How is space and consciousness intertwined in a bodily experience?

I presented my paper How is space and consciousness intertwined in a bodily experience? on Friday the 20th of May in the EcoJustice and Activism conference at the Eastern Michigan University. My paper presented an art-based research about the bodily experience of “a promenade performance”. The starting point of my research was an art project called Rikka. The project was executed in collaboration by a dance animateur, me, a performer Ale Ripatti and a sound artist Alpo Nummelin in Finland 2013–2014. The improvisatory project led to a synthesis of the site-specific movement and sound art Rikka (2014). In my paper the art project was viewed in the light of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception.

As an artist and a researcher I am trying to have a phenomenological attitude in my practice. I am trying to avoid working from ideas. I am just trying to be present and perceive. I start from action. I am not working towards something specific and I am not trying to present something specific either. I create and then I will see what is there. So the ideas, the interpretations come only later. I am the first spectator of my own performances. I select material from the improvisations to the final performance often very intuitively. I may just have a feeling that there is ”something” in the scene. I don’t often know what it is, but something. Sometimes my bodily responds brings up emotions or memories. But I am very aware that my own interpretation may differ from an audience’s or each and every spectator’s own immediate respond or more rational analysis. What is important is that I don’t want the audience to passively receive my art but to actively live with it.

In Rikka I was especially interested in researching the meaning of space as we experience it in our bodies. For Merleau-Ponty (2008, 171) to be a body, means to be united to a certain world: our body is not in space, but it is of it. Merleau-Ponty (2008, 343) talks about natural or primordial space instead of geometrical space: instead of the physical distance between myself and all things, “a ‘lived’ distance binds me to things which count and exist for me, and links them to each other” (Merleau-Ponty 2008, 333). We live at the same time in the common property world and in a private world (Merleau-Ponty 2008, 335). The two worlds are often separated as an external, which is geometrically and objectively received and explained, and as an internal, which is mental and individual and accessible only subjectively.

Contemporary visual art, as well as the performing arts, can purposely play with the rules of interior and exterior perspectives and also with the whole complex weavings of different point of views. Moreover, especially installation and performance art often shake the traditional separation of an object and a subject or a sender and a receiver by placing the work of art or a performer in a new relation with an audience. Rikka can be seen as a “promenade performance” or a total work of art which surrounds the spectator with multi-sensible ways; it invites the spectator to join in the instant experience of a shared moment.


Merleau-Ponty, M. (2008/1945) Phenomenology of Perception. (Trans. Smith, C.) London: Routledge Classics.


NOTE: This was a short description of my presentation. If you are interested in reading the whole paper, please contact me via email: raisa.foster (at)


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Raisa Foster
Raisa Foster

Dr. Raisa Foster (b. 1976) is an independent researcher/artist/educator. She completed her PhD in 2012 at the University of Tampere, Finland. She graduated as a dance animateur from School of Dance, Victorian College of the Arts (University of Melbourne) in 2006, and as a Master of Arts (visual culture) from Aalto University in 2015. Foster is experienced in directing and producing multi-discipline performances. Foster is mostly known from her artistic works with young men, Katiska (2008), Ketjureaktio (2012) and Rikka (2014). She has created her own artistic/pedagogical method Tanssi-innostaminen®, a pedagogical method The Pedagogy of Recognition as well as an arts-based research method eragraphy. Foster is currently interested in combining different artistic and more traditional qualitative research methods in her practice as an artist/researcher/educator and establishing her unique approach to performance art.

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Raisa Foster