Sports, Health and Fitness! Sensory Power Plays III

“It seems to me that the theoretical gains brought by the paradigm of embodiment will be more apparent than real, so long as we fail to take one final, and crucial step, which is to recognize that the body is a human organism and that the process of embodiment is one and the same as the development of that organism in its environment (Ingold 1998: 28).” Questionably Downy addresses this notion of embodiment and asks us to consider the following: instead ask the question how does the body come to “know,” and what kind of biological changes might occur when we learn a skill. With that being said Asha Persson answers both thoughts, and outlines that the study of sport, health and fitness means finding analyses that can accommodate both a) the representational – objectified body (measured, assessed, observed as an object of “gaze” and b) the sensuous and sensing body (the moving, fleshy performative body).” She also alerts the final notion that the problems assuming the representational body and the phenomenological body are two different things. The readings, and the lecture overall suggests that to perhaps understand the sensory power plays involved in sports, health and fitness  one must understand the act of embodiment as a medium to understanding the body as a physical organism. From there one can work their way up to understand how the body comes to know and the biological changes it can go through when attaining a skill. One particular reading titled Athletic Intruders caught my attention as I am a female who is actively involved in sports that are traditionally considered to be “male” dominated. It is a definite struggle in obtaining a position in such a sport when it is looked down upon in females as “not allowed or not appropriate” both culturally and socially. Breaking away from the gender related norms placed upon us as females and as the reading proclaims: “it clearly illustrates the situation of women/sports relations in societies in which power, prestige, and access to resources is a privilege to men” and personally on that note it is not the act of wanting to be equal to the opposite sex but rather trying to enforce the notion that one must not exclude the female gender from participating in an activity that is generally considered to be “male dominated.” If a woman wants to get on the field and play a game of traditional football than why not, why does she need to be brought back with the thought of it being a man’s sport?

In contrast, there is a lot about this week’s lecture that had its negative and positive aspects. Bodybuilding in general is something personally I think is a little overrated, and not just female bodybuilding but overall one must never overdo it to a point where you begin to embody a whole new persona. In otherwords do it to the extent you don’t lose yourself in the midst of doing so. On that note, it applies to the video we saw where someone is proclaiming the fact that men are becoming more feminine and that this is what is desired by females now. With that being said again one must not overdo it in a sense where they begin to embody whole new physicality but at the end of the day it is their choice. If a women wants to take upon body building, and a man wants to look more like Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum than why stop them. After all it is a personal choice.

The thing about sports, health and fitness is that it is defined individualistically as it differs ambiguously from age, ethnicity, gender, personal thoughts about their body size, body size, media perceptions and even ones hierarchical position in society all in which can influence their perception and thought about sports, health and fitness overall.  Assumingly I thought this week would have been more inspiring and motivating, and actively involved by getting us on our feet and moving. But unfortunately it was not the way I thought it would be – the guest speakers could have further articulated their notions about sensory power plays  a little further however they were definitely thought provoking when they shared their personal stories about their individualistic battles with sensory power plays, which got me thinking about my personal outlook on health and fitness. As a dance instructor, and as the captain of the girls’ basketball team on campus being actively involved in various sensory modalities, eating healthy and feeling good about yourself is important. On the other hand the guest speakers failed to address that thought and were pretty mundane about it as they didn’t stretch their thoughts to gain overall interest of the class itself.  On the contrary they addressed one particular thought that society in general should consider that if you have a problem with yourself, get up and do something about it because it all depends on you because only then will you begin to acknowledge your sense of embodiment and understand the physicality of your body.

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Beyond Illusions!

Illusions are beyond me and beyond the world in which they really exist. However optical illusions and the so called “illusionist” artists have made the best of both worlds internally and externally. As an individual I’ve grown up loving the mystery behind illusions and with the “how did they do that” kind of mindset further stretched my curiosity to want to learn more. Understand and comprehend such artistry and the mastermind behind their creations. With that being said, illusions in my opinion are filled with eye boggling artistry that is created and formulated in the hands of the artist who creates it – whether it is a piece of artwork, dance and or even architecture each form and act has a story and a has meaning. For instance Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Donatello and many other artists embedded illusions and mysteries throughout their work (i.e. the illusion of seeing the Virgin Mary in the Last Supper by Leonardo). In addition movies such as The Illusionist and magicians (illusionist artists) such as David Blaine and Criss Angel have created a kind of fantasized mystery behind act of optical illusions and their existence as a piece of individualistic art form. Furthermore optical illusions can be just as dangerous and scary when taking part in or even perhaps viewing it as we experience when watching an act by David Blaine or Criss Angel for instance. Optical illusions as outlined by Bruno Latour helps us get an embodied understanding behind the differences of two particular terms that clarifies the notion behind the creation and act of optical illusions and why they exist and how: a) Iconoclasm: we know what is happening in the act of breaking or destroying images and we know the motivations behind the destructors and b) Iconoclash: we are uncertain about whether or not an action towards an image is constructive or deconstructive. Laura Marks on the other hand, brings forth this notion of Haptic Visuality that all downsizes the explanation of Optical Illusions as a mode of seeing the world as if one were touching it. In other words touch with the eyes, using the eyes as the medium to understand and comprehend a piece of illusionist artwork or a basic everyday optical illusion. Allowing us to make sense of the illusion, or in terms of Haptic Visuality allowing humans to witness a kind of sight that is unnatural to the basics of everyday sight and most importantly a challenge for your eyes to make do with an illusion and formulate into a viable image known.

