process of dying and giving birth emphasized by demedicalization, and in Skouboe/Højlund’s case, enforced by a technological somaesthetic design of the delivery room. Attention must be given to the embodied relations between human experience and technology. Technology—medical and cinematic (Hakola) and medical and atmosphere-generating instruments (Skouboe/Højlund)—can also create a potential for body awareness for the actors (viewers, parents, midwives) to experience various perspectives on the medicalization of death and dying (Hakola) or empowerment, stress reduction, pain management and more active and self-reliant patients (Skouboe/Højlund). Hakola and Skouboe/Højlund study desires and intentions to de-medicalize the acts of giving birth and dying. Skouboe/Højlund emphasizes homelike decor and familiar local nature moods as positive distractions and downplays the functional and institutionalized things and sounds in the delivery room. Hakola conducts studies of documentaries in hospice and palliative care, where the patient’s agency is related to breathing and where all traces of medicalization and technology are almost erased. The focus is on the dying body’s breathing movements and sounds, in contrast to the machine sounds and the after-death stillness. Hakola stresses that the demedicalized cinematic focus in documentaries affects the viewer to respond to the on-screen representations effectively, as their bodies will mimic those of the breathing characters and hence potentially create a bodily awareness of the status of one’s own body. These embodied experiences of the breathing body create embodied knowledge of dying and death.
    A focus on rhythms is prominent in both Hakola’s and Møller’s studies. While Hakola stems from the visual rhythm of breathing in and out as a form of engagement with the world, Møller stresses a similar point related to the rhythm of interaction between caretaker and patient. Both authors argue that, in each intake (of breath or impressions), people take something of the world into themselves. With each outgiving (of breath or expression), they release something of themselves with which they participate in a shared world. Møller explores this rhythm as an aesthetic interaction based on impressions and expressions performed in relations between a care worker and an older person. Based on a micro-situational analysis informed by Dewey’s and Shusterman’s concepts of aesthetic experience, Møller zooms in on the somatically understood communication that forms the basis of a care relation. Møller describes the bodywork in care practices as aesthetic co-creations, a communicative process where both actors and the practice are constantly shaped and reshaped.
    The three articles present some somaesthetic perspectives on healthcare and care work. However, there is still more to understand about the somaesthetic perspective in healthcare practice and research. Skouboe and Højlund argue for a shift from evidence-based medical design to research-based design that includes aesthetics and experiential validation criteria and more diverse interdisciplinary theory and methodology, allowing alternative qualitative methods as part of clinical trials. Hakola challenges the idealization of modern medicalization processes and argues that focusing on the stages of breathing can help overcome the sensory limitations of representing dying as a process. More could be known about the educational potential of care professionals in studying the embodied experience of breathing as an impression that resonates in and with the observer’s body. Similarly, as stressed by Møller, more knowledge is needed about how to learn to care and improve care practices through the aesthetics of interaction and dialogue.
    Apart from the mentioned articles, which focus on the body’s function and significance in healthcare situations, this issue also contains a paper written by Jiyun Bae. It deals with the aesthetics and pedagogical purposes of hwarang, a system involving groups of young men in early Korean history. The ideology and pedagogy of the hwarang are analyzed and interpreted in light of the philosophy of somaesthetics. However, the paper also shows that Eastern practices and understandings inspire the ideas behind somaesthetics. The aesthetic practices of these groups of youngsters entailed singing, body practices, and entertainment aimed at experiences of joy and pleasure. Core notions such as “play,” “travel,” and “self-cultivation” and their inner relationships serve as examples of pungryudo, the practice-based aesthetics of the hwarang. This aesthetic ideology concerns a specific part of life, such as art or entertainment, and has repercussions in all life domains, including ethics, politics, and sexuality. The paper shows that the hwarang promotes the insight that one’s intellectual and practical life is integrated into one’s lifestyle and that the lifestyle is very much based on somaesthetic experiences of different kinds of pleasures, including sensory, intellectual, spiritual, and practical pleasures. This seems very much forgotten by modern education and pedagogy, which focuses mainly on acquiring knowledge.

  • Artifacts, Bodies, and Aesthetics
    Vol. 7 No. 2 (2021)

    The relationship between the human body and cultural artifacts, such as design artifacts, artworks, and religious artifacts, is both fascinating and peculiar. For example, various art forms depict or use human and non-human bodies as a point of reference. However, philosophical aesthetics have neglected the material-energetic body of artifacts. Until recently, artifacts have been mainly viewed as “parenthetical” objects transcending strictly corporal matters because of the dominant aspects of the Western culture. Artworks and religious objects are predominantly represented as intrinsic aesthetic values or spiritual ideas that negate their physical relationship with the human body. Similarly, in addition to serving a functional purpose, design artifacts are also aesthetic objects that transcend their sensory and practical relationship with the user by focusing on the conveyance of narratives and ideas according to mainstream aesthetics.
    For example, the rise of minimal art, performance art, and body art in the contemporary art world during the middle of the last century has prompted us to reconsider the complex interconnections between human materials, body senses, and artifacts by granting the artwork an agential body of its own. Fried (1997) classified minimal art as theater (rather than art) because the artifacts of minimal art create relationship situations with the onlooker. Furthermore, Danto (1999) claimed that artworks are representational entities that are marked by some sort of agency that is induced to the artwork because the onlooker is drawn into an interactional relationship with the artwork, which is now bestowed with subjectivity. However, the fact that artworks depend on human interaction does not mean that their “agency” can be taken away from them. Hermeneutics has frequently been used to explain the significance and importance of art as culture-instigating and world-instigating artifacts (see, e.g., Heidegger, 1950). It is unknown whether artworks and design artifacts become agential bodies that exhibit features that go beyond aesthetic forms and semiotic representations.
    Advances in cognitive sciences (Newman et al., 2014), philosophy of mind and language (Muñoz-Corcuera, 2016), and law (Andina, 2017) have shown that art objects are more similar to us than we realize and that we tend to have serious intimate relationships with them. For instance, both humans and artworks retain their (ontological) identity over time even if they undergo various changes (e.g., growing old, being restored, or even being duplicated) and have legal rights that must be protected. Further, humans have moral obligations toward artworks because of their status as cultural heritage artifacts and historical witnesses, as well as their inner “truth” and the incorporated energy and spirit of their creators.
    Although artifacts cannot sense, feel, or act as agents, humans often use them as both objects and subjects in passionate relationships such as love or hate, which are traditionally reserved for the animated world. Humans engage emotionally with art or design artifacts. The somaesthetic shift in the conceptualization of the human body and its affective, perceptual, agential, and emissive capabilities could be a promising starting point for reframing the bodily nature of artifacts and our embodied relationships with them. This is particularly evident when we consider artifacts that create experiential places via human interactions. Places are not mere sites; a site refers to a geographically and geometrically understood space, while a place is characterized by existential and interbody dimensions. Examples of such place- and body-oriented artforms are architecture, gardens, land art, installation art, and participatory art.
    We believe that somaesthetics is a promising framework for investigating art or design artifacts as complex and relational “bodies” because the framework allows for practical, experiential dimensions to play a role in the analysis and theory development. Hence, somaesthetics creates a multifaceted, investigatory space of appreciation and analysis by focusing on the somatic relationships between artifactual and human bodies. Conversely, the concept of artifactual bodies as agential body anchors enhances and also questions the somatic dimensions of human existence. All contributions to this issue applied distinct aspects of somaesthetics when investigating the experiential significance of different cultural artifacts––their emotional appreciation, artistic value, function, and relationship with humans. The analyzed artifacts included artworks, manufactured design artifacts, and artifacts created by the author herself. In particular, all contributions used various approaches to emphasize the role these artifacts play in shaping the human sense of self because of their corporal existence. Based on the identity-shaping function of these artifacts, the somaesthetic relationship with seemingly silent and passive objects around us is illuminated and discussed.
    The volume opens with Alessandro Bertinetto’s highly theoretical contribution, which is fueled by personal experience. In his paper “Body and Soul… and the Artifact. The Aesthetically Extended Self,” he analyzes the phenomena of feeling sorry for the loss or destruction of specific cultural material artifacts, such as musical instruments, artworks, or bikes. It is argued that this specific type of feeling or attitude results from the fact that cultural artifacts, which gain personal significance through the process of habituation and skilled repetitive practice of using them, complement ourselves and aid in developing our personality. Bertinetto argues that people become part of the virtual history of self through somaesthetic experiences with specific artifacts. “Thanks to the assiduity of a somaesthetic relationship, these objects enlarge not only our body but also our mind or “soul.” They become parts of our extended body and soul,” the owner and user. Thus, the loss or destruction of these objects causes us pain.
    Chloe Cassidy’s article entitled “Healing, Reverie and Somaesthetic Anchors: Designing Objects of Soft Fascination to Move from Fight and Flight to Flow and Flourish” discusses how somaesthetic research can help deal with issues of post-traumatic stress disorder by enriching the overall quality of life. The author developed a method based on cultivating aesthetic appreciation and somaesthetic experiences that can straighten a sense of safety through mastered body consciousness in order to secure two trauma-informed care principles: safety and empowerment. Cassidy presented self-designed and created artifacts that function as somaesthetic anchors that connect the subject to nature and the surrounding world on a sensory level. Establishing a sensory connection aids in the development of a sense of safety and empowerment as well as the healing process. Cassidy’s article convincingly demonstrates the pragmatic and practical dimensions of somaesthetics.
    “Handling Digital Reproductions of Artworks” is a contribution by Christian Sivertsen and Anders Sundnes Løvlie. The paper is based on empirical research into how people react to digital reproductions of visual artworks. In the experiment, onlookers were asked to “handle” (touch and hold) physical paintings as well as their two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) virtual representations. After a series of interviews with the viewers, careful analysis, and interpretation of the received data, the article concludes that by designing an aesthetic experience of digital reproductions of visual artworks that involves the body in a significant manner, we can bring back the somaesthetic dimensions of art experience that are currently lost in art galleries and museums, where onlookers are not allowed to touch and handle exhibited artworks. Virtual interactive exhibition spaces can create/recreate the experience of touching and handling art objects, providing a sense of genuineness that is sometimes lacking in modern museums and galleries.
    The final contribution is “Object and Soma: Remarks on Aesthetic Appreciation of Design” by Monika Favara-Kurkowski and Adam Andrzejewski. The paper proposes a different interpretation of aesthetic appreciation of design artifacts. They claim that we appreciate and appraise design artifacts not only because of their functionality but also because of our physical reactions to them. Favara-Kurkowski and Andrzejewski challenge the notion of being bodily entangled with a design object by pointing out that when we experience a design object, we evaluate not only the object but also our own body. In other words, a conglomerate of an object, a subject, and their relationship is what is valued in the aesthetic experience of design artifacts.
    This volume concluded with lengthy reviews of three books. Alexander Kremer reviewed Richard Shusterman’s Ars Erotica, and Else Marie Bukdahl reviewed Allie Terry-Fritsch’s book Somaesthetic Experiences and the Viewer in Medicean Florence, Renaissance, Art and Political. Finally, Kyo Tamamura had a critical look at Satochi Higuchi’s recent book Somaesthetics and the Philosophy of Culture: Projects in Japan.

