New Materialism

The meaning of the body -How the social and cultural body is understood and used within my practice.

Task – Write a statement about which models of body you think are understood and used within your practice. Include images if you want.

The social body is understood though the experiences from day-to-day, for example being with your family and friends, going to school, learning about different cultures and rules, therefore the body naturally changes and adapts to society. This is used within my practice everyday when I’m learning new techniques, researching different designers and working with other students. People usually change by their surroundings and from different coincidences for example, because I am a Welsh speaker and have attended a Welsh Primary and Secondary School and learnt about a different culture to other students who have had their education through English. The social body is also used In my practice through the way I create, sketch and think, whilst some students have done foundation degrees and studied Graphic Design before attending university I have come from doing Art and Design as an A level, therefore my way of working and thinking might be different to others.

The cultural body is understood though different “artifacts, practises and institutions, rituals and modes of interaction”. Another way of understanding the cultural body is to look at the work of the famous artist Picasso, whose work changed when World War I began.

Picasso earlier works :

Picasso later works :

Picasso was highly influenced by the war in a way he would create in a more neoclassical style. He was also influenced by the artist Cezanne who wrote to Picasso and told him to look at nature in terms of cones, spheres and cylinders.

Through he course I am influenced by different designers, students and industries and as I learn more about the course and others who are working with me, the way I create and sketch will eventually change and mature over time. Not only will my practice work change but I will also change mentally becoming more independent to experiment with my own form of work and styles.


The difference between touch and sight

Task – Post your 2 drawn images, describe how they are different, and how the differences show how you perceive the object through touch and through sight.


The first picture shows how you perceive the object through touch and the second is through sight. The first drawing is an outline of the object I was holding and there isn’t any detail to the drawing. However the sketch that I created when I could see  the object is much more detailed and you can see the different tones, colours and ridges. Another difference between both pictures is how one is larger than the other. When you are drawing something from feeling you try to get the picture as accurate as you can, but as soon as you can the see the object you are much more confident to create and sketch it so naturally you draw it on a bigger scale. When you try to create the object through touch your mind takes over and starts to create images of what the object looks like, therefore you don’t create what you’re feeling but you create what your mind tells you to do.

In my opinion its like learning to drive a car, at first you are nervous and unsure what to press or move, using your mind to workout how everything is supposed to be used, like you have seen from watching tv or other people driving. Once you have learned the basics and driving becomes more natural to you, you are then more confident and independent to drive by yourself. This is similar to the feeling and seeing because at first you’re unsure what you’re feeling but when you see it you are reassured and more confidant on what you are supposed to be creating.

How the world is as I expect it?

Task – Take your descriptions that you wrote last week and re-write them with this new theoretical support for your observations.

The reality of pictures is that they’re always entirely different objects to the eye, the marks on paper a seen as themselves and as some other thing  according to Gregory, R. 2009. Seeing Through Illusions. New York: Oxford University Press. In relation to the drawings from last week as the outline of the first picture suggests a plain object, you’re drawn to create an image from our experience and knowledge. However the second picture is a much more detailed image, with the different and harder pen strokes suggesting a different or darker colour and the way the lines are created suggest a different texture.

In relation to how different people see the images differently depending on their experiences and prior knowledge, the brain takes to store images you’ve already seen and then you see the present image as objects of the past. whilst I was drawing the object from feeling y mind was distracted by an object I had seen before, I was imagining a wine bottle cap and my brain was as if it was directing me to draw that particular image. Similar to Joseph Jastrow’s Neurological model of perception, where he said the brain is seen as “a photographic camera,with its eyelid cap, its iris shutter, and its sensitive plate… the picture mysteriously transferred to the minds representative, the brain”, Joseph Jastrow, The Mind’s Eye 1901.

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

How we perceive images!


How materials and tools hide from view

Having discussed how materials, just as much as our bodies, have energies, properties and resistances that shape how we act and move in the world, I now realise that each material or tool that we use in our practice is an extension of ‘the working hand’. The tools grow to be a part of the body, for example when you hold a pen or pencil with two fingers and move the tip of the object around a surface you can feel what that surface is, being paper, your clothing or a wooden table. The philosopher Michel Serres explains,

“The hand is no longer a hand when it has taken hold of the hammer, it is the hammer itself, it is no longer a hammer, it flies transparent..”

