The Portal

Embodiment: Practice as Research (vol. 2)

Photograph by Cori Olinghouse.

This course considers the role of embodiment in curating, asking what it means to center embodied knowledge as a form of research and practice. Theories of embodiment push against the Cartesian separation between mind and body and refer to the ways a person’s lived experiences are held within their bodies and shaped by a social point of view. In the context of this course, we will access ways of knowing that evade written and document form—focusing on ephemeral acts such as orature, improvisation, ritual, storytelling, and choreography that rely on body to body transfer and expand conventional notions of knowledge production. Melding theory and practice, this inquiry is designed to teach students to access their bodies as curators, think about the bodies of others, and consider an artist's embodied approach to their work.

Each week, we will explore theories and practices of perception through guided experiential activities that emphasize attention and collaboration. Taking up the subject of sensation through a multiplicity of perspectives, we will engage beyond normative visual, aural, tactile, temporal, and kinetic registers, acknowledging that there is no one way to access a thing. The course will offer a range of embodied practices by way of the guest artists, which include legendary club dancer Archie Burnett, performance artist Autumn Knight joined by curator Lumi Tan, internet artist and designer Laurel Schwulst, artist and composer Samita Sinha, and choreographer Will Rawls.

The course framework draws from feminist phenomenologies, Black studies, disability studies, and critical improvisation studies to generate a praxis that expands the soft skills of curating and the poetics of world building and description. Critical writings include texts by Sara Ahmed, Donna Haraway, Laura Marks, Fred Moten, and Kathleen Stewart, among others. Out of this course, students expand ways of “reading” embodied practices and histories in motion, while attuning to multi-sensory modes of perception that have ethical, communicative, formal, architectural, and design-oriented ramifications. Together, we cultivate ways of curating that move, adapt, care, and respond to the varied social realities of living and gathering.