  • Somaesthetics and Phenomenology
    Vol. 7 No. 1 (2021)

    “What is the difference of somaesthetics and phenomenology?” This is the question a teacher of body philosophy encounters when s/he presents somaesthetics, the less known of these two approaches to the philosophy of the body.
    The answer might look simple. Phenomenology, when focused on the body, has been the main academic tradition of philosophical body-consciousness. Phenomenologists have mainly aspired to stay academic and theoretical with an epistemological objective and the approach has not originally been established for practical use. Somaesthetics, a much later concept, has been right from the beginning fueled by an aspiration to lead theory and bodily practices into a dialogue – where both could enhance their (for the body often just tacit) knowledge with the help of the other. And if phenomenology, although later actively adapted in e.g. Japan and South Korea, is very (broadly speaking) Central European by its nature, somaesthetics, with roots in the pragmatist philosophy that developed in the United States, has right from its very beginnings, in the early 2000s, encouraged dialogue between different philosophical traditions, both ‘Western’ and ‘non-Western’.
    However, the issue becomes complicated when looking at the communities working on and with the approaches. Some phenomenologists today are actually dancers, karateka and/or yogi, others apply phenomenology to e.g. robotics and interface and interaction design, and so actually put phenomenology into practice in a way somaesthetics has made programmatic for itself. Contrary, many who write about somaesthetics are actually classical academic philosophers in the sense that their main bodily practice is to sit behind a desk and drink (too much) coffee.
    Both traditions take pride in their roots, phenomenology in the philosophical springs of the Brentano-Husserl connection (without forgetting the threads of reflections that have made e.g. René Descartes a central figure in the corpus), and somaesthetics in Dewey’s philosophy of experience and his moderately experimental attitude (without forgetting the way already Peirce and James built approaches to the body). Practically, many who are into phenomenology have not actually much looked at its very beginnings (although the interest in Husserl is somehow rising in importance again), and they start from Merleau-Ponty or Heidegger. The same way, for example Dewey’s original life work is for many somaestheticians known only through the work of later thinkers of pragmatism, most notably of course Richard Shusterman, the initiator of the discussion of somaesthetics.
    What could a comparative and/or critical and/or synthetizing inquiry into the relationship of these two approaches bring forth? What are the key differences (historical sources, practical writing, applications) – and could somaesthetics and phenomenology profit from having more philosophical dialogue? What about their very origins? Pragmatism could historically be seen as an offspring of earlier continental philosophy that was imported to the new world through European diaspora. Dewey also went to China for a period and applied some of his Eastern learnings to his philosophy of art and phenomenology had already in Husserl an Asian (Japanese) connection that became stronger with Heidegger (who, besides his dialogues with Japanese thinkers, started to translate Tao Te Ching). Has Asian thinking shaped the emergence of both philosophies in a way that unites them in some respect already quite early – and to what extent? The same could be asked about the continental European philosophies that were imported to Harvard, the birthplace of pragmatism, but served also as a background to the evolution of phenomenology. Peirce attacked Cartesians that dominated Harvard’s philosophical atmosphere, but Husserl engaged in reinterpreting Descartes. Still the source is the same.
    One of the original main sources for the birth and early development of phenomenology, the work (i.e. teaching and research) of psychologist and philosopher Franz Brentano, featured intense reflection on the unity of consciousness (see, e.g. Brentano 1995, see, e.g. 57). This same awe about the way we are able to keep focus and to feel mentally centralized, despite all fragmentation, despite being bombarded with random impulses, thoughts and multi-faceted stimulation – in other words, these ‘problems of oneness and unity occupied [Edmund] Husserl throughout all the phases of his philosophical development’ (Sawicki 2001). Husserl, like Sigmund Freud (another theorist of the mind), was Brentano’s student, and the philosopher who appropriated Brentano’s term ‘phenomenology’, which was originally reserved for descriptive psychology. Husserl used it for his new take on scientific thinking by adapting Brentano’s view that being is intentional – and, e.g., challenging his students and readers to take up a new craft of philosophy by systematically dropping perceptional prejudices through reduction (see e.g. Husserl 1990), i.e. through taking away all uncertainties from our accounts of what we sense (which could of course also be read as also one new way to gain more focus for perception and experience).
    According to Daniel Dennett, unity of consciousness is needed for survival. Unity of consciousness is, though, still over-emphasized, according to Dennett, as we are not as much in control of our consciousness as we might think, and nor are we even able to grasp it strongly enough to claim possession of it (see e.g. Dennett 1991). It might be that Dennett’s comment to the phenomenologists is true, and that (to make a banal point) those who were able to focus better were more often able to pass their genes to the next generation, but, still, the way ‘things’ sometimes just ‘come together’ into focus, in a way that also feels remarkable, has perhaps been a key experience that has fueled the active, systematic introspection of both Brentano and Husserl. A pragmatist reader might also easily think that it shares some key components with Dewey’s idea of an experience.
    The way we are able, with all our fragmented impulses, thoughts and multi-faceted stimulation, to sometimes intensify and build focused experience, feeling not just mentally centralized but also somatically centralized, is a main tenet in Dewey’s aspiration to theorize moments when all our fragmentated memories, impulses, and mental and sensuous stimuli come together in an experience (Dewey 1980). He simply left the narrow intellect behind, and went for a broader unity, but also drags in the organic rhythms of the body – and accentuates memories, (aesthetic) skills and the active construction of the experience. One cannot of course equate consciousness and experience, but both threads of thinking share the same interest in mental focus.
    Both phenomenology and pragmatism have mainly worked without empirical data, and they have focused on philosophical descriptions (and introspection), argumentation and speculation (which I have nothing against). If (the significantly later) Dewey described activities as different as cleaning the house and gazing at paintings to make his point, while never particularly detailing the organic rhythms of the body that he mentioned several times, and not being interested in working out taxonomies of holistic experience, Brentano worked only, and restrictively, in the sphere of the mind. The body, though, gained increasingly focus in the work of the line of phenomenologists that starts from Edmund Husserl.

