Janos Sugar on Mon, 10 Jan 2005 01:01:51 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> (fwd) Phantom Limb Phenomena @ Goldsmiths College


   Phantom Limb Phenomena: A Neurobiological Diagnosis With Aesthetic,
   Cultural and Philosophic Implications.

   Goldsmiths College,  Saturday 15th, and Sunday 16th, January 2005.

   Warren Neidich, Department of Visual Arts, Goldsmiths College and
   Jules Davidoff, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College-
    Since its original description in 1866 by the Neurologist S.
   Mitchell, the phantom limb phenomena have attracted many scholars
   across a broad spectrum of fields. The phenomena describe the
   condition found in many amputees in which sensation of the removed
   limb persists. As such, it has served as a metaphor for many ideas in
   other fields beyond the scope of neurobiology and neuropsychology
   including philosophy, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, anthropology,
   literature, film and art. The purpose of this conference is three
   fold. First, it brings to the public's attention this fascinating and
   significant medical problem. Second, it not only looks objectively at
   the way that these phenomena have stimulated interest across such a
   wide variety of fields but also shows how successful it is as a
   inter-disciplinary signifier; an issue important for both art and
   science initiatives. Last, it hopes to open up possible new links
   between participating professionals who seldom have the opportunity to
   meet and discuss ideas at the limits of their own interests. It will
   be divided into four sections. They are in order of their occurrence:

   Day 1
    1. The Cognitive Neuroscientific and Neuropsychological Implications
   of the Phantom Limb
    2. The Phantom Limb as Cultural Probe
   Day 2
    3. Virtual Aspects of the Phantom Limb

   4: The Psychoanalytic and Philosophical Implications of the Phantom


   Participant Abstracts
      *       Nicholas J. Wade
    The Legacy of Phantom Limbs
    Evidence of loss of limbs, through disease, accident, warfare, or
   ritual has been commented upon since records began. With this legacy,
   it is remarkable that reports of phantom limbs entered so late into
   medical records. The experience of sensations in lost limbs provides
   an example of the ways in which novel phenomena can be interpreted.
   The first phase is a description of the phenomenon. Ambroise Par=E9
   (1510-1590) initiated medical interest in this intriguing aspect of
   perception, partly because more of his patients survived the trauma of
   surgery. This is followed by attempts to incorporate it into the body
   of extant theory. Ren=E9 Descartes (1596-1650) integrated sensations
   in amputated limbs into his dualist theory of mind, and used the
   phenomenon to support the unity of the mind in comparison to the
   fragmented nature of the body. Finally, the phenomenon is accepted and
   utilized to gain more insights into the functioning of the senses.
   This was achieved in the eighteenth century by many physicians, but
   particularly by William Porterfield (ca. 1696-1771), who described and
   interpreted the feelings in his own missing leg; he considered that
   sensations projected to the missing leg were no more remarkable that
   colours projected to external objects. Thus, the principal features of
   phantom limbs were well known before Silas Weir Mitchell (1829-1914)
   gave them that name. Despite the puzzles they still pose, these
   phantoms have provided perception with some potent concepts.
           *       Peter Brugger
    Phantom limbs and phantom bodies.
    Three stereotypes are apparent in popular conceptions of and current
   research in phantom limbs. First, there is a relative overemphasis of
   painful post-amputation phantoms. Second, phantom sensations are too
   unilaterally conceived as sensorimotor memories of a once functional
   limb. Third, there is a bias toward the investigation of phantoms of
   single body parts. My presentation will focus on non-painful,
   non-amputation phantom phenomena. Observed in people with a limb
   missing since birth, they defy an explanation in terms of
   perceptuo-motor memories. Targeting one half of the body
   ("hemiphantoms") or the entire body (as for instance in out-of-body
   experiences) they point to phantomization processes in their most
   general form. I try to delineate the scope of a proper "phantomology"
   (Stanislaw Lem) whose aim is to study the virtual reality of bodily
   awareness - from phantom limb to phantom body.

