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Trajectories of Desire: A Sociology of the Non-Rational

Krista Connerly

There are three bodies that are eminently connected: the territorial body, that of the planet and ecology; the social body; and finally the animal or human body" from this results the need to reorient oneself with respect to the other –the question of the neighbor and alterity. Reappropriating the body is not merely a question of choreography – but of sociography – relating to others and the world.

I feel the softness of the brown pants, this produces a vague emotion – not one that can be defined, but it contains elements both of longing (we are still separate!) and contentment (we are together). This releases a sigh (bodily). The thought (generated by the sensation of my body against his) occurs to me that we are collaborators, that we are both involved in this same time/place, and that outside of this time/place we engage in a series of regular activities with a degree of commonality. This, along with the sigh, increases my feeling of comfort. I match his breathing, we engage in the same breath. The breath becomes a relational object. My sigh (my comfort) is transmitted to him.

Over the past year, I have engaged in a series of experiments that have to do with the collapsing of personal and social space, as well as the mapping and negotiation of desire within that space. These experiments took the form of contact that I have made with people I have sat next to on various transit systems.

This project began unintentionally. I was on the bus one evening, and like everyone else was working to maintain my individuated space. The bus went around a corner, my attention to space waned. I should have kept myself upright, instead I leaned into the person next to me. He didn’t make any efforts to move away so I didn’t either. I found myself strangely comforted by this contact. I had the feeling that we were collaborators, participating together in something indefinable. I kept myself pressed into his side even after the bus straightened. I allowed myself to experience his body against me – the down jacket as if it was his skin. There took place an imagined molecular exchange between my body and his. I decided to do this every chance I had. Every time I took public transport, despite my inclinations at that point, I would make contact with the person sitting next to me. This would be done through touch, by pressing one arm and one leg against my collaborator.

This all took place within about 17 inches of touch. I was open to whatever form the resulting interactions would take. Both the intimacy and the strangeness of this project interested me. I maintained a log of these activities. There were times of course when I did not feel like touching or being touched, and times when my invasiveness weighed heavily on me. For a period of time however I engaged in this contact no matter what my present inclinations may have been. I was interested in forcing myself past the conditioned responses of appropriateness, individuation, and sterility. I thought about people entering our cultural delineation of space from a different perspective. Lygia Clark, a Brazilian artist known for creating sensual and tactile objects and experiences, expressed dismay at the bodily isolation common in our culture. Living in both Paris and Copacabana, she contrasted the two in how they affected the experience of her space, her body and her sense of self. She considered Paris to be her "concentration camp in terms of the body"; she would be devastated to return there after a visit to her home country of Brazil saying, "One of my greatest happinesses in being back in Brazil is to be able to walk in the streets of Copacabana and feel my body brushing other people’s bodies."

What does touch consist of? How does the physical body extend into the space around it? What and where are the spaces around our body that we consider ourselves? (I.e. the space between our shoulder and neck). How dense is our spatial self? How far does it extend into our environment? How do we negotiate our spatial selves and desire? How intimate can we make a stranger? How strange can we make ourselves?

Through these experiences I began to become more interested in creating a body that allows for interpenetration. I wanted to propose an open body in public space; a space which generally encourages our individuation and sterility. We walk around, all the while maintaining separate realms of experience. Interpenetration is frowned upon. And desire? Our ultimate tool in recreating a social body? It is used against us; problematized, seen, at worst as a psychological neurosis, or at best as a lack that we can fill through consumption. In the social arena one is not supposed to feel desire unless that space is constructed specifically for it, which generally means it is constructed to channel that desire into a linear form. However, by engaging in our own forms of sociography — particularly a sociography of desire and the non-rational – we can reclaim our body of interpenetration and desire.

To begin this sociography we need to establish awareness of the trajectories or movements that exist between people, things, and places. These trajectories exist even in the most common situation. Any room full of people is a room full of breathing people which is a room full of paths, of movements and inter-penetrations, a room full of sensuality, a room full of invisible caresses both external and internal, a room full of exchange. You are held in an embrace made up of others’ breath; you breathe in the caresses. You exhale a caress, or maybe a sigh, a sound accompanying your breath – another vibration that penetrates those around you. On a very practical level, breathing offers an opportunity for interpenetration and molecular exchange. Likewise, sociography means engaging with the world, moving freely through it, participating in relations with strangers or unfamiliar objects as well as people and things we have created intimate relationships with. It means letting the world have its way with us.


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