  • Unhealthy and Dangerous Lifestyles – and the Care of the Self
    Vol. 6 No. 2 (2020)

    Riikka Perälä and Max Ryynänen, Issue Editors

    The way aesthetics, the body, and lifestyles – or for this theme issue, unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles – come together offers a lot to ponder. In this theme issue, we want to explore the possibilities of somaesthetics as a discourse and/or a platform to prompt discussion and produce novel ways to think about addiction and other unhealthy lifestyles.
    We have leaned on an idea that addiction, or any other disease or lifestyle that is risky for an individual, cannot be explained only through biology or psychology. Rather, they are supported by, and they are part of, cultural patterns of thinking or social representations (Moscovici 1984), that make our practices sensible (Shelby 2016; Lee 2012; Hirschowitz-Gertz 2011; Barber 1994). What is more, they are also sources of pleasure, even if they are harmful, and that is what makes them so difficult to handle – both on the individual level and at the societal level (Sulkunen 2009).
    The Burden of Disease (GBD) reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) provide data on mortality and loss of health as a result of diseases, injuries, and risk factors for all world regions. In WHO’s web pages it is stated that noncommunicable diseases (NCD), driven by e.g. unhealthy lifestyles or environmental factors, kill 41 million people each year, or 71% of all deaths globally. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD. Sociologist Pekka Sulkunen (2009) has referred to this as a problem of lifestyle regulation by modern consumption societies. These societies accentuate individualism, authenticity, and self-control as key virtues of the individuals, but, at the same time, they lack the tools to control these individuals and their un-desirable lifestyle choices. (The on-going corona pandemic serves, of course, as a good example with people going to underground parties and refusing to wear a mask, even though they could spread a deadly virus in doing so).
    In this theme issue, we have, through and with the help of somaesthetics, endeavored to put a spotlight on the pleasures, dangers, and aesthetic experiences that are connected to unhealthy and dangerous life practices. Our wish has been to to shed to new light on factors that drive these harmful lifestyles as well as to provide new ways to think about their role in the society and in the life of individuals. We see that there is considerable potential for somaesthetic thinking in finding solutions for curing and caring people who battle with addictions or other lifestyle related conditions (see also Perälä 2018).
    People sometimes drive fast just for the thrill of speed. Sometimes, we believe, this thrill is about feeling the speed in the stomach and getting goosebumps. Sometimes, for sure, it is about environmental aesthetics – how landscapes move, how the hands feel the changing roadwork through the steering wheel, how the body seems to be “flying” through the environment. Sometimes, this reflects behavioral models of certain subcultures or lifestyles to which the individual desires to belong. Heli Vaaranen (2004) writes about fast-driving young males in her study on the decadent romantic ethos of these communities, where being a bit crazy, “going all the way”, was considered the point. Driving in their cars, young males built their identities and developed solidarity with each other, to the mutual benefit of all members of the community. Rock music has traditionally been about excess and rebellion and heavy consumption of drugs and alcohol one its main components (Oksanen 2012). “We learn to [w]e learn to drink, smoke, and take drugs because others show us not only how to do it but also how to enjoy it”, writes sociologist James Barber (in Shelby 2016).
    The articles of this theme issue view dangerous and unhealthy lifestyles as they occur in three areas of life that are hard – for the individuals and for society: addiction, suicide, and eating disorders. Societies suffer both on the individual plane, as well as a whole, from all these phenomena. Often, these practices are outside of semiosis, i.e., they lack “sense” and rationality, as Sulkunen (1997) has written about addiction. Often, we explain them with the term “disease” (Barber 1994): if not biological, then at least, of “the will” (Valverde 1998). As our articles show, however, these are also ways of thinking and habits of life that suck individuals into their maelstroms as well as provide them with communities, meaningful perspectives, as well as feelings of pleasure.
    Some people, for example, train hard, apply extreme diets and eat growth-enhancing substances to look like statues. These are not just bodybuilders. Practitioners of aerobics also endanger their own health through practices, that do not even make them look “good” in any mainstream way, but only to the others in their “tribes.” Anorexia lurks as a side-track in this dangerous lifestyle. This problematics is in the center of Henri Hyvönen’s article “Care of the Self, Somaesthetics and Men Affected by Eating Disorders: Rethinking the Focus on Men’s Beauty Ideals”, which is a study of six autobiographical narratives of eating disorders (ED) from the perspective of caring for the self. It is a theme the late Michel Foucault made visible in his History of Sexuality. In his thought-provoking article, Hyvönen focuses on the dangers of self-stylization by stressing the role of “local social groups” in the formation of men’s ED’s in his empirical data. As he shows in his analysis, for his informants, eating disorders were not a way to achieve some abstract “masculinity”, which is usually provided as an explanation, but a process through which they could be accepted in particular subcultures. Pragmatic somaesthetics, for its part, could contribute to the establishment of local groups and communities that could provide young met with safer bodily self-care practices, according to Hyvönen.
    Different hobbies and professions, indeed, offer different tracks for unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles – and often in ways that are connected to aesthetic issues. Skateboarders – the rolling parkour-practitioners that have roamed our streets since the 1970s – try the impossible, with style – and break bones while being filmed. Rock stars are in constant danger of making alcohol and drug consumption a dangerous habit, and the lifestyle that provides too little sleep but the excitement of life on the road has taken down many performers (Oksanen 2012).
    One could, of course, also ask if there are artistic products or genres that are hard to understand deeply without using risky substances. Anyone can understand on a basic level what Jimi Hendrix and The Grateful Dead are about, but is there another level of understanding, another way to interpret their music when one is “experienced”? We do not think that is the case, for example, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1797-1798), even though the bizarre story – one mariner kills an albatross, then sea monsters seize the ship – was written by an avid opium user. While Coleridge used opium as a relaxant and an antidepressant and wrote Kublai Khan (1816) directly under its influence, it is hard to say if he used the drug as a creative enhancement. There was no culture to contextualize it or make it meaningful.
    In the wave of 1960s psychedelia, it was different, as the drugs were brought to the scene by psychologists like Timothy Leary. His “The Psychedelic Experience” (written with Ralph Metzner, 1964) was not based only on the aspiration to revolutionize perception and experience, but also to incite a political revolution with the help of substances. We try to understand original contexts in art, too, when we discuss the baroque and distant scenes where our favorite films come from. Will people someday take substances when they try to understand 20th century popular music?
    Some of the connections mentioned here are the background for Robert Jones’s article on the experimental drug use of William Burroughs, “The Body is a Soft Machine: The Twisted Somaesthetic of William S. Burroughs.” In his text, Jones goes beyond the analysis of poetry to examine the whole dangerous lifestyle of beat poets, with Burroughs in the lead, along with his readings of, e.g., Reich and Jones’s notes on Richard Shusterman’s somaesthetics. Jones uses the term “twisted somaesthetics” to describe Burroughs endeavours to break free of societal control with the help of substances. The lifestyle does not offer physical well-being, but, nevertheless, serves for Burroughs a way to find and explore new ways of being and criticize contemporary forms of how we experience and use our body.
    In the most extreme case, dangerous and unhealthy lifestyles might just be about death – one’s own or someone’s else. The key topic In Heidi Kosonen’s “Suicide, Social Bodies and Danger: Taboo, Biopower and Parental Worry” in Films Bridgend (2015) and Bird Box (2018 is the radical act of denying life and the way this is presented in films. Even though suicide is considered a taboo in Western cultures, it is often handled in films. These films, in turn, are sometimes considered dangerous as e.g. portraying suicide is easily seen as risky and as an invitation to join in death. Kosonen uses a biopolitical framework of Michel Foucault to understand what is going on in film representations of suicide. According to her, most Anglophone films have adopted medical institutions’ views of suicide. They portray suicide in medical terms and frame suicide an anomaly of the mind “through diagnoses, stereotypical and even pejorative depictions of a variety of mental illnesses from depression to psychopathology”. On the other hand, suicide is depicted as a force of nature, which is uncontrollable and understandable, as the victims are not there to explain themselves. Both these frameworks are stereotypical and do not portray the heterogenous reality on the background of suicide. In the worst case they might enhance prejudices and make it harder for ones living with mental illness to seek medical assistance.
    At any rate, the main question for us editors, when we started to edit this issue, was: Can a person use dangerous substances, and – against all prejudices – take care of himself/herself in such a way that aesthetic concepts like harmony or holistic pleasure would make sense? As we have shown so far, the answer is not straightforward. Unhealthy and dangerous lifestyles do give pleasure for individuals and, also, a way of life with friends and communities backing your lifestyle. However, at the same time, people often look for a way out these lifestyles.
    In her article “Unhealthy Lifestyle or Modern Disease? Constructing Narcotic Addiction and Its Treatments in the United States (1870-1920),” Irene Delcourt studies the history of interpretations and cures for drug addiction. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries narcotic addiction was considered a lifestyle and the result of bad lifestyle choices of upper and middle-class people. It was also believed that, by “cleansing the body” and removing inappropriate surroundings and habits the compulsion towards intoxication would disappear. A concept of rehabilitation started to appear in late 19th century medical literature in connection to both narcotic abuse and alcoholism treatment strategies, as well as sanatoriums, predecessors of contemporary “rehabs”, as places where addiction was cured with the help of a residential setting, long-term therapy – several weeks to several months – and a mix of psychiatric and physical care.
    In the course of the 20th century, this comprehensive view was, slowly, replaced by a more pessimistic approach, according to Delcourt. As faces of addiction became poorer, narcotic addiction was no longer considered to be a lifestyle, but rather an incurable disease, or a criminal proclivity that could not be controlled with treatment or rehabilitation, but, rather, incarceration. In the beginning of 21st century, we find more and more biomedical framing of addiction. From the point of view of somaesthetic it could be asked, was something missed in this process, and could we learn something from the holistic approaches of the 19th century? As Delcourt writes, comprehensive rehabilitation still exists, but it is reserved mainly for “well-offs”, taking place in private addiction clinics. At the same time the majority of people suffering from addiction have to settle with state-sponsored treatment programs, which offer very little help or no help at all for their patients besides medication, not to mention a promotion of healthier lifestyles, ways to take care of one self or a groups one could belong and find new forms of existence (see also Leppo & Perälä 2016).
    Crispin Sartwell’s text “What the Drug Culture Meant”, which ends our theme issue, is an autobiography of a political philosopher who has come a long way from being a juvenile delinquent to being one of the most read American philosophers of culture. Sartwell says that he learned criticality through his years of marginalization, and he claims that his experience with drugs has left a valuable trace on his philosophical work. From the point of view of this theme issue Sartwell’s essay has three central points. Firstly, drugs, particularly marijuana and psychedelics, had cultural and counter-cultural meaning and separated the youth who used them from their parents and teachers. Drugs were also aesthetic and provided Sartwell and his friends with music to hear and arts to consume, a whole lifestyle. Finally, drugs were political, signaling anti-authoritarianism or an entire rejection of "the establishment.". “The whole thing” was not fun and great all the time, Sartwell admits, but at the same time he misses part of this culture and the feelings it created.
    The question that arises is, what other “things” could offer same kind of a comprehensive world view and feelings of belonging to contemporary youths and young adults – or us adults – besides substances? Are there available forms of resistance, which do not destroy those who want to resist? Could somaesthetics as a discourse and/or a platform be helpful for raising discussions about the techniques of the care of the self in these respects? We hope that our compilation of essays offers insight on this.
    One of our central conclusion is that we easily forget that even those people who have, in one way or another, seem to have lost control over their lives – or at least some part of it – have and want to have meaning in their lives and being in control over their lives. For example, substance users and other addicts have hobbies, and they work hard on controlling and/or medicating their addictions through self-care. Many have also succeeded, as the studies of natural recovery without treatment have shown (Klingeman 2001). For many, art has been a central form of self-care and a pathway out of addiction (We know the number of addicts in the history of arts and popular culture.) Sport, too. People can also stop driving insanely – and they can quit smoking.
    In this theme issue, we have been interested in connecting social sciences (that have a connection to medicine) and the discussion on somaesthetics (the contemporary pragmatist philosophy of the body), with film studies, literature studies and gender studies. Doing this, we have wanted to explore the possibilities of somaesthetics to provoke discussion and produce novel ways to think about addiction and other unhealthy lifestyles. We, at least, have learned a lot in our dialogue with the contributors.
    This issue also contains Noora-Helena Korpelainen’s review of Vinod Balakrishnan and Swathi Elizabeth Kurian’s Somaesthetics and Yogasūtra: A Reading through Films (2019) and Stefano Marini’s review of Richard Shusterman’s Bodies in the Street (2019), “Urban Aesthetics and Soma-Politics: On Bodies in the Streets: The Somaesthetics of City Life.”

