Academic journal article Liminalities

On a Multiplicity: Deconstructing Cartesian Dualism Using Mathematical Tools in Performance

Academic journal article Liminalities

On a Multiplicity: Deconstructing Cartesian Dualism Using Mathematical Tools in Performance

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


The well-known and seductive idea of being a dual entity composed of a body with emotions and a mind with reason, with only tentative and uncertain connections between them, has been considered an instrinsic human feature in many academic fields. Decartes' (i.e., Cartesian) dualism, which associates reason with mental and rational processing and emotion with body and feelings has influenced thought for nearly four centuries.* 1

This dualism played a central role in many research fields, from philosophy, psychology, anthropology, biology, and sociology to mathematics and performance art. The development of technologies, combined with a turn to the study of emotions as an important feature of research itself, has contributed to the ongoing deconstructing of Cartesian dualism. Recent research trends in the neurosciences and visual anthropology - and in particular visual auto ethnography - are important examples of the rising of non dualistic ways of researching and connecting techniques and technologies associated with reason to the study of the senses and art associated with emotion.

In Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, Antonio Damásio describes some medical cases where a patient lost brain area corresponding to emotions and still wasn't able to use rational skills, and also cases where the patient lost brain area associated with reason and still wasn't able to use emotional skills2. Also in anthropology, for instance, emotions started to play an important role as an object and subject in fieldwork, in the sense that anthropologists start to recognize their transforming nature (see, for instance, Howes, 2006; Leavitt, 1996; and MacDougall, 2006).

Being myself both a PhD in Mathematics, with a research focus on the Calculus of Variations3, as well as a practicing performance artist and experimental dancer, I am frequently asked if there is any connection in these two fields of study. The assumption for many perplexed colleagues repeats classic mind-body dualism: that mathematics is for the realm of mind and reason and performance is for the body and emotion. I started to think about the possibility of finding environments and methodologies in between them to understand how both fields could be seen and connected in individual experience. And so it emerges with the idea of performing autoethnography, a sort of cultural studies of the self as a multilayered contextual subject imbedded in social life.4 Tamy Spry, for instance, explains her performance experience like this:

in seeking to dis-(re)-cover my body and voice in all parts of my life, I began writing and performing auto ethnography, concentrating on the body as the site from which the story is generated, thus beginning the methodological praxis of reintegrating my body and mind into my scholarship (708).

Furthermore, "in auto ethnographic performance self is other. Dialogical engagement in performance encourages the performer to interrogate the political and ideological contexts and power relations between self and other, and self as other" (716).

In this paper I present a methodology used to video record body movement improvisation after several hours - at least five hours - of mathematical study as an autoethnographic tool for the construction of a presentation of an individual (i.e., me) as a set of multiple selves in a performance art piece, and more concretely a multimedia performance with some sound and body movement layers constructed in real time.

This paper is divided into four sections. In the first one I introduce some basic notions of Mathematical Analysis as well as some other concepts that I will use throughout the paper. In the second section I present a theoretical approach of the method to be used, that is, a methodology to video record autoethnographic material and also to construct the specific performance art piece. This model starts with the idea of Axiomatic Image, an "image" which emerges as a global concept one wants to develop, being its effective origin axiomatic. …

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