The kaleidoscopic effect
Excerpts of a Master thesis about radical embodiment
While making us humans the most knowledgeable creatures on Earth, our contemporary modes of communication cut us off from a direct, embodied relationship with our environment. Questioning this anomaly in her Visual Arts Master’s thesis, Ani Kocharyan contemplates new, purely physical interactions between things. Taking up Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the body-without-organ, Kocharyan considers a radically inclusive world of communication, without organisation or finality, where diverse desiring bodies form temporary poetic entities and meanings.
Communication is commonly understood as a process to share ideas, be it through written and oral language, or various non-verbal signs such as sounds, body language, smell, and a variety of visual cues. It is also largely agreed that the communication can be divided into three parts: the sender, the message, and the receiver. In high stake contexts, such as the military, communication needs to be efficient for matter of life and death: “For communication to be ‘successful’, the audience must not only get the message, but must interpret the message in the way the sender intended.”1 In this case, it is important that the sender and receiver share the same precise code, and that the message leaves no room for interpretation.
A lot of other fields depend on a successful communication, since this process precedes other forms of social processes: “Communication, from a communicational perspective, is not a secondary phenomenon that can be explained by antecedent psychological, sociological, cultural, or economic factors; rather, communication itself is the primary, constitutive social process that explains all these other factors. Theories about communication from other disciplinary perspectives are not, in the strict sense, within the field of communication theory because they are not based on a communicational perspective. All genuine communication theory acknowledges the consequentiality of communication (Sigman, 1995b); it acknowledges communication itself as a fundamental mode of explanation (Deetz, 1994).”2
This importance of communication as a basis of civilisation and as a way to share our experience of the world explains why humans have invested so much effort to elaborate various and pervasive ways to communicate with each other. Nowadays local and international forms of communication are used to share experiences in a wide range of ways. Because of specialized advancement, types of correspondence go through key changes which modify how we might interpret the world and the persons we get in touch with. The media through which information circulates create human as much as the human creates this infrastructure. Roland Barthes describes this link as “fascist”: “But language […] is neither reactionary nor progressive; it is quite simply fascist; for fascism does not prevent speech, it compels speech.”3
We no longer share forms of intimacy and affection the way we have for numerous generations, and our “natural” relationship with time and space has been uprooted. With his “rhythmanalysis”, a science he founded himself that aims to analyse the various overlapping rhythms that compose the score of everyday life, Henri Lefebvre, a French philosopher, composed on-beat examinations of the contrast between regular repetitive time and the straight season of human social practices. New forms of connection, intimacy, and affirmation emerge simultaneously. By using such tools as SMS, E-mails, video chats, social media, artificial intelligence or GPS localization data, our encounter and interpretation of the world and other human beings happen no more directly but on a meta virtual level.
Going against the grain of the general acceptance of the current communication technologies as modes of disembodiment, I would like instead to think about communication as bodies interacting with each other. What if instead of an organic chain of a sender, message and receiver working in line, we imagine different bodies? What if every impulse in a submarine cable, every light photon in an optic fiber was a body? Here my understanding of the term body derives of course from Deleuze and Guattari concept of “Body without Organs” (BwO), i.e. desiring machines, coupling with each other: one space forming kaleidoscopically a multiplicity of spaces while a multiplicity of spaces forming One.
“The Body without Organs (BwO) is a limit that can never be reached and is never finished. It is not even remotely a concept, but rather a set of practices. Trays are what make up each BwO.” ; “A BwO is designed so that intensities can only occupy and populate it. Only intensities can move through and out. Additionally, every BwO is a surface in and of itself, and it interacts with other surfaces via a consistency plane of communication. It is a component of passage.”4
In this sense, I propose to imagine that a body, or a whole, can be fragmented into a number of elements, which act as a «body» in themselves. This leads us to ask, what practices of relationships and attention can we do for and with these bodies, including our own? And with all of these bodies, how can we practice Love?
If we think of the space of the door as a body, the space of the elevator as a body, the drawing as a body, when I draw a body and when it is you, it is yet another. The year as a body, the birds as one body each having their own bodies with their beak as a body, their little head, their little feet, the glasses of earth that they eat with our eyes looking at it as another composition of a body, with the door, the drawing and all these bodies with the body of the year. For example, this year, 2022 which is yet another body than that of 2017 which also includes bodies, situations with weeks, seconds, and eyebrows of the elephant as a body.