  • Somaesthetics and Beauty
    Vol. 6 No. 1 (2020)

    Somaesthetics and Beauty

    Beauty is a cornerstone of philosophical aesthetics, perhaps the fundamental one. However, if beauty performs a long-living philosophical role, ever since Plato connected it to the truth, it encounters serious problems from Modernism onwards. Some of the most visionary intellectual sensibilities from the end of the 19th century noticed the changes that turn beauty into an antiquated concept. For example, Paul Valéry, who in 1928 asked whether “the Moderns still make any use of it,” concluded that “the Beautiful is no longer in vogue.” Increasingly seen as a phenomena in entertainment, beauty never recovers to regain its former philosophical glory. On the other hand, the ambiguous decline of true beauty and the parallel rise of pleasure or sensation-seeking beauty continues to pose a concern to aesthetic thought. To be sure, the aestheticization of everyday life blends economy and aesthetics, industry and style, mode and art, consumpation and creation, mass culture and elitist culture. But how does this aestheticization of the contemporary world affect the very experience of beauty?
    The lack of borders within the aesthetic field rebounds on a corresponding unlimitedness in our ability to perceive. Similarily, the question is: Has the beautiful become too broad and thus too superficial a concept, or does the sentiment of beauty help us to differentiate our perceptions? Mapping the conceptual potential of beauty points not only to a revaluation of modern and contemporary art and artistic ways of challenging traditional beauty, but it simultaneously emphasizes the need for focusing on the sensible, perceptive, and bodily experience. The primary question remains, how, despite trivialization, beauty may still (or again) refer to an aesthetic experience that manifests itself in the sensing body, both as originating from the body and as appearing in a meaningful embodied experience.
    In this issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics, we collected contributions from various fields exploring experiences of beauty vis-à-vis aestheticized phenomena in everyday life, design, art, urbanity, and elsewhere. We did not want to limit contributions to specific fields or methods of inquiry but included contributions from various relevant fields and their epistemological perspectives (aesthetics, arts, health studies, sports, and natural sciences).
    The issue starts with Stefano Marino’s interview “Beauty from a Pragmatist and Somaesthetic Perspective: A Conversation with Richard Shusterman,” which presents Shusterman’s approach toward the significance of the notion and experience of beauty for somaesthetics.
    The first section of articles that focus on existing theories on beauty. Anne Elisabeth Sejten’s “Beauty Trouble” provides an introductory analysis that traces the concept of beauty as an epistemic turn toward sensibility in which beauty seems to have disturbed rather than stabilized the autonomy of aesthetics. These discussions about beauty allow her to identity conflicting features in four shifting concepts of beauty from the foundational century of the Enlightenment until today and, thus, to argue that the concept of beauty has had a persistently dynamic and vital role in aesthetics.
    Tanehisa Otabe’s article seeks to establish a counterweight to Kant’s transcendental theory of beauty by bringing to the fore Herder’s almost forgotten work Calligone. Herden counters Kant’s dualism with a kind of monism that does not accept Kant’s distinctions between, for example, nature and art, nor the distinction between the beautiful, the agreeable, and the good. Herder’s ambition is an integration of aesthetic experience and beauty as the fine art of living.
    Finally, in “The Beauty of Mathematical Order,” Esther Oluffa Pedersen presents a study of the role of mathematics in beauty. Drawing extensively on Greek philosophy, she discusses how mathematical beauty connects not only to the aesthetic theory of Kant but also to creative works in modern design and poetry. Mathematics appears to be a key to understanding the Platonic and Aristotelian notions of natural order and creation, which again prove to be relevant to the understanding of somaesthetics.
    The second section comprises articles that deal with the human subject’s own bodily aesthetic experiences as a participant of a participatory work of art, or as the somaesthetic relationship between dancers, audiences, and sites, or as the aesthetic experience of the athlete. In his article “Can There be Beauty in Participatory Art?”, Falk Heinrich characterizes beautiful experiences as the lived intensity that appropriates the participant by positioning him or her as one constituent of a situation that consists of a multiplicity of other constituents such as the site, the conceptual framework, and other people.
    In his article “Challenging Urban Anesthetics: Beauty and Contradiction in Georg Simmel’s Rome,” Henrik Reeh addresses the experience of beauty in cities. Reconstructing the prevalent role of the blasé attitude in Simmel’s view of the metropolis, he highlights how, surprisingly, Simmel elaborates on a contextual or even conflictual notion of beauty in Rome around 1900. One hundred and twenty years later, Reeh returns to a particular park in Simmel’s Rome and demonstrates how somaesthetic qualities are decisive sources of beauty in the contemporary city as well. His article includes experiential and artistic materials that aim to strengthen somaesthetics in the realm of academic research.
    In their article “Performative Somaesthetics: Interconnections of Dancers, Audiences, and Sites,” Suparna Banerjee and Jessica Fiala discuss somaesthetic authorship and agency in dance, its audience, and “embodied encounters with sites.” Through a discourse on two case studies, TooMortal (2012) by Shobana Jeyasings and Dusk at Stonehenge (2009) by Nina Rajarani, they explore what happens at the aforementioned intersection.
    John Toner’s and Barbara Montero’s “The Value of Aesthetic Judgements in Skillful Action” inquires into the world of sport and the role that skill has in it. Toner and Montero claim that still, not much attention has “been devoted to an evaluation of the aesthetic dimension of sport from the performer’s perspective.” They address this issue by covering aesthetic experiences that athletes experience and analyzing their value and use in sports.
    The third section deals with beauty and ecology. Else-Marie Bukdahl’s article “Aesthetic Challenges in the Field of Sustainability: Art, Architectural Design, and Sustainability in the Projects of Michael Singer” insists that beauty is not merely a contemplative concept but is to be constructed. Singer’s work is to be understood as an artistic action that regenerates nature and creates landscape and architectural projects in which artistic and ecological goals were integrated into the construction process.
    In her article “The Aesthetic Enchantment Approach: From “Troubled” to “Engaged” Beauty,” Sue Spaid introduces the aesthetic enchantment approach, which enhances the scientific cognitivism stance on beauty by adding a performative dimension to it. An example of this is the active commitment of citiens in citizen science approaches to ecologically degraded sites, which add a bodily aesthetic dimension that is pertinent for ameliorative aspects of the sentiment of beauty to the cognitive dimension.

