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  • Writer's pictureSiiri

Design Studies: Final Thesis part 3 – Research 2

Dearest reader,

Welcome to the second part of my thesis research where I will be focusing on bodily knowledge, dance and somatics. This part aims to provide me with tools and theories that enable me to find and develop ways to incorporate bodily knowledge and dance in a creative sketching process when designing an haute couture bag collection.

(Note: this is a simplified version of the research where I try my best to talk about different theories briefly but informatively.)


Part 2 of


I have chosen to study bodily knowledge and somatics in this part of the research because I feel they will best serve the creative sketchbook process of designing this bag colletion.

Bodily Knowledge

Simply put, the roots of bodily knowledge and learing through body are in the decline of cartesian dualism, a traditional school of western philosophy that sees body and mind as separate and gives mind a superior, rational role in all of our actions. However, this line of thought has been questioned since the 19th century and in the light of current cognitive science it has been proved that mind and body are interconnected making mind an embodied consciousness that forms our ideas of reality and sense based on perception and bodily experiences in the world.

Therefore, bodily knowledge is knowledge derived from non-symbolic prosesses such as obsevations, sensations, sentiments and emotions which act as ingredients of symbolic, literal knowledge that is formed collaboratively between preliteral and literal consiousness. Thous, bodily learning happens in the whole body and between social and physical human interactions where action is in the core of learning that can be physical and/or inner movement. The goal is to create, use and conceptualise bodily knowledge through action and reflection forming poetic, metaphorical and narrative language.


From a design perspective bodily knowledge is an important source of information since we not only design for bodies but design as bodies utilising our unique experiences in this world which we have precieved and learned through bodies. From learning by doing to intricate ways society and culture shape our perception of bodies, design is in the core of the conversation about body and how our bodies extent themselves through clothing.

There is, however, one art form that utilises bodily knowledge perhaps most or, at least, most consicously out of all the arts. Namely, dance is an art form based solely on bodily knowing and learning through movement making it an ideal compantion for design whose creations always change movement. Because dancing is inherent in all humans, its primitive power of expression combined with intented shapes and music offer an infinite scope for learning about subjective feelings and experiences.

Since dance and design are both intimate and visual, happening within and on the surface of our bodies, their connection and relationship surely is worth investigating.

Important philosophical figures on the problem of mind and body connection with whom I got familiar during my investigation are John Dewey and Maurius Merleau-Ponty as well as Maxime Sheets-Johnstone and Michael O'Donovan-Anderson.

Sources on bodily knowledge

Experiential Learning

Experiential learing is connected to bodily knowledge and learning through body because it utilises both concrete experiences and reflective thinking in an endevor to understand phenomenon, find new viewpoints and ways to do. Moreover, experiemental learning draws from the ideas of John Dewey who argued that action and thinking are not separate.

A way to review and understand experiential learning is through David Kolb's model of learning where action and thinking intergrade in a reflective manner.

Kolb's Model of Learning

Sources on experiential learning


What Is Dance?

“What happens to our body attitudes as we consider ourselves dancers? Filtering daily life through an intelligent, informed physicality takes us beyond the ego, fame and commercialism of dancing. In this way, everything we read or do has relevance to living a creative life: the clothes that move with our bodies, the light on our skin, and the words on this page. We may be doctors, therapists, parents, pastry chefs, organic farmers, teachers or ceos of thriving companies, but our embodied dancer-selves are alive and well - even if we never put a foot onstage. Life, in essence, is our ground.”

– Andrea Olson, The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making (2014)

Dance is a visual and kinestic art where you learn to see and feel movement. In other words, dancing is moving the body in a rythmic way to music in space in a way that expresses feelings and ideas, releases energy or simply gives joy. Therefore, dance is both a highly choreographed art as well as a natural impluse. What is essential to understand about dance is that body is its instrument and movement its expression where body and mind work in cooperation. Furthermore, dance always happens certain settings which require body, action, space, time and energy.

Sources on dance
  • MasterClass. (2021). History of Dance: Universal Elements and Types of Dance. MasterClass.

  • Mackrell, J, R. (n.d.). Performing Arts: Dance. Britannica.

  • Olsen, A. (2014). The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dance and Dance Making. Wesleyan University Press.

  • H’Doubler, M & Brennan, M. (2005). Dance: A Creative Art Experience. University of Wisconsin Press.



"Body movement is not a symbol for expression, it is the expression."
– Irmgard Bartenieff

Somatics is a series of mind-body techniques used in dance that focus on observing, listening and interpreting feelings and sensations coming from the body as well as the outside environment. Like bodily knowledge somatics also decline cartesian dualism and aims to treat body as a whole. Key element for all somatic movement are novel learning environment, sensory attunement and augmented rest.

These are the somatic methods I will take advantage of in this design process:

Bartenieff Fundamentals

Explores the relationship between inner and outer environments, body patterns, personal expression and psycho-physicality.


Movement visualisation without moving.

Alexander technique

Observes abstract sensations of muscle movement.

Sources on Somatics


Feelings Right Now

Althought, research has been interesting after five weeks of reading books and processing information I feel more than ready to move on to the sketching phase. And even if I am not ready, mentally I just need to do something other than reading all of the time. Of course, sketching is another form of research so that never ends, but it is more about analyzing, processing and personal reflection, but more about that in the next post. In short, it has been interesting so far, however, I feel nervious about the sketching and wonder how on earth I manage to move all of this information into concrete visual form. Well, all I can do is try! Moreover, I feel like the thesis process is going to get much more interesting for you to follow from now on since it gets more visual and I will share some of my dance session with you.


Yours truly,


What was the most interesting topic in this post which you would like to know more about?

  • 0%Bodily knowledge

  • 0%Experiental learning

  • 0%Dance

  • 0%Somatics

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