mary-stabs-peter      Chandelier-Swing

Play! Critical Play. Technical Play. But Play is just play!

“By the madness which interrupts it, a work of art opens a void, a moment of silence, a question without answer, provokes a breach without reconciliation where the world is forced to question itself (Michael Foucault).” Play is a very ambiguous term and the notion that dictates a very important aspect of human life. Without “play” life lacks a sense of creativity, a sense of imagination and a sense of living perhaps some could say. Play is essential. Play is a part of life and most importantly play has been embedded into human culture for over centuries. In otherwords “play” is what humans are meant to engage in whether it’s technical play (video games, electronic games) or physical play (sports) humans need to play and are meant to play. As Malaby proclaims: “play is older than culture for culture however, inadequately defined always presupposes human society an animals have not waited for man to teach them their playing. We can say that human civilization has added no essential feature to the general idea of play. Animals play just like men (Malaby 1).” With that being said, Malaby, Huizinga, and Flanagan all refer to play as a sense of essentiality and an act of competitive freedom. Hence coming to conclude that “play” helps define human life – survival of the fittest? Play is play and it has formulated way before humans even stepped on earth.
The activity we conducted in class that week “Mimesis: Movement, the Senses and Affect Contagion” allowed me to understand play on another level. I finally understood how addicting, how contagious and how play embodies a sense of persona allowing ourselves to undergo a communicative transformation. I finally understood how individuals (i.e. my brother) get so into their video games and how easily they lose their sense to the world around them. In addition how easily someone’s mood or a sudden change in the environment can change our communication to the world around us. How easily one can attract another sense or a feeling from another person has finally become clear to me. I remember once when you are happy and enjoying life, and when you come across another individual who is totally opposite makes it harder to maintain your happiness.
All in all play is contagious. It is like watching kids play outside on a summer evening while you’re inside doing homework or chores perhaps. Play is addictive and communicates an entirely new sensorium I believe don’t you think so? As I said play is ambiguous and thus can be defined ambiguously but one thing is for sure without our sense of “play” life definitely would lack a lot more than just creativity and imagination. Life I guess would be incomplete.

Which of your Senses could YOU Give Up and Live Without?

