How fast can I raise your pulse rate?

(Plus your own sensory-physiology points I will play you on!)*





































The specific points your perception is vulnerable to:

  1. It would seem innate in us to anthropomorphically impose upon any face-like image, but what triggers a state of physiological alarm in us is the visceral idea of intention we cannot help but ascribe to any entity such as pictured (and even if it be a rather silly drawing and print, as is the case with this panther!) So, in effect, we must consider the notion of an idea that is not conceptual, but rather strictly sensory-metabolic.
  2. It would seem human visual perception is acutely sensitive to jagged objects; but while you are indeed capable of controlling the tinge of fear or uneasiness this images strikes up in you, you are powerless to prevent your perception  from being vulnerable -initially- to it and the metabolic consequences it triggers in you. That is, you can control your acts subsequently to your feelings, but you are much less capable of actually controlling the feeling of your own on emotions: you are indeed at the metabolic mercy, so to speak, of your own phylogenetically evolved perception.
  3. A visual mannerism no doubt captivates, here in this image, the physiological intensity of our perception. And it is the human body, as well, that snaps us to attention, so to speak; specifically, the opaque quality of the figure´s eyes mesmerizes us, while the imagery of the human hand, in all visual forms and as a fist, is particularly invigorating to the human eye (and connotes, here, a sense of power and control.)
  4. We are especially sensitive to mannerisms (here dramatic!) involving human anatomy,  which is something you simply cannot help. But in this case, the attraction for the human eye is compounded by socioaffective  notions visibly nuanced, or at least suggested; and this is indeed one of effects the perception of children universally has over the human eye (and crucially, for adults). There is, then, an undeniable, added seriousness  our perception of this image metabolically conjures in us in regards, specifically, to the suggested relationship between both people. Photograph by Stanely Forman, 1975
  5. We tend to anthropomorphically impose upon the visual violence of the flame, as if it were in itself an animated, animal force; but a notion of moral urgency also springs to sudden metabolic effervescence in our perception of, specifically, the windows of the aircraft. This is because the imagery of windows of any sort (on the facade buildings especially) denote potential human presence; here the effect is enhanced in the form of a sequence of windows and the multiple human beings visually implicated, or at least potentially in the fury of our own sensory metabolism. And while the individual physiology conjured at this point of perception cannot be understood as conceptual, it does already contain a certain moral structure in terms of the fate a human group the individual´s somatosensory organism is powerless to ignore.
  6. In the case of physiological experience as of artistic reproduction, the individual´s sensory metabolism is conjured in a way that is slightly different from general visual perception, although one could argue all visual experience is necessarily aesthetic. We are evidently sensitive to the representation of human figures (in extreme; note here socioaffective nuance; the power over our sensory metabolism of the human face, and sense of rugged will of resistance that especially hands convey.) But it would seem specifically aesthetic physiological process requires of the individual´s participation that might very well imply what is really a form of imposition (although of course it is all true that the cognitive process of all visual perception implies a form individual imposition.) But the practical result for the perceiving individual, in regards to specifically aesthetic experience such as that triggered in this image, is ultimately a sense of subtle empowerment the individual may feel in the physiological-cognitive effort made in the act, activity –or ritual– of artistic appreciation; and it would also seem this same effort is not initially required in the same way in regards to general visual perception, or even in when we look at photographs. Artist: Ben Shaun
  7. Human experiencing of the moral could be understood as previous to our own individual sense of self; that in just the pre-conceptual, metabolic invigoration of our experiencing the need for the group´s embrace, we are already exercised in at the least the somatosensory (but concueptually unformed) notion of our own survival as really that of the group itself: and so it is in this image that, already at the physiological outset of just perception itself, we find ourselves at the very limit of human morality. And the phyisiological sense of dread and alarm that we cannot help but feel rising in us a we contemplate human absence, is probably something like the bodily origin of the possibility of human ethics.
  8. Once again, just the simple alignment of series of objects may be something that we can easily impose upon anthropomorphically (picture if you please a pine tree forest in which each individual, vaguely human-like tree can we easily confuse –in the space of our cognitive process– with, for example, invading soldiers, which is indeed the optical metaphor Shakespeare uses in Macbeth); but of course in Andy Warhol´s image we are -brutally and uncomfortably- held to the actual anatomy of missing feet. And you cannot help but feel an undeniable sense of grim dread rise in the cogntive-metabolic process of your own sense of self as you behold, once again, human absence.
  9.  It would  seem suddenly evident that no conceptual synthesis is actually needed to understand what human physiology and its really group configuration (of which individuality is just an appendage) naturally transmits, of itself, to the perceiving individual:  that is, perhaps no explanation is necessary in regards to this last image, for you may already viscerally know (or your body may already have perceived) the fact that this image is a Holocaust memorial as something like the very limit of moral possibility, a moral possiblity at least our contemporary culture as put at the center of its vital tension. What else is there, as far as your own somatosensory organism is concerned, beyond the circumstance of the human group? Image: Peter Eisenman´s Holocaust Memorial, Berlin





