Below I present a summarised and schematic analysis of the material produced during the interviews. The three participants are referred to as “A”, “B” and “C”, and the two interview sessions as 1 and 2. For instance, “A1” refers to what interviewee A said in session 1. The assistants´ comments are mentioned separately. Two of the interviewees spoke English all the time. One of them used another language in session 1, but she kindly transcribed her comments into English afterwards. In the transcription I occasionally corrected words if the intention was obvious (the corrections are in square brackets).
My questions in interview session 1 focused mainly on the first research hypothesis, whereas session 2 dealt more with my second, more methodological hypothesis. According to the main hypothesis, the three factors identified by Uexküll do not exhaust the experience of the tick. In between these semantically meaningful factors are areas that are ambiguous in how they appear, but are no less real to the one who conceives of them, be it a human or a tick. According to the second hypothesis, the dispersed spatio-temporal structure of the embodied exercise does not prevent the birth of the non-human experience. The gaps the Tick Variations imply stimulate the synthetic power of corporeal imagination, which aims at gathering the dispersed elements into a meaningful whole - in this case a virtual tick body.
The talk of the participants in interview session 1, which was based on imaginary recollection, was intimate and associative, whereas their comments were more discursive in session 2, which was discussion-based. The participants were more inclined to speak in the first person in session 1, and at moments also in the present tense, as a “human tick” so to speak, whereas in session 2, they reconsidered everything from the outside perspective and in the past tense.
1. What makes the world of a tick?
Related to the first hypothesis, I organised the output of the participants into three categories, concerning their surroundings, and the corporeal and intentional nature of their experience.
a) The surrounding elements
First of all, it seemed that the three participants were sensitive to the three sensory registers identified by Uexküll: smell, tactility, warmth. In this case, the sensitivity was not restricted to the manifest behaviour of a tick (such as the feel of the hair, the smell of the butyric acid and the warmth of the liquid), but also concerned the surroundings of the practitioner, the heat of the sun and the feel of the long grass, the presence of which in the research situation was also significant from the human point of view. However, the sense of these surrounding elements also underwent a certain transformation, which made them feel unusual:
It was the warmth of the situation that made it somehow differen[t?], somehow not that comfortable, but somehow soft and simple, a kind of strange feeling. And I […] think that experience would have been different if there would not have been the sunshine and the warmth. That somehow gave it, it separated it from my daily experiences, somehow, although it is, of course, a lot of sun and the warmth here around. But somehow in that occasion, it was a kind of special warmth. (B1)
I am simply in the sun… I am a creature of the sun and the grass. The sun burns. All is one temperature. (A1)
This exceptional experience was regarded as significant and enjoyable:
For me, the most enjoyable was like to being the surrounding, a part from [of?] the interrelations, being the surrounding, and the sun, heat and really just being there like a nice enjoyable exposure. That is what I felt [and that] was the most remarkable experience to me. (A2)
This special way of being, which connected the participant´s body intimately with its surroundings, also had a pacifying effect:
I felt calm. That´s the main feeling that I had during that those variations, surprisingly calm. (B1)
I also felt that this warmth caught something peaceful in that experience. Inside it would have been quite essentially different. (B2)
The surrounding factors were also conceived in temporal terms, as an experience of being “tightly” within “a moment”, or as an experience of “intensive emptiness”:
I got a quite strong experience when we were rehearsing so to speak, and the paper exercise [Variation 1], when the paper was on my face and I closed my eyes. I felt quite closed and a kind of tense. And then when I did not know what was coming and [was] piercing the pencil on the paper [..] and then the liquid came to my mouth, I could not kind of hear anything at that moment that was outside. That was kind of intensive close things happening. It was a very tight moment. When doing the next time, when I knew what was coming, it was not a kind of magical moment anymore, unfortunately. Once in a lifetime, so to speak. (C2)
Somehow while doing those tasks when there were moments when I kind of did nothing, it was those moments that were kind of empty… perhaps when I was able to concentrate and did not know at all what I do next, in those occasions, there inside those tasks, it was most intensive […] Between the variations it was not at all that intensive, and I was kind of thinking concentrating [and] caring for [about?] the next assignment… so there is variation in inten[sity]. And it was clearly the most intensive in the moments when I was able to not to think what I will do next… (B2)
At times the participants were also disturbed by the surrounding elements, notably those that occasionally turned their focus back to their personal state of mind: the presence of the video camera, the unnatural feel caused by the sheet of paper, the loss of concentration caused by the shift from one variation to another, the voice of another interviewee, the feeling of being in a hurry caused by the oppressive weather conditions, or the facilitator´s question, whose point the participant did not quite get. Disturbing factors such as these were registered in both sessions, but according to the feedback they did not compromise the overall impact of the experiment.
b) The corporeal element
Several times, the experiment brought out aspects related to the corporeal specificities of the tick. These corporeal experiences were both external (concerning its way of encountering its surroundings) and internal (concerning how the creature felt from within). The variations caused momentary and partial alterations in the bodily conceptions of all three participants. They were able to perceive the tick body as “mine”:
My body is ahh… black and tight and tense and I am ahh… I am being still… (C1)
The proboscis is my strongest body part. All my strength is concentrated there. In this proboscis. In this part. (A1)
So my feeling is rather concentrated on my mouth, and that means also that sucking thing.