           *       David McGonigle, Brain Imaging Research Center,
   Edinburgh University
    The Body in Question: Phantom Phenomena and the View from Within
    The phenomenon of the post-amputation 'phantom limb' was first
   described medically by the French military surgeon Par=E9 in the 16th
   Century, and continues to attract both public interest and empirical
   study in the 21st. In this talk I will outline a history of studies
   and observations of the 'phantom menace', focusing on the recent use
   of non-invasive neuroimaging techniques to provide unique descriptions
   of the neurobiological mechanisms underlying it.
     *       Chris Frith,
    Awareness and automaticity in motor control: Is it my limb and who's
   moving it?
    Phantom limbs only seem mysterious if we think of the brain as a
   passive transmitter of knowledge from the physical world into the
   mind. But our brain is far from passive. It makes predictions about
   the world and then acts to see if these predictions are correct. In
   order to make these predictions our brain contains representations of
   where our limbs are now, where they will be after we make our intended
   movements and what these movements will feel like. But although our
   brain uses these representations we are not aware of all of them.
   Often what we are aware of is not the actual state of our body, but
   the predicted state. When the brain functions abnormally patients can
   experience limbs that are not their own, or limbs that are controlled
   by alien forces. I shall show how damage to the motor system can lead
   to all these strange experiences.
         *       Andrew Patrizio
    Artistic Responses to the Phantom Limb
    I geared my initial research towards curating an exhibition on
   phantom limbs. A gallery nearly took it on, which included my proposal
   that no objects were exhibited. (We would not borrow work from artists
   such as Douglas Gordon, Caroline Rye, Alexa Wright, Claude Heath and
   Sophie Calle.) That non-moment has now gone, but my inquiry continues,
   particularly with the notion that the phantom limb phenomenon can
   still be a means to bring research and new ideas into the cultural
    But am I, like others, (ab)using the phenomenon like many other
   intellectual and cultural activists? Phantom limbs are typical of many
   flowing and contested scientific discourses around at the moment,
   whose very elusiveness and ambiguity seems attractive in a
   multi-disciplinary kind of way. Rather than studying phantom limbs per
   se, I am currently asking - Does the exhibition as a format deal well
   with such subjects of an unsolved nature? Would my interest as a
   curator diminish if an explanatory model were accepted? How are
   artists working with the mystery, symbolism and science of phantom
   limbs, erecting a platform for creativity without dismantling the
    Ultimately, I see my participation in this event as offering a
   platform for an exhibition project to arise, in which a group of
   individuals, including artists, could explore the dynamic flow of
   research and ideas mediated around the concept of the phantom limb.
          *       Janet Sternberg
    Phantom limb: the press of history on the nerve of the moment.
    Each of us has the condition, someone or something no longer with us
   who nonetheless continues -- for better and for worse -- to feel part
   of us.Elizabeth S. Cohen
    The phantom limb phenomenon presents numerous conundrums for artistic
   practice. It has been a ground of exploration for me in my visual
   work. I will be presenting this artwork and speaking to the issues
   that inform this work rooted in questions provoked by the phantom limb
    A person's relationship to his or her body is radically altered by
   the loss of a limb. This loss also affects his or her relationship to
   space and being in the world. Where does one's body end and the world
   begin? With the loss of one's leg, for example, phantom sensations can
   replace the ground as his or her body's registration in space. An
   extraordinary physical phenomenon, phantom limb phenomenon is a potent
   metaphor and has far-reaching social and political implications.
    Phantom limb phenomenon, while rooted in physiological conditions,
   allows for a transformation or reclamation. When certain amputees wear
   their prosthetics, the phantom sensations seem to merge with it,
   animating it in a way and reaching to include it within the map of the
   body. In this way, phantom limb phenomenon speaks to the regenerative
   possibility of incorporation. For me, this is connected to Mikhail
   Bakhtin's grotesque body of medieval times. "The grotesque body is not
   a closed complete unit; it is unfinished, outgrows itself,
   transgresses its own limits. Life is shown in its epitome of
   incompleteness. The unfinished and open body is not separated from the
   world by clearly defined boundaries, it is blended with the world,
   with other bodies, with objects, with animals".

           *       Nicola Diamond
    Phantom Limb: Body and Language, Cultural Expression and Difference
    "The psycho-physiological equipment leaves a great variety of
   possibilities open and there is no more here than in the realm of
   instinct a human nature finally and immutably given" (Merleau-Ponty
   p189 1962)
    This paper will consider bodily expression as a form of culturally
   specific language. Bodily expression will be viewed as a form of
   language which brings emotion and meaning into being. There is scant
   'evidence' of phantom limb phenomena and the like in cross-cultural
   work, the analysis will where possible refer to relevant example and
   shall address the formation of the body schema and social plasticity.
          *       Stuart Brisley