I question how we manipulate the object to shape our movement,  way of thinking and our creative practice. The tools are moulded by the hand in practice, for example if you were playing an instrument it becomes a part of you, the way you play the instrument or hear it is an inseparable part to the act. Most importantly I have learnt that the boundary between the hand and tool vanishes whilst you are using it, an extract from Pallasmaa’s ‘The Working Hand’ explains that, a painter paints by the means of the mind rather than the brush as a physical object.

I have  significantly developed my knowledge and understanding of how the object becomes a part of our body, shaping our creative practice. I understand that drawn lines aren’t only recognised by my memories and experiences, like I explained in my last text, but they also express the memory and expectancy of the materials in use.

This knowledge could be essential to me as a learner as I am developing my practice and creative skills. It will widen my abilities and shape my practice so that I naturally experiment with different ways I could create and also shape the way I write. Because of this it will naturally push me to express a more personal opinion in my writing and widen my skills and abilities whilst doing my creative practices.

However I am not yet confident about how to connect the working hand within my practices, I will now need to gain a better understanding of the language of materials to be able to fully realise how our experiences are expressed and relate to our practices. As a next step, I need to research the works of different artist, for example Paul Klee who said that “Art does not render the visible; but renders visible“, who specialise in how experiences unconsciously shapes our movements, gestures and practices.

Developing research for end of term essay


  • I’m learning about how we can modify the body, using the cultural body and perception of hypothesis as my inspiration. How do objects shape the body over time? What influences individuals to modify their bodies?
  • I’m doing this because I want to find out how the body is shaped over time by different elements. Using this I will discuss how the brain stores image we have seen and how different objects shape our physical body, for example foot binding.
  • I will do this in order to understand how different practises shapes the human body over time, and possibly how this has an effect on my personal work.

‘How we are changed by looking at the moon’ – week 1 lecture.

*1610 Galileo built the telescope that is now an important piece of technology for visual and material culture. It also changed the way material is understood.
*With this we can now see things that the naked eye couldn’t perceive and giving us a better idea of our relationship to the universe.
*When looking at the body, technology and the universe it is very clear that they’re all related and changes the way we think and the things we do.
*From the text by Mark Johnson, The meaning of the body’ – he states that we objectify the body and that this makes us an object among other objects.

“Once we learn to give up our reductive, hypothesising concepts of the body, we get a very much richer and more complex picture of how we are once always embodied and yet also always more than a thing” .

‘How fire shapes the pelvis’ – week 6 lecture.

*Anthropocentric history is history from the point of human beings, social, political and intellectual development.
*From history we are also taught that materials, things and objects and the environment can also partially shape what we do. To take sunglasses for example, over time humans have become dependant on the glasses so that their eyes aren’t strained in the sun, however I question does this possibly make the eyes weaker?
*Whilst researching the different history of body modification it becomes clear that the body has endless possibilities. In the book ‘The deep history of the human body by Shrylock and Smail …

“Just as human bodies adapt to unanticipated environmental changes, they also adapt to the unintended consequences of cultural, economic, or social transformations” Shyrock & Smail, 2011, p. 73.

How can you modify the body and why do we do it?

Section 1: 300 words
[WHAT] Identity a phenomenon;

“Once we learn to give up our reductive, hypothesising concepts of the body, we get a very much richer and more complex picture of how we are once always embodied and yet also always more than a thing” Mark Johnson, The meaning of the body’, 2008, University of Chicago Press.
Before being able to understand why we modify our bodies we need to understand our relationship with the universe, technology and materials and how everything changes how we perceive different things. In the quote by Mark Johnson, The Meaning of the body, above he shows how we see the body as an object among other objects, however we are much more than that. We are able to change the way we think and see things in different ways to others and explore the human bodies abilities and our power to modify it.

Today we have become over dependant on a variety of elements and materials, and we continue to use these in our lives to it easier. For example, most humans have become very dependant on general glasses and sunglasses, without realising how this object has shaped our body. We use glasses to help us see things better and we use sunglasses as a way to shield our eyes from the sun, however we don’t realise that in the long-term the glasses could be potentially be making our eyes weaker the more we use them. General glasses have also shaped the way we think, they have become a fashion statement that creates a sort of stereotype about different people.

