Bailey, Rowan (2016) Sculptural Plasticity and the Brain. In: Approaching the 3s: The spatial, the social, and the sensorium, 2nd - 7th October 2016, University of the Applied Arts, Vienna. (Unpublished)

This case study will address the diffractive patterns of exchange shaped between sculptural formations of plasticity in the context of the phenomenon of the ‘brain-body-in-culture’: a double condition where formations and transformations of human and non-human activity are in continuous intra-action. Three examples - aided by the writings of Catherine Malabou and Karen Barad - will provide instances of and for a diffractive mode of spectatorship, where space, sensorium and the social are cut through with new acts of plastic formation in the brain.

The first example considers Socrates’ cataleptic condition in The Symposium. Read through what Malabou describes as ‘explosive plasticity’, these ‘fits of abstraction’ are conditions of possibility for synaptic spacing in the brain. Catalepsy and the wounded are bound by an ethics of ‘regenerative repair’ – the sculpting and re-sculpting of the brain in the aftermath of a rupture. The second example explores the intra-active mattering of the universe in Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, in particular, Antoine Roquentin’s encounter with a pebble – a nonhuman iteration. This exposure to an existential futurity – the death-drive of the Anthropocene – where plastics and plasticity are caught in a battle between the brain and the environment. The third example explores walking and migration in the new hinterlands of the twenty-first century. Francis Alÿs’ work provides one avenue of exploration into public space and the intra-actions forged between history, culture and migrations of the mind. Sculptural thinking is enacted in and through a morphology of the line in the landscape. Whether urban, rural, physical or digital, the environment shapes our plastic ability to receive and produce form. The social and sensorial is shaped by our encounters with space.

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