    Falk Heinrich, Max Ryynänen and Anne Elisabeth Sejten, Issue Editors

  • Somaesthetics and Sound
    Vol. 5 No. 2 (2019)

    Somaesthetics and Sound

    The intertwining of sound and the body is fascinating and multifarious. Until fairly recently, sound has mainly been studied in terms of listening, sound reproduction technologies, and acoustical measurements. In turn, the body, especially that of someone producing sound with their voice or with an instrument, has commonly been approached as a physiological entity. Lately, however, the embodied and experiential aspect of sound has increasingly gained ground in research and pedagogy as well as in the arts. In a short period of time, studying the experience of listening or producing sound has generated a number of fruitful approaches and methods for sound studies. The field has, so to speak, “come of age.”
    However, the advancement of this field in recent years does not mean that it would not have existed before. Numerous pioneering studies focusing on the sound experience of human beings have been published, some well before the turn of the millennium and some more recently (e.g., Benson, 2003; Bicknell, 2015; Burrows, 1990; Eidsheim, 2015; Ihde, 1976, 2007; Jankélévitch, 1961/2003; McCaleb, 2016; Neumark, Gibson, & Leeuwen, 2010; Vitale, 2010; Welten, 2009; Winter, 2009). The number of published articles and books on the subject is increasing, as exemplified by extensive anthologies such as The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies (Pinch & Bijsterveld, 2011), which considers sound and music to be experienced “in such diverse settings as shop floors, laboratories, clinics, design studios, homes, and clubs, across an impressively broad range of historical periods and national and cultural contexts” (Pinch & Bijsterveld, 2012, para. 1).
    Research of speech and singing is another field of sound studies that was almost completely focused on exact sciences, such as phonetics, anatomy, physiology, and acoustics. During the last decade, however, the spectrum of approaches has expanded considerably with publications such as the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies; a book series called Routledge Voice Studies; and a number of carefully crafted articles, anthologies, and monographs. An impressive example of the broadening of this field, which would have been unimaginable ten or twenty years ago, is the recently published Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies. This book identifies six modes or domains of research that may be transferable to other fields of embodied or experiential sound studies as well as somaesthetics:
    1) prompts (texts, artistic forms, everyday practices that the voice performs or executes),
    2) performance (what comes into being during vocal engagement, including sounds, their character, silences, and the trajectory along which these elements unfold),
    3) material dimensions and mechanism (the physicality of the voice and its function),
    4) auditory/sensory perception (the part of the vocal feedback cycle that is concerned with auditory and any sensory perception of voice, including auto-perception),
    5) documentation, narrativization, and collection (the modes of research that focus primarily on voice in the form of the secondary forms of documentation and data collection), and
    6) context (the meta-context within which we understand the other domains, and, equally importantly, the domain that affords and limits insight into a given phenomenon). (Eidsheim & Meizel, 2019, pp. xxiv–xxvi)
    As Eidsheim and Meizel (2019) note,
    initiating the process of mapping the territory and naming the six domains is only a first step in a much larger project: the collective work of charting voice-related areas of scholarship and practice for the purpose of facilitating new entry points for scholars and illuminating connections across fields. (p. xxvi)
    Substituting “voice” with “sound” might make the six modes or domains of research, as well as this statement, relevant to broader study of the sound–body relationship.
    A journal issue on sound and somaesthetics is an ideal medium for disseminating some of the subjects of research, approaches, points of view/being, and methods for studying the embodiment of sound. As the field is in the process of expanding and researchers are finding new options for interdisciplinary study, such a journal issue is only one of the numerous platforms through which this fascinating area can be developed. It will be interesting to see how the increasing interest in the embodied experience among sound and voice researchers will change the utilization of somaesthetics as part of these approaches as well as how this tendency towards the body in sound studies will encourage scholars of somaesthetics to address sound-related themes in their work.
    In this issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics, contributors from various fields explore sound as manifested in the body, as originating from the body, or as a meaningful, embodied experience. The focus is on the body-aesthetic or somaesthetic dimensions of sound, music, and the voice. The articles deal with improvisation, playing instruments, singing, theatre, and the philosophy of sound. In most articles, sound is approached from the embodied experience of the sound producer (i.e., the player or singer). Some authors base their reflections on their own experiences, while others use research material they collected through interviews and discussions.
    In her overview article, Anne Tarvainen maps out the most interesting writings in the field of somaesthetics, music, sound, and the voice. She introduces Richard Shusterman’s texts on these subjects and presents the writings of other scholars who apply somaesthetics with sound-related approaches. The aim of Tarvainen’s article is to offer some entry points for readers interested in applying somaesthetics to research and/or artistic practices involving music, sound, and the voice.
    In his article, Stefano Marino focuses on jazz drumming and improvisation. He links his analysis to somaesthetics and pragmatist aesthetics and points out that improvised music can be understood as somatic knowledge. Marino articulates the bodily nature of improvisation, highlighting the thoughts of numerous theorists without neglecting musicians’ perspective on the subject. Marino concludes that jazz drumming is comparable to other somatic activities, such as yoga, because it is equally practiced for cultivating somatic consciousness and exhibiting sophisticated use of the body.
    Focusing on the lived experiences of two professional musician-teachers, Grace Han studies the essential role of the body in practicing the cello. Traditionally, becoming a professional instrumentalist in the field of classical music has been conceived as an endless repetition of instrument-specific skilled movements. These ideally result in automatic, habitual routines that allow the musician to shift his or her attention toward abstract musical ideas. In her interview-based study, Han questions this conventional dichotomy, instead understanding the everyday work of a musician as a vehicle for self-understanding through imagination, bodily awareness, and liberation.
    Drawing upon the currently growing body of research on music as an experience of embodiment, Salvatore Morra focuses on the Tunisian lute, ʻūd ʻarbī, and its “sounding Tunisian.” Understanding the senses as inseparable from one another, he explores “the notion of Tunisian sound in relation to touches and bodies of ʻūd ʻarbī players and the meanings they construct.” Morra first introduces the ʻūd ʻarbī and the tradition of playing it and then describes the embodied process of building, hearing, and touching the instrument.
    In her article, Charulatha Mani describes the artistic process of composing “Sonic River,” a vocal piece co-performed with another singer. This work is based on the Karnatik (South Indian classical) musical tradition. During the vocal and somaesthetic process, Mani explores the development of her own bodily awareness and links these reflections to the yoga tradition. Mani criticizes the patriarchal tradition of Karnatik music, which ignores the bodily experience, and discusses how to democratize the vocal practices of this prestigious music culture.
    In his article, composer Peter Bruun looks at the theater project “Sound of the Audience,” which he executed in Copenhagen with two directors, a musician, and a group of local residents. For three months, the group rehearsed a performance in which the performers acted like an audience, producing audience sounds such as speech and coughing. Then, the work was performed in front of an actual audience. The article is based on the composer’s own experiences as well as conversations with one of the participants. In it, Bruun ponders whether there can be music without sound. He looks at the function of music in community-making and discusses the function of music between and among people in a world where music distribution is largely digitized. He concludes that music is a fundamentally communal bodily activity that “begins in the flesh.”
    Based on interpretations of Klangfiguren (“sound figures,” commonly known as Chladni figures) by the early German Romantics Novalis and Johann Wilhelm Ritter, Alexis B. Smith traces the universal language of nature, described by Novalis as the “true Sanskrit.” This language, which is closely related to music, contains sound, writing, and meaning simultaneously; like in Sanskrit, there is no longer a separation between objects and their names, nor between humans and nature. Drawing upon the properties of Sanskrit and Ritter’s scientific and poetic narratives about the sound figures, Smith argues that sound figures have a prominent role in The Novices of Sais, in which Novalis develops Poesie as a universal language and sound figures are alluded to through poetic, metaphorical imagery.