In this sense, how can we establish a conscious relationship with all of these bodies and communicate with them? We can also think of our artistic practices as bodies with spaces that contain the drawing‘s body, what is drawn, the person who draws with the drawing, the way the drawing is looked at, and how the drawing is interpreted.
The photography, the one who photographs, the one who looks at the photographer, the photographic paper and the light carried in it which includes yet another body in a set of bodies with which we make love, with which we are friends or not.
Similar to how your body communicates with water when you’re submerged in it, the temperature of your body with the chair you’re sitting in, and food that is different from what you ate before. Speak with the shadow of somebody’s hair, the smell of that someone’s new cleanser, and the yellow teeth of your neighbour or the one on the floor underneath where there is a canine with teeth generally contaminated, with your back with whom you don’t see each other frequently yet hang out. Mind to comprehend the washing machine that no longer wants to wash or that occasionally washes very well; tend to listen to the ineffective machines you use every day; we miss it because we do not even know them; be attentive to the walls’ eyes. You should be able to communicate with someone who is two meters away from you and then two thousand kilometers away without using any written or drawn language. Communicate with the red buttons on your jeans and the dress you wore yesterday because your shirt is so close to your body and has its own body. Contemplating your relationship with perusing, proceeding to understand it, and returning to it to breathe easy with it, fortifies your connections and permits you to fabricate together different spaces with different bodies.
Birds produce multiple bodies simultaneously when they sing: All of the bodies that we see are referred to as “birds that sing” or “a bird.” However, there is no correlation between one or more subjects and an action. An entire arrangement of activities incorporates bodies; With the nose, each one of the eyes, the spaces that continually differ between each bird, the plumes on them, the quills flying in the recreation area, the rhythms of their tune, each note-like a body. Likewise, we, the viewers of this scene.
Might we at some point track down alternate approaches to rehearsing communication between us that could be one more type of language that even we don’t completely have any idea about? We might be able to understand even more by creating new understandings of spaces, bodies, and fields in this moment of not understanding everything. During and as a result of this research, we develop alternative means of connecting and communicating rather than comprehending a language that is not understood.
A personal experience linked to the language understanding
When I first started learning French, my mind was going through a series of different intensities and logics that were being set up and mixed simultaneously, and it was both beautiful and terrible all at once. Each time a bundle of sounds was tossed at me, I envisioned a completely separate story with a couple of sounds that I could create to place across a word in these extraordinarily obscure spaces. They were huge bodies that I couldn’t get into for myself. However, the messy fantastic images were produced by my propensity to understand without understanding. I made the decision to trust myself to venture into these uncharted territories and establish a new relationship with the language. I would see people getting angry or kissing after sharing these sounds together. I made myself a small child with my big body to marvel at the complexity of thought. To marvel at the complexity of thought, I transformed my large body into that of a small child. There have been many unexpected situations with the locals in Paray les Monial, a small town of 9,000 people in the Burgundy region of France where almost everyone speaks only French. When going to the restaurant for my mom’s birthday when I said “Please, can we have – gateau/cake- for my mother?, it’s her birthday!” The lady took a little instant and exclaimed “Aahh – Happy New year!!” perhaps thinking that since it is the month of January that phrase can always be valid.
In another situation, a French gentleman, who was also a priest at the time, enthusiastically declared a few things while pronouncing a lot of complicated sounds. The only thing I understood was, “I like to caress ‘lavash’.” For me, lavash is a type of traditional Armenian bread that is all plain and has small waves. Thus, I thought he wanted to invest the energy stroking the surface of this bread before I discovered that “la vache” is as a matter of fact an animal in French and that my comprehension was just my fantasy. These circumstances trained me a great deal to be open by saying “Why not?” or “It could also exist.” However, both parties had to put in a lot of effort, of course. The fact is that I have continued to listen patiently and openly to learn.
After a month, when I finally started learning a little more French, these imaginative spaces filled with a variety of situations that we can also think of as “bodies” started to disappear and turned into a body that was more or less common and stable between me and the other person speaking French. But now it was a little in the opposite direction: the majority of everyday things that I understood with small spaces of sounds could alter the entire narrative of my understanding, and the other person could do the same. I once wanted to buy something sweet for myself as a present when I went to the bakery, proud of my progress. I then asked the baker, “Est-ce-que je peux avoir un baiser s’il vous plait ?” which meant, “can I have a kiss please?” He looked at me surprised and asked “Excusez-moi ?”. With a big smile, proud that I could now order alone in French I repeated “Est-ce-que je peux avoir un baiser s’il vous plait ?”
