Movement and Moment: in between Discreteness and Continuity

This paper was presented at Bodies in Movement: Intersecting Discourses of Materiality in the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, 28-29 May 2011.

It will be published in a special issue of the Somatechnics Journal, University of Edinburgh Press entitled Somatechnics of Movement early 2014.

Movement and Moment: in between Discreteness and Continuity

Kathleen Coessens and Anne Douglas


This paper explores a paradox. We breathe in, and then out. We walk by making paces, alternating left and right feet. Walking and breathing are made up of discrete intervals of space and time, involuntary actions of the living body, sustaining continuity. Continuity in movement is constituted by its opposite. The necessity to transpose the weight of our body between first the left and then the right foot creates motion. By analysing these discrete movements, it becomes possible to transpose them into languages of signs and symbols – notation, drawing, documenting what has happened to inform what might happen. Creativity intervenes, allowing us to vary the patterns playfully, because it is possible to do so with this kind of notational knowledge or trace. Languages of form building in art thereby constitute an effective, visual, embodied method of understanding how the body moves: a complex dialogue between gravity’s pull towards stasis, the centre of the earth, countered by the urge to move from that centre into motion, into life.

We will take two examples of artistic processes: one in the visual arts and the other, musical performance to explore how notational practices such as scores that are used by artists in the process of developing their work, can and does inform understandings of embodiment more generally.


Prof Kathleen Coessens is a philosopher and musician, whose research is situated at the crossings of science and art, human creativity and cultural representations, looked at from an embodied, epistemological and philosophical point of view. She is currently professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science) and a Senior Researcher at the Orpheus Research Centre in Music, Ghent

Prof Anne Douglas is a visual artist and director of the On the Edge research programme at Grays School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Her research focuses on the dynamic role of the artist in the public sphere through a range of issues including artistic leadership; contemporary art and remote and rural cultures; the aesthetics and ethics of working in public.

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