    Anne Tarvainen and Päivi Järviö, Issue Editors

  • BODY FIRST: Somaesthetics and Popular Culture
    Vol. 5 No. 1 (2019)

    Body First: Somaesthetics and Popular Culture

    As the highbrowed critics of the mass culture debate (Ortega y Gasset, Adorno, Arnold) mocked popular culture audiences throughout the 1920s, 1930s and the 1940s, Hannah Arendt stepped up to defend the ‘masses’ in her essay “Crisis in Culture” (1959). Arendt reminded the intellectuals that we all need entertainment. She criticized the critics of mass culture by saying that the biggest threat for art is found in the philistines, who snobbishly take art to be only education and civilization—which is not the most fruitful way of thinking about art—and who so use to it for example to build class difference.
    2019 intellectuals are not polarized in the same way as in the early 20th century, but an echo of the discourse of the ‘philistines’ of the debate keeps haunting us. We constantly face a rhetoric pointing to ‘active’ viewer of movies, of art projects which activate people in the suburbs and the need to be an active consumer and not to just go with the flow. Could the obsession with the active audience be considered to be one form of the neoliberal? It is definitely, at least, a philistine way of approaching culture. Where the word active is used about audiences, and when it is not pointing to works of art where audience participation is encouraged, it is also not hard to note, that in today’s society that means intellectual activity, not physical—and that often being active means that one consumes culture with some kind of connection to something we might label highbrow. It is not that we’d laugh actively or that we’d dance actively in the disco, it is that we’d for example reflect actively on the environment or the society, or that we would reflect actively on politics.
    Without debasing our needs to reflect on political and environmental issues, it is hard to understand what is wrong with just getting entertained?
    When families cue to the roller coaster in the amusement park or when teens go to watch a movie, which they assume will frighten them and make them nearly jump off their chair, they consciously want to activate their bodies. We find this interesting. The active body is central in many aesthetic inventions and it has motorized the development of countless aesthetic phenomena. Contrary to highbrow arts and the work of academic philistines, popular culture has not been shy about this. The breakbeat in rap music was developed to extend dancing in parties. Many clothes are either autoerotic or designed to arouse others. And for those who are interested in people reflecting on things actively, of course these bodily traditions have sparked and fueled also active analysis and reflection.
    Discos and amusement parks are obvious examples of popular culture, where the body is really the priority, but then there are other forms of culture where the active body is if not central, then at least quintessential for the practice. Think about action films and the way you can feel tickling in your sole when Tom Cruise climbs the Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible—Ghost Protocoll (2011). Think about horror films where disgust and chills in the spine are central for the experience. Don’t forget how romantic novels warm up the chest and how if nothing else than at least nodding your head is an integral part of listening to live jazz music.
    It is not, though, that these forms of culture would only be contemporary. In the classical debate in Indian philosophy on the rasa (emotive affect), the 11th century Kashmiri philosopher Abhinavagupta notes the physical side of the experience of theatre by analyzing how sight and hearing, when well stimulated, can sublimate the audience spiritually (spiritual elevation so follows somatic stimulation). And if you think about it, Aristotle’s ‘catharsis’ nails the physical effects of drama. Today we know that the audience of Greek spectacles came to the ‘show’ like they would arrive to football matches, often late and drunk. (One could think that his theory is as much about popular culture as it is about art with the capital A, the Greek culture was so different from ours.) Aristotle’s way of borrowing the term catharsis from the medics of his time, who talked about bodily purification, is no coincidence. And it is an allegory which is easy to understand. The way good drama, thrillers and horrors of fiction massage our stomachs is a commonplace for modern and postmodern (wo)man.
    Sometimes it feels even that popular culture is mainly about the production and consumption of bodily effects. Jan Mukarovsky wrote about ‘aesthetic functions’ in his Aesthetic Function, Norm and Value as Social Fact (1936), and discussed a lot of folk and popular art in his work. Mukarovsky’s function is of course semiotic, as Mukarovsky was a member of the Prague School, but the concept is also very appropriate (and not in dissonance with Mukarovsky’s work) for discussing bodily effects, which are produced to us in popular culture and which we seek for when we enter the realm of popular culture. What is the function of horror or circus? A lot of it is found in the realm of the body.
    Anyway, whether the body really comes first, like in the amusement park, or whether it is just integral/quintessential for the practice, we’d like the reader of this volume to think for a while about the role of the body in entertainment, mass culture and the vernacular.
    Walter Benjamin writes in his analysis of urban Paris and its poets, “Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism” (1939), how traffic, factory work, new media (photography, film) and Tivoli shared the same rhythm and shocking nature. The body was also central for Richard Shusterman’s theory of rap music (Shusterman 1992), where its function of ‘moving the ass’ sparked the later discourse of somaesthetics. But what we’d like to think of here, in this introduction, is the fact that the body is in so many ways involved in leisure and entertainment, that we might need a small moment for just thinking about it and nothing else. The examples mentioned earlier are just a start when one decides to accept that the body could be seen as the key for understanding the whole field of the popular. It is more like we’d need to ask: in what ways is the body important for this and that practice? The bottom of our stomach gets massaged when we watch an entertaining ice hockey game (ice hockey journalists often talk about the catharsis of the game, especially in relation to hockey fights) and sometimes we want to listen to music which resonates with our pulse. List your 10 major uses of popular culture and think of their bodily extensions. We believe you might surprise yourself.
    This volume includes texts by 7 authors, who are Davide Giovanzana, Scott Elliot, Noora Korpelainen, Adam Andrzejewski, Janne Vanhanen, Sue Spaid and Max Ryynänen. Their texts touch upon issues like Ballard’s/Cronenberg’s Crash, the everyday practice of yoga, the bodies of popular art works, provoking images of violence, and the way media imagery distances us from the bodies of the ones who suffer. We are not describing their texts in a Reader’s Digest fashion as we believe that it is more interesting for you to go straight into their thoughts. The texts do not always follow our intuitions in this introduction, but the spark was given by some of the thoughts mentioned here. We are very happy to provide you this set of texts, which circulates around the topics explained above, and we have already learned a lot during the editing process
    We hope you, as the reader, enjoy the texts of Body First: Somaesthetics and Popular Culture as much as we do.

