Seminar Langarts 2018: Art and bodily, vital experience, a comparison between the arts in a Western /Eastern perspective

Christine Vial Kayser's picture
January 12, 2018 to December 14, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Philosophy, Dance and History of Dance, Asian History / Studies, Anthropology



The concept is related to the pragmatist intuition of William James, taken up by John Dewey that the mind depends on the body which is, in the words of Richard Shusterman, "the eye of the cyclone, the origin of the coordinates, the place which is constantly emphasized in [our] experience" because "the world we experience comes up at all times with our body as center, center of vision, center of action, center of interest".[1] Rodin's thinker, using muscular tension, and a movement towards the inner self –the mouth biting the bent hand, as a metaphor of the tension of the mind at work (the work depicts Dante, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell meditating on his work) offers a striking illustration of these theories.


The seminar will focus on the relation between the body and mind both in language (theme1) looking at metaphorical traces of body orientation and biological dynamics and in visual works (them 2)  looking at notions of empathy, mirror neurons, engram, semantic marker of emotions, kinesthesia, art and desire (to know, to be powerful, to exist as a subject ...). The main theoretical supports are phenomenology (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Gallagher) and pragmatism (notion of agency, subjective power postulated by John Dewey, George Mead, and soma-aesthetic by Richard Shusterman) as well as theories of gender that emphasize the vital issues for the individual to resist norms. Neuroscience’s contribution to understanding the neural link between self-awareness and movement (movement of the artist, movement of the viewer) will also be examined. Practical cases will deal with poetic and literary creation, dance, music, visual arts, architecture and mediation, especially in museums.


Year 2018: Aesthetics and kinesthesia.

For the year 2018, we shall study the encounter between gestures in art but also in work (praxis) as modes of self-expression, whose clues are found in the arts, in language, but also in philosophy, particularly in the apology of everyday life by Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefèbvre. These preoccupations for everyday gestures are similar to those of Asian philosophies, while at the same time differentiating themselves from them.[2]

Practical information

The seminar will take place monthly from January to December 2018 on Friday from 10 am to 1 pm at the BIS-Sorbonne library, 17 rue de la Sorbonne, Paris 75006 (metro Luxembourg/Cluny Sorbonne). It will be filmed and placed on Langarts website. 


Session 1 (January 12) The body as a support of conscience

Introduction to the seminar; theoretical presentation of the Feldenkrais method and practical introduction (Chantal Mir, Geste en mouvement association - 15 euros / participant).


Session 2 (March 2) The human body as a measure of the world 
Séverine Bridoux-Michel, ENSAP Lille, explains the principles of Modulor for Le Corbusier, its relationship to the body and music; Christine Vial Kayser evokes the theories proposing that architecture is a representation of the human body (notably of Wölfflin) and Hyeonsuk Kim proposes on the contrary a reading of the installations Bill Viola and Yasuaki Onishi, as highlighting that the space is not human. The confrontation of the three positions on the same session will underpin the centrality of man in nature, in Western thought.

Session 3 (April 13) The movement of the body at the origin of writing 
Bernard Chambaz, novelist, for his book in search of inner peace, written while traversing the United States by bicycle (Dernière nouvelles du Martin-Pêcheur, Flammarion, 2014) ; Julien Prévieux, artist, creator of Patterns of life, prix Marcel Duchamp 2014 ( 

Session 4: (June 15) Mirror neurons at work 
Denis Plassard, dancer in Lyon, and designer of an audioguide for the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon to dance in front of the works and Sophie Onimus-Carrias, head of the cultural department at Musée des Beaux-arts in Lyon; John Onians, author of Neuroarthistory, From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki (Yale University Press, 2008).

Session 5 (November 30) The body makes the mind dance 
Marie Laureillard, sinologist and historian of art, MCF Lyon 2, on writing as an inner dance; Biliana Vassileva, Lille 3, author of numerous texts on the body in dance and its relation to language. Einav Katan-Shmidt, dancer, who works on a neuroscience approach, based in Berlin.

Session 6 (December 14) Pragmatism in Asia 

Pr. Konô Tetsuyda, philosopher, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, "Kata in Japanese philosophy”; Annie Claustres, University of Lyon 2, "Kata in the art of performance in Japan"; Barbara Formis, philosopher, MCF in aesthetics and theory of art, Paris 1, co-founder of the Laboratoire du geste, the concept of soma aesthetics.


The organizers

Langarts is an inter-university research group aiming at identifying the aesthetic experience in the creation and reception of the arts, in a dual approach, both theoretical and experimental, interdisciplinary and comparative, between the arts, and between Asia and the West (see

Christine Vial Kayser, co-director of Langarts, Museum curator and Assistant professor with IESA, independent researcher with CREOPS, designed this seminar. For the year 2018 the seminar is co-directed with Biliana Vassileva, lecturer at Lille 3, a member of Langarts.

Bis-Sorbonne is an inter-university library of Paris-Sorbonne. It organises conferences in its beautiful premises.



[1] William James, « L’expérience de l’activité », dans Id., Essais d’empirisme radical. Marseille, Agone (2005). Cité par Richard Shusterman, Le corps et les arts : le besoin de soma-esthétique, Diogène, 2011/1 (n° 233-234), p. 9-29. En ligne

[2] Yuedi Liu and Carter Curtis, Aesthetics of Everyday Life: East and West. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2014.