*For more loads of fun taking advantage of people’s preconscious, evolutionary configuration, see self-proclaimed social engineer Christopher Hadnagy and join in on his power ride over and through the somatosensory perception of other human beings!

Body, No Body

  1. In the Agatha Christie novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926), a country gentleman character is introduced as in fact by that time already an anachronism: the narrator explains that certain local gentleman of means who would travel  frequently to London were indeed important figures at the rural pubs of their day, because they could relate stories of London to the village folk; but of course this was before photographic magazines became popular and completely replaced the actual person and this one time living institution of sorts (photojournalism is considered to have originated in its more or less contemporary form as early as the 1890s.)

    2. The original living institution of the Fa’afafine can be understood from a structural standpoint as lending invigoration to sedentary human groups by drawing on psycho-physiological tensions present universally in individuals in terms of normative, non-normative sexuality. A tension, then, that helps to reinforce -specifically as physiological invigoration- the working stability of in fact the normative order itself, which ends up enduring thanks to such invigoration! In western society, however, such a function is not usually made logically explicit (according to whatever particular cultural semiotics), although the underlying physiological, and physiologically opprobic reality is the same. An example of a western cultural exercise in the structural function of the Fa’afafine can be observed in something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), in which the physiological and necessarily moral tension of conflicting sexual impulses in the individual are made explicit and turned into a kind of activity -or game- albeit of no immediate corporal consequences:

But the importance to human groups is by no means to eliminate or completely repress this tension, but rather to exploit it as resource towards sustained invigoration of, especially, the sedentary group, given that human physiology and the opprobic configuration of social individuality is a constant. And once again it would seem that originally nomadic human groups must accommodate the anachronism of their own physiological nature to posterior, sedentary circumstances: the importance of a moral social self becomes, in general but specifically as an aesthetic phenomenon, a resource of physiological, physio-opprobic invigoration in substitution of actual physical movement.

3.  Originally western, technologically-based anthropological experience has moved away from the corporal and into the purely physiological in many other forms: the question of a surveillance reality is in itself an induced state of physiological alarm that basically makes aesthetic one’s sense of bodily self; that is to say, the bodily is, in the end, displaced to a cultural periphery the center of which is really individual physiological-metabolic invigoration. And specifically, it is the individual’s opprobic sense of a moral self that is targeted by the camera’s lens, so that we may come to view and hold ourselves to an induced, extrinsic sense of self through something akin to what constitutes the internal, aesthetic force of how we believe we are seen through other people’s eyes:

Such an optical technique or manipulation ploy has been understood as a panopticon mechanism  based on the individual’s vulnerability to an opprobic sense of self that could also be conceived as an internal but actually extrinsic, aesthetic representation of, more than a bodily entity,  an ideally moral self.  But what is this but a a form of violently imposed bodily alienation,  and despite it structural practicality and even justification?

By contrast, less technologically imposed upon societies must hold on to the bodily, and given that the means of physiologically aesthetic representation are limited:

Case in point is, for example, the way the security of  banks in central American countries (among that of other continents, surely) is maintained through the ostensible presence of (heavily) armed guards, instead of through cameras; but the appeal here is to the individual’s sense, first and foremost,  of her own bodily integrity that in no way plays on  the fear of a third party sense of collective appropriateness. Here the flesh in question and up on the potential chopping block, as it were, is indeed directly your flesh, there can be no doubt about that! But, once again and is in the case of the original country gentleman and the original Fa’afine of Samoa, it is the reinforcement of bodily experience, not its displacement, that  seems to go against the grain of supposedly higher, technologically advanced civilized experience. However, the basic rule remains: that to value the bodily experience of others, one must embrace one’s own bodily entity; but this is the source of a particular kind of specific, technologically-advanced cruelty that, although ever present in culture in general (because indeed culture is and has always been in itself a movement away from the strictly corporal), is perhaps one of the hallmarks of post-industrial human experience (an idea constituting the foundation of the thinking of someone like, for instance, Foucault.)