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Galáxia (São Paulo)

versão impressa ISSN 1519-311Xversão On-line ISSN 1982-2553


MASSUMI, Brian. The Art of The Relational Body: From Mirror-Touch to The Virtual Body. Galáxia (São Paulo) [online]. 2016, n.31, pp.5-21. ISSN 1519-311X.

Mirror neurons are specialized neurons which echo the movements perceived in another's body in incipient movements in one's own body, in a kind of involuntary kinesthetic empathy. Their discovery has given rise to a far-reaching reassessment in cognitive science, the arts, and the humanities of the role of empathy and the self-other relation in the constitution of the sense of self. Mirror-touch synesthesia (when a perceived touch to another's body elicits in the perceiver the sensation of being similarly touched) is one of the forms this "empathy" takes. This article takes mirror-touch synesthesia as a jumping-off point to reconsider synesthesia as a whole, and in particular its relation to empathy, and the relation of empathy to movement. It is argued that the usual vocabulary used to analyze these issues -- identification, body image, defect or "confusion" in the body's spatial schema -- are vitiated by a cognitivist bias which carries presuppositions that obscure the complexity of the emergent organization of experience. A philosophical rethinking is necessary as a corrective. The article undertakes this project with the aid of process-oriented philosophers C.S. Peirce, Henri Bergson, and A.N. Whitehead, proposing a framework centering on the notion of a "virtual body" composed of the integral mutual inclusion of potential qualities of experience which are selectively "composed" in movement. The emphasis on the performative self-composition of experience involves replacing the prevailing model of cognition with a fundamentally aesthetic model.

Palavras-chave : Virtual body; empathy; sympathy; proprioception; mirror-touch synesthesia; relational art.

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