Embodiment, Virtual Technologies and Locative Art – Presentation

physical and virtual embodimentIn his article, Jason Farman analyzes how mobile technology is changing the ways spaces have been embodied in the information age. The Internet is no longer a thing that you must access from home, due to the ubiquity of modern cell phones individuals can take technology with them and interact with it constantly. Using the example of cell phone conversations, Farman explains that when people make calls they are now trying to reach the embodiment of a “person”.  This is different from traditional landlines, which people used to contact “locations” rather than embodied people. For Farman this transition to a free-floating connection between body and spaces represents a shift in the way spaces are embodied. Importantly, space and bodies co-constitute each other; spaces produce bodies and bodies produce spaces. While mobile phones may be popularly understood to dislocate bodies from spaces, it in fact allows one to habitat multiple spaces at once. Spaces do not have to be physical or concrete, in fact the entire opposition between the virtual and the real is a false dichotomy according to Farman. This is because bodies, spaces and technology are formed within culture. As a result The virtual and real are not separate entities, in fact they inform our perception of each other. This creates a distinction between space and place: space being more abstract while place is an embodied practice. embodiment of a person

The concept of the sensory-inscribed body is a key aspect in Farman’s Chapter. Drawing directly from theories developed by Merleau-Ponty, it claims that our senses extend the limits of the body, providing experience and knowledge of the world. Additionally, Mearleau-Ponty’s theories of phenomenology, which we have examined in class already, along with the notion of the mind-body duality, are critical as well. These theories regarding the ways we use the body is interrelated with the idea of intersubjectivity for Farman, which argues that people can acknowledge one another’s sensory inscribed bodyembodiment, but will never be able to fully understand it based on their own subjectivity.

Discussed above, the embodiment of virtual and physical spaces are interrelated in daily routines and practices. For example, the practice of checking-in on Facebook provides a combination of inhabiting virtual and physical spaces simultaneously. This use of technology and embodiment is linked to notions of the cognitive awareness and unconscious. Farman states, most of what we know in the world comes at the level of unconsciousness. facebook check-inWe are not always aware of our individual body parts, instead these recede from perception in the way we acknowledge the body as a whole. Similarly, the use of technology becomes extensions of the body, which we can be unconscious of. Lastly, Farman explains that embodiment is a constant process of reading the world, with meaning being taken as we read bodies and spaces. Culturally inscribed, bodies, technology and space are constantly being read, interpreted and understood in terms of culture that surrounds us. This continues between the virtual and physical spaces, where the body and space act as signifiers, constantly interpreted.

Art is older than documented history; humankind has always found ways to express itself artistically to reflect on its current perception of the universe. Available technology has been a critical factor in that expression. With the emergence of new digital and satellite technologies in the 21st century, new artistic practices have been created, by applying technology available at the time. Locative Art uses digital technologies in alternative ways to embody space, and enhance the way we view space. According to Hemment, there are three categories of locative art, mapping, geo-annotation, and ambulant. Within each of these categories, sub categories reflect how the technology is applied, from documenting perceived reality to expressing issues and feelings to collaboration and social advocacy.

iphone locative pracitce  With civilization came division of labour; ‘artist’ became a  specific role and art became, to the ruling classes at least, a  commodity. With this form of technology-enabled art, there has  been a democratizing of the process and a breakdown of the  exclusivity of the role of artist. Consequently, there is a blurring of  the lines as to what is considered art and whom the  artists/producers are; actually, anyone can become an artist/producer. Art has been liberated from the galleries and become part of everyday life to people who were once excluded from the process.


Dan Bevc, Rory Warnock & Samuel Schmidt


  1. In your personal experience participating in physical and virtual spaces, do you find yourself aware of your embodied movement in these spaces? Or, do you find yourself unconscious in the way your daily routines and media use affect how you embody these types of overlapping spaces?


  1. With contemporary media, the role of the artist is becoming less specific. Due to the ubiquity of smartphones with GPS capabilities, is it possible to consider all smartphone users as artists or potential artists? Can one’s daily routines with their phones be considered locative art, or must it be a more conscious and contemplative process?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s