    I should like to read from the novel Beyond Reason: Ordure which
   contains a section on body dismorphic Disorder and has at its theme
   the dream of Louise Bourgois`s amputated legs.
       *       Vivian Sobchack
    Real Phantoms/Phantom Realities: On the Phenomenology of Bodily
    This paper is a phenomenological autobiography that explores the
   complexities and dynamics of living the experience of what is called a
   "phantom limb" but what is, in embodied fact, not a phantom at all. An
   above-the-knee amputee for nearly a dozen years, I have experienced a
   changing bodily morphology--its shape related to time, function, and
   language. The paper's thick description and interpretation of this
   variable experience is meant, on the one leg, to highlight the
   specific experience of someone living a "phantom limb" but, on the
   other leg, to suggest that this experience is common to all human
   embodiment, even as it is conceived of as unimpaired and "all there."
   If there are such phenomena as "phantom limbs," then we all have them
   in one form or another. In sum, our subjective bodily imagination and
   objective images of the body, while related, are never completely
   coincident and cannot be compared along a binary of presence and
   absence, phantom and real.
       *       Andreas Weber
    Body experience as value experience. The phantom limb as paradigm for
   a biological meaning space.
    The phantom limb phenomenon as an experience of embodiment without a
   body continues to challenge biological and psychological theories of
   selfhood. In his influential theory of embodiment Merleau-Ponty viewed
   the phantom limb phenomenon as residue of the meaning space opened by
   interactions of body and world. Recent studies, however, have shown
   that phantom limb phenomena also occur with aplasia, where children
   are born with a limb lacking. These recent findings call for a
   primitive innate body schema, to some degree independent of the
   sensor/motor interaction with the Umwelt. In my approach I want to
   explore the phantom limb issue via the biosemiotic concept of an
   intermodal meaning space, or biological eidos. I will argue that there
   is a set of =93hard wired" categories embodied in the =93Bauplan" (von
   Uexk=FCll) of each organism, which is the ontogenetic goal, that a
   developing (and later an autopoetically self-realizing) organism is
   striving to. Deviations from achieving this goal are categorised via
   values, which are the primary units of perceptions. The phantom limb
   phenomenon, and more particular phantom pains, are hence instances of
   value embodied in functional units. They may classify as indications
   of =93needs" and hence as instances of re-embodied meaning. Also
   =93self" is already inscribed into the primary Bauplan of an organism,
   although during ontogeny (and later in any encounter with =93outisde")
   the exact boundaries of self have to be renegotiated in a reciprocal
   specification between needs of self-achievement and the outside
   impact. Perception is guided by value correlated to the realization of
   Eidos specified by the Bauplan. Several conclusions may be drawn from
   that: 1) Because perception is realized by means of value, self is not
   a model of body but rather a symbol of it. 2) As self functions
   symbolically, pain can be described as symbolic mediation of a
   disturbance in the maintenance of self. 3) The primary body schema is
   intramodal, specific qualities are projected after the primary value
   experience has arisen. 4) Conflicts between the innate Eidos and the
   realized body may occur. These are instances of the negotiation
   between =93self" and =93outside" in the meaning space. 5) As meaning
   arises symbolically from innate body schemata, from embodied
   experience and from reciprocal specification of that experience with
   the world, also the vice versa symbol process is necessary: meaning
   must be expressed via body. Value experiences have to be embodied to
   fully unfold their value load. This can be triggered experimentally,
   as e.g. in grievers taking habitual positions to lost persons.

           *       Arnold H. Modell,
    The sense of agency and the illusion of self.
    If one places phantom limbs within the context of the self, the
   phenomenology of these phantoms confronts us with some very
   interesting ontological questions regarding mental causation and the
   relation of illusion to the real. The self and phantom limbs do not
   exist in the physical world as they are unconsciously generated
   constructions of the mind/brain. In this sense they are
   neuro-psychological illusions .The sense of ownership of the body and
   the sense of agency are also illusionary aspects of the self.
   Illusions should not be discredited as false beliefs, as they may be
   necessary for survival. The phantom limb is viewed as a miscarried
   attempt to re-establish a sense of agency and unity to the damaged
   body image and the self.
      *       Eleanor Kaufman

    This paper examines the dualistic logic of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's
   Phenomenology of Perception, as it is elaborated through the
   opposition he makes between the phantom limb and anosognosia. The
   phantom limb--a sensation that an absent body part is still
   present--is distinguished from anosognosia--the sensation that a
   present body part is absent. Whereas the phantom limb falls into a
   seemingly straightforward representational logic, the experience of
   anosognosia is more complicated in that it is the representation of an
   absence. Yet for Merleau-Ponty, both phenomena remain trapped in a
   dualistic logic with no mediating term. I will suggest that
   anosognosia nevertheless approximates this mediating role and thus
   anticipates the breakdown of dualistic logic that we see in
   Merleau-Ponty's late work, in particular The Visible and the

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net