He responded, “Excuse me, but I don’t understand you, I don’t know you…,” with a face that had changed. I responded to the baker by pointing with an extended finger, surprised that he did not comprehend my request. “Can I have that?”, I continued. He finally gave me my “baiser,” which was, of course, the meringue. “Բեզե”, “бeзе”, (beze) in Armenian as in Russian, the sounds of the word “kiss” being familiar to me to say meringue, I used it being persuaded that I would be understood. Initially, I reflected on the situation only from my point of view. Later, while telling it to the older people who were helping me to learn French, they kindly explained to me that the word “bise” does not mean “meringue” as I thought but it is a little kiss of love (or friendship). Even later, when I entered an art school, the students gave me an update on this word by saying that (baiser) means making love without love, having the enjoyment of sex without feelings, and doing the action without anything more.
So, it was very shocking and interesting at the same time to imagine what the baker probably thought of my demand.
Then, all the versions of this phonetic misunderstanding scene changed as I learned French. How then to go back to re-experience these unknown spaces of imagination that forge us. But it would no longer be the same spaces because we would return to them with the awareness and the consciousness of this language. So, it would not really be a coming back but a continuation. While exploring these abstract types of bodies without having all the access of understandings of it but rather, thanks to this non-access, non-understanding of the language, we create new tools, new imaginary spaces that allow us to access in a different way to that new space of the language. I propose to use language and transform it, but to transform it through other modes of practice; through the relationships with the text that I tend to set up and explore when I write every bit of this text’s body – in that co-relation, we are constantly practicing the togetherness: me and the text’s body, the corrector of the text and the reader. Me and the text, the text and you, me and you, me and you and the text.
Here, in continuation of the ‘communication’ thought, I made a selection from the transcriptions that I am interested in inspired from the real conversations that I listened to, practiced with others, and noted; or also phantasies, imaginary ones which helped me to deal with this topic through another angle.
A: Stop, being too you, or whatever that means
B: Even if I want, I can’t
-I don’t know how to stop as long as everything that I know is still continually being me.
-If I would like to escape being me it is still me, trying to escape being me.
A: Try out other spaces to find other parts of you, not just physical spaces.
B: But if I try to find other spaces, it means it is still me choosing which spaces to try. And I don’t want either randomly to ask someone to choose instead of me because that should still be my choice.
-It is a paradoxical thing to choose something and somewhere, a space that you are not at all used to, even don’t know-know its existence, and still find, choose it, experiencing it, and try to understand by developing another type of interest in it.
-It is too difficult…
A: Maybe try to think,
-No, stop thinking too much
-Don’t think at all
-But still, continue to think
B: I hate you, I don’t know what you are talking about. What is that and what does it mean?
-How can I do something and nothing and still something?
-Or, nothing and something and still nothing?
-I am not sure of understanding you.
-Or, hmm hmm, it is too difficult and easy at the same time
A: No, you are still doing something, do nothing-nothing.
-Don’t even try to be efficacy (productive ?) while doing nothing,
-Do nothing and still everything,
B: Oh I think I might start to understand.
But, hmm, my nothing is still a lot for you and your nothing is quite much for me.
-So look, but don’t Watch but See
-Try to see gently without observing
-Even if you saw it, don’t show that you did but continue seeing because actually you never saw it.
-Be attentive without too much attention
-Love while being distant but still close and fully love.
-Don’t love one space, it is not in one body
-Delocalize Love while caring for each of their dynamics
-They are so different; Orange, Blue, Green, White, Black, Yellow, Pink, Gray, Sky Blue, Soft Green, bright Purple, Noisy pink, Saturated black with little saturated white points and yellow lines, etc.
-They are also having different forms and different dynamics at the same time.
-Don’t try to change them.
-Allow yourself to transform and let them make their own choices.
-They are so many and constantly changing, some of them keeping their greenness, some mixing all the time all the colors, some making dotes, lines, geometrical or other types of forms, some running all the time and jumping sometimes, some laying most of the time, some sitting, some constantly walking, some walking, jumping lying and doing other movements at the same time. You need maybe to concentrate on each of them but still don’t concentrate on one of them but maybe still be engaged with one or some of them.
-They are all heaving their own plays.