What would it mean to lose one of your senses and which sense would it be? Well personally I believe losing any of my senses would be just as brutal in any case, and without one another experiencing the world would become extremely difficult. Especially if I had lost one of my senses so suddenly I believe adaption to the world would be unquestionable – reminds me when I had just come out of surgery last summer and was advised bed rest for four months where I was unable to walk or do anything without help. I had lost my sense of movement for four months and eventually learned to adapt myself by coming up with ways to get my kinaesthesia moving in alternate ways other than the crutches that my surgeon had provided.  Our sensorium works together to build a memory for instance, a particular taste and or sound, or even perhaps a childhood smell that ignites when touched upon. The question than is, do we need to experience the world to know it or can we just know it? Or what caught my attention from this week’s reading “An Anthropologist on Mars” by Oliver Sacks, how do we even know that voices came from faces? Thus we need to experience the world to know it. Virgil a man who was unable to see for many years had to learn to adapt himself to the world around him as a blind man, and what’s more he had to adapt himself yet again to the world around as a man able to see. Regaining his sight was scary for him. As it would be for anyone because when you start to feel you’re reaching the finish line, and then having to go back and do the race again? Not fun. Virgil basically had to start from scratch and experience the world again from step one. “Trying to adjust to being sighted, tough to go from blindness to sighted. Has to think faster, not able to trust vision yet…. Like a baby just learning to see, everything new, exciting, scary, unsure of what seeing means.” Similarly Amy proclaimed as days progressed with sight Virgil found that he felt “more disabled than he had felt when he was blind, and he had lost all confidence, the ease of moving, that had possessed then.” With that being said, what would it mean to lose of one your senses and which sense would it be? If had to choose, I believe losing my sense of smell would be the easiest to give up, but then again I do contemplate greatly amongst the hierarchies in which our sensorium is placed. However, losing my ability to smell would allow my other senses such as: sight, sound, taste and touch to work together and build that smell for me. And much like Sacks proclaims, “For the blind build their worlds from sequences of impressions (tactile, auditory, olfactory) and are not capable, as sighted people are, of simultaneous visual perceptions of the making of instantaneous visual scenes.” To conclude, losing any of the senses would be difficult to anyone, and to regain a sense back after years of experiencing the world without it would be just as difficult. In Virgil’s case, he had regained his sight only to long for being blind again. Losing my sense of smell would inhibit only very little I believe when it comes to experiencing the world. Adaptation without smell would tumble into a smooth transition and eventually ease into place. Though I do question one thing: would I miss being able to smell? Our sense of smell adds to the experience and learning to understand the world around us. For instance, everyone has a particular smell to them and you can tell when that person is in the room. However, in this case and particular senenario losing my sense of smell or ability to smell would be the easiest to give up and live without because losing a sense strengthens the other senses to work together to replace that smell without actually smelling it. “Conflicts are bulit into the nature of the nervous system itself, for the early blinded adult who has spent a lifetime adapting and specializing his brain must now ask to verse all this. Learning to see is not like learning a language, it is, as Diderot puts it, like learning language for the first time.” On that note, the mind itself has already created the smell for me and thus losing smell wouldnt be an issue. Ive spent years, and still am learning what different things smell like as I come across them, but there are certain everyday smells that I have grown accustom to knowing and so I would know what for example: a birthday cake smells like because Ive already smelt that before. And so losing my sense of smell I believe would not disrupt experiencing the world if I were to loose it right now. But if I had lost it and regained it like Virgil did the world would definately become a child’s playground were adapting to the ambiguity of smells around me would be quiet shocking.

“MOM WHATS FOR DINNER?”

Food. Food. Food. The one thing that crosses our minds multiple times throughout the day and when our friend the stomach calls “anything and everything would taste good as long as they satisfy the taste buds that ignite your senses and get them exploring.” I guess you can say I watch the Food Network Channel religiously right down from Restaurant Make Over, Cupcake Wars, Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Takeover, Chopped and my favorite Iron Chef! The moment the Chairman introduces the secret ingredient within seconds my sensorium begins to explore the number of possible dishes one can create harmonically with ONE FLAVOR! One ingredient, one taste and have that incorporated into a full on five course meal is incredible. As the intensity in the kitchen increases I find my taste buds questioning themselves in awe as to how a dessert dish with chicken in it would taste??? Or a soup with chocolate and carrots in it! The other day the secret ingredient was eel and I thought to myself how the heck will Chef Mario Batali or Chef Bobby Flay use an ingredient as an eel in their five course meal to present to the judges? How on earth are they going to produce dishes worthy to the individualistic sensoriums of the judges panel. Whats more interesting is that their is a time limit and it gets crazy in the kitchen and even though I am not personally there my senses ignite right, left and center feeling like I am there. The program itself emphasizes on the way these chefs cook and they focus and point out every drop, every shred, the sounds of the fry pan, the stove, and next thing you know all your senses are working together to develop that one taste. That one flavor that question when you see the final dish presented to the judges “how on earth does that taste?” and it looks so good in the way its presented that who cares that their is an eel in my dessert all I do is “mom can you make that?” I find the intensity of the kitchen as they film and focus upon the contender’s cooking styles and the Iron Chef’s cooking styles, going back and forth I find my senses doing the very same! Its like I find all the senses work together to produce or imagine that flavor, or that dish or perhaps how it smells. For example its like when I come into the kitchen and I smell my mom’s cooking, and the best is when shes baking the smell of the cake batter, watching it rise in the oven and of course tasting it in the end.
Then eventually it comes down to the judges panel and its beyond me how they judge such good looking food but than again it comes down as to how well they incorporated the secret ingredient in their dishes. That is the key. The way a chef’s dish tastes, looks and smells becomes their identity and to be honest their story. Their culinary and their experience with their “taste” and how far they were able to explore their sensorium. Personally when it comes down to cooking it all depends on how you work with your sensorium and how well you can use it to create a signature dish. In other words the further you can stretch and work with your sense the better and more tastier your dishes become. A sensory geography of the chef’s experience is the journey you take when you bite into their dish – which is why it excites me and makes me wish I was a food critic myself and I could sit in the judges panel and experience that very journey. Each taste, each flavor brings out a wondrous memory. And just as Sutton describes “our eyes let us “taste” food at a distance by activating the sense memories of taste and smell.” And that is precisely what Iron Chef entails as I sit and watch how Chef Bobby Flay or Chef Mario Batali work their senses in the kitchen and create this amazing sensory experience, their story for the judges to taste. Regardless of the craziness of the flavor somehow one chef always comes out victorious in producing a sensory satisfaction dish. The work and study upon food basically requires the union of our sensorium to work together and go beyond and explore without hesitation to create a five star worthy meal.

