With a project as much anthropological as artistic, the re-creation of the human being and the renewal of human feelings, the avant-garde could not and did not ignore kinaesthesia. Filipo Marinetti conceived of a new art of touch — ‘tactilism’; with the futurist artist Benedetta Cappa, he created palpable ‘tables for the travelling hand.’ Avant-garde artists reassessed the ideas of theosophy and anthroposophy about ‘higher sensitivity’ — an unmediated access through feelings to the other, higher world. Vassily Kandinsky wrote on ‘fine sensitivity’ as a direct perception of ‘abstraction’ and on ‘abstract motion’ and dance, and Mikhail Matiushin experimented with ‘enlarged vision’ which included kinaesthesia and other feelings.Many of the avant-garde artists were athletic and adroit, danced, played in theatre and cinema, fought and engaged in sport. They were eager to use kinaesthesia as a creative resource: Vladimir Mayakovsky, for example, insisted on composing verses in motion.
The avant-garde stressed practical ‘know how,’ the skill, the art of doing, in opposition to theoretical ‘knowing what.’ For making such knowledge, kinaesthesia is indispensable. In Russia, the post-Revolutionary cult of labour, the production art (proizvodstvennoe iskusstvo) and constructivism facilitated the growth of such knowledge, an alternative to academic forms. Yet it was initiated earlier, by the Russian Formalists, who adored dance, sport, theatre and the circus. By questioning the traditional hierarchy in which practice is inferior to theory, the avant-garde artists contemplated a “kinaesthetic turn” in the humanities. A century later, on the way to legitimating this new kind of knowledge, the avant-garde artists are still in the avant-garde.
Organiser: Professor Sonu Shamdasani (UCL)
Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm.
Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London.
From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place. After fifty metres, you will find Foser court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right. The common room is straight ahead.