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Macdonald, A., 2019.

Digital witnessing and somatic affect

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:The Image Conference
Venue:Manchester School of Art: Man Met University
Dates:5/9/2019 - 6/9/2019

This paper focuses on questions that arose from the process of making a pilot for a digital artwork, which used somatic, and digital research methods to explore the act of tracking. The artwork was commissioned by Keele University for an AHRC training event focusing on the relationship between digital practices and embodied affect. The aim of the artwork was to use digital tracking processes to intensify somatic awareness as an analytical tool. It was made by me (I am a dance and moving image artist) in collaboration with PhD student and composer Will Brearley, legal scholar Marie Jacobs and the digital development team at Keele University. Processes of tracking or witnessing are commonly used in somatic research methods as a way of increasing the 'felt sense' (after Gendlin, 1977) of the body. Through tracking the narrative of the body, somatic research generates layers of understanding that rest on embodied experience. This project considered the use of VR and Mocap as forms of digital witnessing and looked at how and why they might work to both generate and intensify embodied affect.

In this paper I consider some of the complexities and limitations of the interactive relationship between movement and digital trace. The proposition I explore, originates from broadly phenomenological and psychoanalytic perspectives, is that the gaze of the digital response creates an affective charge because it intensifies the sense of the contingent, mutable body moving in time.