B: Why Plays and not Games?
A: Because if you are playing a game there are winners and losers but if you are playing for play, no one wins or loses but we are all participating and practicing that play which is all the time changing with each of them
B: But there are still some who win and some who lose, no?
A: Maybe yes and no. Or they think they do with some situations.
B: Ah yes, for example, when once, I thought that I had a great affair and thought that I am on top of the world and after an hour I was already feeling in the deepest end of it.
-Or once also, my uncle thought that he lost all his business because all the fish in his space got sick and died so he couldn’t sell them anymore. He was felling so bad. But because of that situation one year later he decided to change country and because of that a lot of other situations happened, and because of that, here I am talking with you.
A: Yes yes yes, Exactly like that !
Just look at me, yes you, I know that you see me,
I know that you see me,
I know that you are everywhere and still in some precise moments in some precise ways.
yes you, yes I am somehow being sensitive to those contacts and see you too. You are touching so differently in a way that I can know you but also with some little gestures of not really-really touching so I can kind of not really remark. I can recognize you through all those messy patterns.
Maybe not with your exact body, but taught different other shapes and movements. It is always you, but not exactly you. It is a way of being you which is constantly jumping, walking, swimming flying, sitting, laying, and continuing a series of activities taught in different spaces and times.
You are huge and little at the same time. From the moment that the one who remarks on you is trying to capture, use or manipulate it, it is becoming again no more visible. But you are one and many at the same time. You don’t have a home and still everywhere can be your place but not at any time. You are also me and I am you but still so different and we are not at all the same at a time. It is so challenging to remark on you all the time and keep following you. We are being disturbed so much nowadays and getting saturated with that so much so then I can’t really see you well. Sorry for that. It wasn’t always like this. We were also together in some bodies, and we are still but differently. Or maybe the now-now is the reflection of how we were together and would become in this exact moment. The more I want to follow you more I find you in different ways. And sometimes also I need to just not follow you in order to better understand your swimming. You are simple and so complex at the same time. I will never fully understand you and that is what is interesting about you.
I know that you hear me, all the time, or maybe not all-all the time, it is me who needs to be precise with my forms of communication in order to collaborate with you.
When I touch the wall, it is touching the building, which is touching the ground, which is touching so many more beings which is then touching you. But you can be all of those spaces or maybe pass in between those spaces and look at me.
I know that you know.
But still, you don’t know either.
I do, but together we know.
So thank you for being there.
I have seen in fact, that it’s was connected in a so tiny layer…
A: Do you think that there is a kind of other layer of reality that we are not always able to perceive, but it is only because of certain situations of tensions, speeds, and certain kinds of practices that we manage to perceive it for a little while?
B: Yes, in a way, I think so. I think I’ve experienced that before. At the end of a big trip for example, when I was very fulfilled and comfortable, I thought I had a different ability to perceive what was around me. But then I was told that it was just hallucinations that I had.
A: But don’t you think that it’s always around us and it’s just us who are not able and maybe have lost our sensitivity to accept, receive and perceive them?
A: What memories do you have of this experience?
B: Well… I remember that I actually saw, that it was a small thing… And it’s like there was a layer of wrapping removed from things to allow me to «see better» in a way, to see what is “real”.
In my artistic practice, I act upon the urban solitude as I seek connections to people and places and invent relations in communal spaces where art does not usually belong. I intend to create new ways of interacting with others, calling attention to how we all behave collectively with each other: I believe we have lost our ability to create quality relationships in which time and care are invested. Saturated technologies have disconnected us and only spared us a superficial feeling of connection with others – further alienating us.
In the collection of practices that make up this thesis, I attempt to experiment with and reflect upon this network. As an explorer, artist, and object of study, I consider myself to be the vector through which unexpected things may occur. My aim is to develop a capacity of transformation which allows for communication to take place while acting as the carrier who transmits the message to others. In-between being and acting / existing and acting constitutes a space where one can escape, reconnect, re-meet and regenerate…
- The Tongue and Quill Team, A Basic Philosophy of Communication, CreateSpace Independent, Publishing Platform, US Airforce, 2012
- Robert T. Craig, Communication Theory as a Field, article, International Communication Association, US, 1999
- Roland Barthes, The Neutral: Lecture Course at the Collège de France, 1977-1978
- Deleuze & Guattari, Mille Plateaux, Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2, Les Éditions de minuit, France, 1980 (page 186, 196).