However it is also important to consider how culture has had an effect on the way we modify our bodies, and example of how different beliefs can change the way we look. The more materials we discover and design, potentially the ones that were unintended, will all create new demands of modifying the body over time.

Section 2: 300 words
[HOW] Identify a theory to support the phenomenon;

“The deliberate kind of sculpting takes two forms, the vivid of which consists of the cutting, burning, filling, shredding and scraping of various parts of the body” Shyrock & Smail, 2011, Deep History : The Architecture of Past and Present. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Over time it is hard to understand what drives different individuals to change and modify their bodies. Some people take to the most known forms of body modification for example dieting, Botox injections, hair replacements or body building, this is a way for the individual to feel better about themselves or to be seen as more ‘Beautiful’ or ‘perfect’. However body modification is always dated back to a particular culture or country, and usually it is a traditional apart of their culture that drives these people to change themselves. Take the “giraffe” tribe from Myanmar, Burma for example “Starting at an early age, women of the Padaung tribe wear a coil of brass rings around their necks. This collar, and the elongated appearance it gives their necks over time, are Padaung symbols they wear proudly.” National Geographic, 2013, YouTube, 01/12/2016 16:17.

Another example body modification that isn’t related to just one culture but many, is the use of corsets. The corset was mostly used in the Victorian era to shape womans bodies in a particular way. “The object of the corset was, as British sexologist Havelock Ellis observed, to ‘furnish woman with a method of heightening at once her two chief secondary sexual characteristics, the bosom above and the hips and buttocks below. “H.H. Ellis, Studies in The Psychology of Sex: Sexual Selection in Man, F.A. Davis and Co., Philadelphia, 1918, p. 172. In relation to the idea that different materials shape the body over time the use of a corset shows that it also changes the body in a physical way “Despite the cruel reality of fierce red lines and deep furrows carved into women’s bodies by ‘strings and bones that lashed them in’, the contemporary corset discourse continues to reflect the ‘public’ face of corsetry drawn from quaint advertisements and pornography. ” Leigh Summers, 2001, Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset, United Kingdom by Biddles Ltd, Guildford and King’s Lynn, P.209. Therefore culture plays a very important role in body modification and shows how individuals use different materials to shape the way we look and change the way we think.

Section 3: 300 words
[WHY] Reflect upon the phenomenon once more;

So why do we modify our body? Is it for aesthetic enhancements? Spiritual enlightenment? or culture?

Personally I believe that culture plays a large role in why people modify their body. Religion is a very part of many people’s lives around the world and people choose to express this in many different ways, therefore they change the way they look to prove that they are faithful to that particular religion.

The majority of body modifications have historical backgrounds, however this isn’t always the reason people are driven to do it. Expressing individuality is a very important factor to many individuals, and through body modification they can show their personality using tattoos, piercings, hair transplants or body building etc. You could also say that individuals modify their body to enhance attractiveness or sexuality. Today I personally feel that there is a lot of pressure on people to be perfect, especially with the growth in social media.

After learning how we can modify the body and how different elements and objects can potentially change the way we think an create, I then started to think of how my course in Graphic communication has changed the way I think. After only two months of studying I have already changed in the way I am dependant on my laptop for different,softwares, reasearch and projects, and how I am now thinking in a different way to before. The understanding of body modification may be useful to me whilst doing my course as I would like to think that I express my individuality more through my work using different elements that I have come across before coming to university that other people on my course may not know.

Conclusion (up to 100 words)

This section discusses what you have found out, what has changed about how you think, what new insights have emerged. Here you can also demonstrate how you will apply it to future works- what you will be doing next, remember synthesis is why research is conducted.

In conclusion I have discovered that body modification happens to every one of us, sometimes it happened without us even realising. Whenever we pick up an object, hear a story or piece of information, die our hair or wear a corset we are modifying our body in some way. It has made me realise how important culture, technology, industry and the environment has on our lives and how much it shapes us to be unique individuals. It makes me question how different the world would be without body modification, would certain cultures even be possible? How would different individuals express themselves? and would the idea of a ‘perfect’ person even exist? This is a demonstration I will definitely be applying to my future works, exploring with the many ways I could change the way I think to create or experiment with how different objects and technology could potentially change my work.


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