    Jozef Kovalcik & Max Ryynänen, Issue Editors

  • Somaesthetics and Technology
    Vol. 4 No. 2 (2019)

    Somaesthetics and Technology

    This special issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics contains articles that deal with the aesthetic relationship between technology and the soma. Special focus was intended on the applications of somaesthetic theories and practices on the design and evaluation of technology, and their comparison to other theoretical frameworks. Instead, we have mostly received contributions that are discovering somaesthetics. Regular and invited submissions went through a peer review, combined with editorial suggestions. We hoped the submissions would focus on the theory and practice of somaesthetics. What the articles have in common is their focus on the techno-social materials and themes.
    Migration, for example, is an important socio-dynamical construct. In the artistic work INTIMAL, Ximena Alarcón Díaz explores the soma expressions of Colombian migrant women in telematic sonic improvisatory performance work. The design of the system has been informed by several interdisciplinary practices including embodied music cognition and deep listening, as well as an oral archive with testimonials from Colombian migrants. Alarcón presents data from field work with migrant women and two experiments with groups improvising to the oral archive, while being recorded with optical motion capture and sensors for breathing and muscle activity. Based on the results, Alarcón presents the design of the system.
    Recently, virtual, augmented, and mixed reality had tremendous momentum. It is widely accepted that soma-based experiences will be an important design goal for these techno-social extended realities. We (Erkut and Dahl) present an approach of teaching virtual reality interactions, as used in our embodied interaction course for master’s students at Aalborg University. In order to help the students to develop the designer skills necessary for successful development of virtual interactions, the course includes theory on soma-based design, movement exercises with focus on first-person experiences, and a practical workshop jointly with students at the Danish National School of Performing Arts. We present four student projects from the course and discuss them in relation to experiential somaesthetics.
    Two invited papers aim to highlight new voices in the field. The Doctoral Committee papers from the 2018 Movement and Computing Conference were invited, revised, and organized by the guest editors. They together expand the bounds between body, brain, and environment to inanimate objects and matter in the environment.
    Kensho Miyoshi highlights the potential use of kinesthetic empathy in the context of design. Can the designers feel kinesthetic empathy to objects as much as they feel towards people? Beyond their function, could the quality of object movements evoke feelings useful for design? The author applies kinesthetic empathy to the perception of kinetic objects, with the aim of revealing the relationship between object movements and our embodied and empathic reactions. Kinesthetic empathy could open a new perspective on our embodied and visceral response to dynamic objects and environments, in relation to somaesthetics.
    In the second doctoral work summary, Garrett Laroy Johnson and his colleagues focus on techno-social construction of ensembles in designing responsive media. Within their work Lanterns, they show how people and augmented pendant lamps together form an ensemble and how people are entrained with the Lanterns. Based on the concept of ensembles, the authors summarize their design tactics and investigations, which provide insights about the embodied experience with respect to technicity.
    The highly speculative essay by Monica Yadav combines the diverse fields of neuroscience, philosophy, and theatre into a techno-social bound between body, brain, and environment. Specifically, technology, seen as a surface, produces in reflection an encounter of the triadic relation of body-brain-environment with itself. The author proposes that the triad is in both a material and virtual relation, where material and virtual are allelic pairs.
    This issue includes an insightful interview with Kia Höök on her new book Designing with the Body, conducted by Dag Svanæs. Not only did Höök “shop for” and transfer somaesthetics into actionable research in somaesthetic interaction design, but she also produced and documented beautiful soma design exemplars and literally “moved” an international research community with her effort. Svanæs, another strong mover on the importance of the body in interaction design, brings out fine details of the book in the interview. Both the book and the interview are highly recommended readings in soma-based design of the current and future technologies that shape us.
    The last contribution is a book review. Max Ryynänen critically assesses the anthology Aesthetic Experience and Somaesthetics edited by Richard Shusterman containing thirteen articles. Ryynänen discusses a selection of them concluding that the notion of somaesthetics, on the one hand, offers an accessible and necessary conceptual platform for thinking and practicing with and through the body, but that, on the other hand, the contributions are in danger of losing philosophical rigor and depth that could be regained by connecting to the field’s philosophical foundations as elaborated by Dewey and Shusterman.
    Compared to the first call for papers, the issue clearly is very different than we the editors have first imagined. The contributions challenged our disciplinary competences, indicated many future directions, and took us to reach out for reviewers in many different fields. We hope that they will have the same effects on you, including slowing down a bit and feel the fundamental question of interaction design with your entire soma: “what if …”.

    Cumhur Erkut and Sofia Dahl, Issue Editors

  • Somaesthetics and its Nordic Aspects
    Vol. 4 No. 1 (2018)

    Somaesthetics and its Nordic Aspects

    In my introduction, I want to focus on two aspects of this issue of The Journal of Somaesthetics: first, to describe the picture an open issue paints of the current field of somaesthetics, and secondly, to discuss the Nordic component of this issue.
    The first issue of 2018 is an open issue without any thematic focus except that the articles have to position themselves within the theoretical or pragmatic field of somaesthetics. It is based on an open call with the intent to explore the field of somaesthetics from various angles. The majority of contributions in one way or another deal with art. Of course, this should not come as a surprise, because aesthetics has been connected to art reception since the modern rise of aesthetics as a scholarly field coincided with the modern rise of the autonomy of art. More recent developments in contemporary aesthetics have sought to bring aesthetics back to its original broader conception as concerned with sense-making and appreciation that finds expression in all of life’s domains. This development, however, has mainly been analyzed through objects – art and design artefacts, and seldomly by tracing human sense-perception and anthropological research. In this context, the concept of somaesthetics proves important, because it focuses on the aesthetic experience of the soma, the living, perceiving, purposive body, as an integrated aspect of aesthetic experience and a medium of research. Concurrently, the field of artistic research and arts-informed academic inquiry is rapidly expanding, yielding novel approaches and a renewed debate about how we should understand the notion of knowledge in aesthetics, in its academic and artistic ramifications. The vocabulary of somaesthetics seems to be able to embrace and facilitate this novel demand to aesthetics and knowledge.
    In addition to this expansion of the aesthetic field, there can be seen another closely related development. As art increasingly embraces audience activation converting audiences from contemplating onlookers to participants and co-creators, so the field of aesthetics must consider the active participant as intrinsic part of the work of art transforming art into events of experience and consumption in line with other cultural artefacts and events. Seen in this light, aesthetics has to enlarge its methodical tool box towards a thinking through and with the soma as a perceptual and sense-making ‘organ’ in order to be able to capture the experiential, creative, and ameliorative dimension – not only of art making and art perception, but also of other cultural fields that rely on aesthetic perception.
    The second point I wish to mention is that The Journal of Somaesthetics, founded from the outset in Aalborg University, Denmark, is now in a period of reorganization to emphasize its Nordic dimension by establishing a predominately Nordic editorial board. We hope this will strengthen the Journal’s contribution to presenting Nordic approaches to the many topics and applications of somaesthetics, but we aim to do so by also engaging with and publishing the best research in somaesthetics from scholars in the wider international research community. Although it is hard to generalize, Nordic research has a distinctive take on questions concerning somaesthetics because of certain features of Nordic culture and Nordic academic histories, practices, and aims. Noticeable is the interest for letting somaesthetic theory and concrete somatic practices permeate each other. The idea here is not simply practice as a mechanical application of somaesthetic ideas and concepts, but rather an academic research from within framed and observed, but always experienced practices. Practice should here be understood as either the investigatory measurements and activities of distinct professions and fields of research and/or the compassionate but analytical observation of and interaction with professional or everyday actions of distinct social groups. It is not surprising that in recent years there have been a significant number of research-oriented practical workshops in somaesthetics in Nordic countries.
    One of this issue’s authors write from within the field of art and art research: Rasmus Ölme, a dancer and researcher, writes in his article “Suspension” about his practice-based research on the materiality and immateriality of movement, thereby investigating the performative relationship between the cognitive and sensory, movement and space, and artistic experience and academic theoretical conceptualization. My own article, “Into the Woods with Heidegger” can be categorized as arts-informed, academic research in that it is a reflection on an autoethnographic project documenting my encounter with some passages of Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Artwork” while helping an artist constructing a land-art piece. The project’s aim was to find common grounds between art theoretical and artist-practical work. The encounter has led me to the question, whether the soma harbors inherently ameliorable capacities via bodily self-reflections or whether the body merely is a performative machine for very disparate ideological content. In her article “Care of the Self, Somaesthetics and Drug Addiction: An Exploration of Approaching and Treating Problematic Use in Non-Coercive Settings”, Riikka Perala reflects on her work with drug addicts in the context of the Finnish social system. She proposes a somaesthetic understanding of drug addicts as full members of our societies and of everyday life. By shifting from the idea of drug addiction as an illness towards drug addiction as a (hopefully temporary) life condition, she suggests that harm reduction measurements can be seen in a Foucauldian light of “care of the self” and that somaesthetic awareness can occasion more positive ways of living and better tackle the addiction.
    We also find in this issue Nordic contributions that take on more traditional topics of aesthetics. Martin Ejsing Christensen’s article analyzes Dewey’s idea of doing philosophy as an aesthetic, experiential practice by comparing it with Richard Shusterman’s idea of somaesthetics, and he implicitly transforms his writing of the article into an aesthetic experience.
    Finally, Martin Jay and Ronald Shusterman use ideas from somaesthetics as tools in analyzing various musical and visual art works. In a short article, Martin Jay describes Ken Ueno’s work Jericho Mouth with Barthes’ distinction between pheno- and geno-song, the former being in the service of representation and communication, the latter as somaesthetic performance from a pre-subjective depth. Ronald Shusterman’s looks at the deterritorializing ambition and effect of a selection of urban artworks that disturb the familiarity of and expectations of shared social space and urban order. He argues for a metaethical effect of these works, because their perception constitutes a transitional passage because expected orders are momentarily annulled, the emerging void asks for an altered view and another perception of urban spaces. These moments of singularities are like jokes and laughter, opening an abys.