However one thing is for sure my personal experience with food has a definite historical connection or I guess you can say a generation pass down of tastes – each household, each dish and each flavor has a particular connection and understanding of lives and experiences. Its like everyone would agree “there’s no good cook out there other than my momma!” Why? Because we feel a connection with home, our culture and our personal sensory experience. Our experience with food creates our very own sensory geographic landscape. Being a South Asian I love spicy food especially my mom’s goat kebabs with chutney as it takes me right into the summer evenings on the patios, or Tandoori Chicken and being Indian food is central to our lives. You are never left hungry and seconds is never an option because you must have a third serving! Always.

Consciousness in Performance: A Javanese Theory by Felicia Hughes – Freeland

Dance is very much a part of my own life. I choreograph dances and I am a dancer myself – spending hours, days and even months preparing for performances in advance, I have yet till this day never looked upon a dance in such a particulate manner. However it is important to note, that the kind of sound and bodily movement I work with are full of freedom, joyous actions and complete entertainment. Dancing in my perspective is allowing the self unconsciously, and freely moves from a sense of mind, body and consciousness mechanisms. With that being said, Felicia Hughes – Freeland’s work on the “Consciousness in Performance: A Javanese Theory” is quite an extraordinary study, and definitely one of my favorite readings by far in this course. Although I had to read it a few times to properly grasp the terminology presented and understand the meaning behind consciousness I did manage to pull out a few interesting concepts as she listed to help with that.
“Performed movement is a form of self – control that constitutes a sociologically particular Javanese version of the way of knowing oneself and others; in other words, it refers to a sense of consciousness formulated as an aesthic morality (Hughes Freeland: 1997).” By centralizing the body as the primary focus, Felicia Hughes – Freeland exemplifies the body through a step by step understanding of the Javanese Theory, and thus takes upon a journey of understanding of the consciousness and unconsciousness through the likes of dance. The performance of dance movement goes beyond self control and it activates a field of consciousness outside the individual self – she discusses the conscious form through the Joged Mataram, a way of coming to know oneself and others through a sense of individual consciousness articulated through an aesthic morality as mentioned before. The ways in which the body moves and merges together, the way in which the body comes to understand and become one with the mind, body, conscious self and mechanisms is what is most valued and honors here as a dancer she proclaims. “Joged Mataram argues that the control of emotional movement is precondition for dancing. The body is a means to transcend itself. It is not the muscle which dances but the consciousness that is” on that note allows for the clarification of the three arenas in which the Javanese understanding as consciousness – process: intention, reception and agency. By connecting the movement, manners, courtship, identity of the dancer can articulate dance movement to be not as simple as everyday actions but definitely ensure ideas of value, beauty and at the same time the entire human experience without thinking about in perspective.
Furthermore, she discusses and analyzes by concluding that the Javanese theory in the essence of it all is highly consistent with the western understanding between the consciousness and unconsciousness by carefully structuring the individual dancer with the self and fully conceptualizing the human body as the subjective agent full of conscious movements. It is a sense of Kinesesthic that is added to the beauty and embodiedment of this particular kind of dance. Because it is that very movement of a dancer that measures the social consciousness that allows the body, mind and the self to be expressed and understood – the beauty of it is that a great dancer who can and fully embodies the Joged Mataram can go beyond the intentions of every day dance movements, automatics, and while completely enticing the body form in a trance of social consciousness if the rasa is right. Dancing in the jist of it all is completely redefined in this study done by Felicia Hughes – Freeland, and with that we learn that in this case scenario we can get a sense of our body, a sense of our consciousness/unconsciousness all through mechanisms of dance. Dance on that note allows and connects the mind and body and soulful consciousness to work together to develop a form of movement, valued beauty and a form of lyrical movement that is created into a miraculous dance performance.

As I mentioned before I coreograph and perform professionally within my South Asian community. We take upon dances ranging in various movements in accordance to particular sounds (music) such as: Bollywood, Bharanatyam as we discussed in class today and Bhangra/Punjabi and Hip Hop. Thought I’d include the link to my performance this year at the Red Rose Theatre in Brampton.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk2EzLlfKLE