My research started from reading about human body perception and its transformation in Early Modern Times. I aimed to trace the origins of today's relationship with the body and its relationship with the material surrounding, focusing on the meaning of a body as a medium of the sensual experience in contemporary design discourse.
I wanted to understand why we tend to look at the body from the outside instead of an inner perspective. When did the body become an object and our relationship with it and experiences distant from selfhood? Where did the sense of wholeness is lost?
While reading about Descartes' mechanistic approach towards body perception, I stumble upon an English philosopher, poet, scientist, and writer Margaret Lucas Cavendish (1623 – 1673). She was an exception emphasizing vitality, sensory cognition, and the equal integrity of the physical body in human existence. She sought to question the mechanistic view by presenting an empirical view of the body and its relationship to the environment. M. Cavendish belongs to organic materialism, in which knowledge and senses are inseparable. She stated that the matter could think; therefore, the knowledge is embodied. This cognitive tactility and sensory pluralism of knowledge opposed Descartes' perception that the body is something other than human nature. The dualism of mind and body gives the mind a higher position against the misleading material world. Her play 'The Convent of Pleasures' (1668) and its detailed description of a material surrounding where the body could settle and enjoy the pleasures, I thought, can inspire a more sensitive and refined designer's look. It sensually awakens imagination and identifies possible human sensitivity to the material environment. Cavendish writes all the descriptions based on the sensations. This play was a reaction to the belief that women are more bodily in their nature and body rejection as an obstacle to pure thought or unreliable mediator between mind and material world.
In parallel, I started to take photos of worn-out places/ objects in Vilnius. This made me think about the stairs of the chapel of the Gates of Dawn. The worn-out stairs are literally by the human bodies, by their knees. The stairs weren’t there anymore. It was the first and perhaps most memorable place in my childhood to encounter unconditionally devoted believers and their physical practices: kissing the legs of the Crucifix and climbing the stairs on the knees of the gallery to the chapel. A cold smell of frankincense and myrrh, like the entrance to the chapel itself; revealed layers of paint on the feet of wooden Jesus Christ from kissing; polished, worn-out terrazzo stairs, wooden armrest, sticky like wax - excreted fats and liquids by the bodies.
I see these worn-out objects, places, surfaces as embodiments and signs of touch, of the worn, lived, used, prayed – surfaces and places that gather traces of a human being. Inspired by the material sensuality at the „Convent of Pleasures“ I use velvet and make it worn out in order to evoke carnal, alluring, and also repelling sensations.