What is Somaesthetics?

The work of  Olafur Eliasson and Carsten Höller are prime examples of artists working with perceptual systems in which the viewers become active participants. This could be called ‘Perceptual Art’ but this term is not widely used, and it has been in a limited sense referring to artwork using optical illusion. In light of this, searching for an umbrella term for artwork that uses experiential and multisensory elements, I stumbled across the term ‘Somaesthetics’ “a new interdisciplinary field whose roots are in philosophical theory, somaesthetics offers an integrative conceptual framework and a menu of methodologies not only for better understanding our somatic experience but also for improving the quality of our bodily perception, performance, and presentation ” [1]  first coined by Richard Shusterman in 1996

There is also a journal dedicated to research that “advances the interdisciplinary field of somaesthetics, understood as the critical study and meliorative cultivation of the experience and performance of the living body (or soma) as a site of sensory appreciation (aesthesis) and creative self-stylization” https://journals.aau.dk/index.php/JOS/index

[1] The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/somaesthetics#heading_Genealogy_and_Emergence_page_107797%5D

More reading…

‘Art and Embodiment: Biological and Phenomenological Contributions to Understanding Beauty and the Aesthetic’
“In recent years this attitude to the relation between art, the senses, and the body has undergone significant changes. Many of those changes have been informed by recent developments in cognitive science and evolutionary  psychology” http://www.contempaesthetics.org/newvolume/pages/article.php?articleID=291

Some interesting reflections on Somaesthetics…


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