    Falk Heinrich, Editor-in-Chief

  • Bodies of Belief / Bodies of Care
    Vol. 3 No. 1 & 2 (2017)

    This double-issue on Bodies of Belief and Bodies of Care originated in two conferences held at the Center for Body, Mind, and Culture, respectively January 2015 and January 2016. Only a few papers from those conferences, however, have found their way into this volume; the others collected here came from independent submissions to the Journal. We should begin by explaining the underlying logic that motivated the topics of these conferences and the papers of this double issue?

    With respect to the question of belief, human bodies are shaped not only by their genetic endowment but also by the belief systems of the cultures in which they develop and function. Such belief systems vary from unarticulated background assumptions to ritualized practices and explicit doctrines or even to formulated laws enacted and enforced by social institutions. The beliefs that the human soma embodies and expresses are not confined to established social norms; they also include items of faith and commitment that are individualistic, nonconformist, or even antagonistic to the cultural mainstream. More than a mere instrument of compliance or worship, the soma is also a site and weapon of protest against beliefs we reject and find oppressive.

    As to the issue of care, bodies are obviously the targets of one’s daily care in terms of personal hygiene, grooming, exercise, and proper nourishment. They are also objects of care in the sense of worry or concern, since we all suffer illness and death through our bodies. However, the sentient, purposive, active body or soma is also a subjectivity that examines and cares for the body as object, whether it be one’s own body or the bodies of others who one wants to help or comfort. We all need such curative help or comfort at some point in our lives; and some people devote their professional and personal lives to giving such care. Bodies need and give care in many ways and for many reasons: to overcome illness and disability, to address and alleviate dependence, to learn new skills and remedy bad habits, to inspire greater confidence for personal flourishing and greater social betterment.

    Initially, it might seem surprising to group the topics of bodies of belief and care together. However, if we consider the matter more closely, we see a deep and substantive connection between them. In the first place, beliefs are what make care possible. Because beliefs are our essential guides of action, they are therefore indispensable for guiding our actions of caring for ourselves and others. Beliefs about the body – for example, beliefs about what foods, medicines, habits, exercises, etc. promote somatic health, well-being, and pleasure -- thus govern our practices of care for the body. Issues of belief and care are also linked in the reverse direction. The fact that we care for our bodies, both in the sense of practically acting to care for them and in the sense of worrying about how to care for them, prompts us to search for the best beliefs to guide such care. As the pragmatist C.S. Peirce argued, inquiry is inspired by the irritation of doubt, and it seeks to remove such doubt by establishing beliefs that resolve the particular doubt in question. Our doubts and worries about somatic health and various problems in the functioning and appearances of our bodies promote countless inquiries to attain beliefs that will guide practices to remove or at least mitigate those worries. The things that we care for thus inspire more attention and efforts to acquire correct and helpful beliefs. Although most of our beliefs are items that we simply take for granted and that guide our actions without our giving explicit focused attention to these beliefs, we tend to give more explicit attention to beliefs about things we care about most. Our bodily condition – how we feel, look, and function somatically – is an abiding center of care and concern and thus forms the focus of some of our most explicit and critically examined beliefs.

    The following papers examine diverse issues of bodily belief and care from different perspectives. Topics range from autoimmunity and psychological therapy to religious belief, tattoos, and neoliberal institutions of health care. Most of the papers adopt an artistic somaesthetic perspective, examining their topics through the methods of literary theory, art history, and theatre studies. The present issue continues the Journal’s tradition of including an interview with a distinguished specialist whose expertise relates to the issue’s topic. On this occasion we are very happy to include an interview with ORLAN, specially commissioned for this issue and introduced by Else Marie Bukdahl. The interview was conducted in French, and we provide an English translation along with the original French.

    Richard Shusterman

  • Somaesthetics and Food
    Vol. 2 No. 1 and 2 (2016)

    Food and drink, perhaps of all the objects to which we direct our aesthetic energies, fall most naturally within somaesthetic inquiry. As food and drink are literally consumed and incorporated into the body, our attention to these processes likewise works to break down the false dichotomies of inner/outer, body/mind, and self/world. It may be surprising then, that in the more than 15 years since somaesthetics was first proposed as a new discipline by Richard Shusterman, there has been little sustained attention devoted to food and drink within the emerging literature on somaesthetics. In the past few years however, as somaesthetics has matured into both a unique philosophical approach to aesthetics and an interdisciplinary methodology, work has begun to appear on food and eating from a somaesthetical perspective. In keeping with this direction, the Journal of Somaesthetics is proud to present this volume devoted entirely to exploring the implications of somaesthetics for questions concerning the cultivation, preparation, consumption and enjoyment of food.

    Taken collectively, the contributions to this double issue exhibit the diverse array of food related topics that are pertinent to somaesthetics. From visual art, performance art and film, to experimental psychology and nutrition, urban farming, restaurant culture, wine, and Crossmodalism, the papers collected here illustrate the impressive range of topics, and disciplinary approaches, that comprise a gustatory somaesthetics. This special issue can also be seen as providing an important counterbalance to the literature in the philosophy of food that has to date been dominated by the questions of the art-status of food and the cognitive, expressive, and representational elements of eating. As a result, the living soma has all too frequently dropped out of these discussions. In narrowly attempting to establish the similarities between food and art, some approaches to the philosophy of food tend to lose sight of the unique insights that the aesthetics of food can provide for our understanding of all of the interrelated modes of embodied human experience. As the living soma is the irreducible site of gustatory and aesthetic experience, it is our hope that this special double issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics will contribute to forging a new direction in research into the myriad ways that human beings relate to food.

    Russell Pryba

  • Somaesthetics and Visual Art
    Vol. 1 No. 1 (2015)

    The body has long been an important theme in art, but in recent years somaesthetics has increasingly emerged not only as a way of understanding contemporary art forms (especially body art, performance, installation) but also as a perspective for enriching art-historical discourse and criticism in both Western and Asian cultures. By providing important insights into the embodied creative process and interaction between the viewer and artwork, somaesthetics can illuminate aspects of our artistic tradition whether of the Renaissance and Baroque periods or the classical Asian forms of calligraphy and inkwash painting. When somaesthetics is introduced into the world of art and art scholarship, it opens up “the golden cage of autonomous art”, providing room for a wide and dynamic range of interdisciplinary perspectives and research approaches. Many fine contributions have already discussed the somaesthetics of visual art (which somaesthetics shows to be more than merely visual), but there remain many important topics that require more study. This first issue of the Journal of Somaesthetics, seeks to make a useful step in the systematic and collaborative study of the soma’s role in visual art. We hope that this will stimulate further contributions in this Journal and elsewhere.