It somehow, the rest of my body is centred around that sucking thing, mouth. (B1)
To absorb/suck/being completely absorbed/sucked in. Imbibing and being imbibed. (A1)
A life between being empty, satisfied and overly filled. (A1)
Then I feel the fur in my, in my one limb. I scratch, I try to reach it through my whole body and draw it towards me. (C1)
The liquid is warm. It fills gradually my whole body. Body is like a whole and I start to flow on that liquid, in that l. And on that l. My body becomes… I share, I come a part of this liquid, and it ends, and I am full. I just give up and I let my body to drop down to go to the ground, and I am flowing and aaa… (C1)
c) The intentional element
The participants were also able to transform their human desires into the presumed “desire” of the tick and orient themselves accordingly. Even though the question concerning the tick´s desire that the facilitator posed during interview session 1 strongly directed the participants’ imaginations, they could easily assimilate it into their partly non-human perspective.
Then I wanted to go there. I am this. Wanting-to-roll-there. Stinging into it. There is a disgust/repulsion, when I smell it. And this revulsion is bound with lust to roll into [the] critter. To find the spot. The hair. While I smell I want to sting. (A1)
I just want to dock, become part of this other and then again… To be satisfied. (A1)
It desires to get suck something in its mouth. For me, it really was my mouth. Regardless whether tick has anything such that can be called [a] mouth, but in this case it clear was that I wanted to suck something in my mouth and that was a kind of object of desire there. (B1)
From the human point of view, losing one´s human intentions could feel like a “relieving” experience. That made the transformation itself desirable:
It´s a kind of relief to forget human for a while and reaching back to, at least to some part, to [the] animal side, which I guess there is somewhere in us. So, I felt that [it´s] a kind of comfortable to be something else, at least a small part of it for a while. (C2)
2. About the logic of the embodied imagination
The second interview session seemed quite clearly to support my second hypothesis concerning the capacity of the human body to create an integral and meaningful whole out of spatially, temporally and medially heterogeneous and dispersed factors:
I think that I managed to combine them in my imaginary memory. (B2)
Yes, I was able to combine them. Actually, I thought in the first place why these experiments are separated in the beginning, since it seemed that we were doing the same thing three times. (C2)
For me, it was experientially the most intense part [of] this synthetic experiment, and taking almost like bits and pieces in single… and then this was the moment, where I felt I kind of synthesized as a tick… [Facilitator: Here? (in the courtyard)] Here, here, not there [in the backyard]. (A2)
Concerning the interview session. When I was describing the experience, I [it?] also intensified my embodiment in a way that I start to [feel] the tick´s blackness, hardness, stillness [and] how it is waiting… (C2)
In session 2, one participant made an interesting point about how the synthetic power of the corporeal imagination worked during Variation 2:
Add to the question [one] about synthesizing. Remarkable, that I was able in hindsight take [the]experience of my hand and touching the carpet as an overall body experience, and [I] kind of imagine myself being [my] hand, and so the imagination makes corporeal what once was a part of mine [me?]. In the imagination, it became the whole of mine[me] and it was interesting. That I was capable of sense [sensing] something like that. (A2)
This retrospective recollection seemed to complement the previous experience and bring out observations and ideas that were not conscious during the variations.
I was wondering how strong the experience of sucking was, and it kind of surprised me. And then, as a person, I started to think about the reasons for that, and it came to my mind that actually we have done quite a lot of sucking at the very beginning, and it might have something to do with that. It takes me back to my infancy, not to the tick[ness]. But that was not in my mind while doing the experience. This reflection only came to my mind [here]. (B2)
This participant points out the obvious corporeal tropes that humans can share with the tick. Is the animal “in us”, as another participant mentions above, or are we projecting human experiences onto it? I suppose we are not able to make a distinction here, and this also indicates something essential about the logic of the corporeal imagination. I return to this point in Conclusions.
As one of the assistants rightly noted, another register of human association relates to gender and sexual behaviour, concerning actions such as “penetration”, “sucking” and other related positions. In my experience, these connotations are hard to avoid while experimenting with non-human phenomena, as the bodies are at their limits in every sense of the word. Corporeal enjoyment always has gender-bound, sexual and erotic aspects that cannot be avoided. As such, these aspects are open to the same kind of semantic variation as all the other possible aspects of the experience. They may be comical, enjoyable, exciting, as well as disturbing, violent or sexist, for example. The more aware we are of them, the more we are able to deal with them ethically, to choose how much attention and importance we give to them, and what we are, in the end, researching in each particular case.
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