A Sentient Archive : Investigating the Body as Archive in Museum Motus Mori
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Archives, such as museums and libraries, preserve documents, photographs and objects that are testimonies of the past. We collect and store material traces to prevent things from disappearing. In our homes we keep things that remind us of our loved ones. But their particular movements and gestures are gone. How can we preserve human movement? Museum Motus Mori (2019) by choreographer Katja Heitmann (Hamburg, 1987) is a museum for human movement endangered of extinction. Heitmann proposes to consider movement as a type of knowledge that is stored in the body. This thesis contributes at theorizing how we can consider the body as an archive for knowledge. It investigates the underlying processes that result in the body becoming, as proposed by Linda Caruso Haviland, a sentient archive. To consider the body as an archive, requires us to rethink the meaning of both the body and the archive. The first chapter explores the western archival logic, which prioritizes the document as the primary medium through which we store past events. Furthermore, it explores how this logic manifests itself in the museum. In the logic of the archive, performance is considered to be ephemeral and, therefore, destined to disappear. Following Rebecca Schneider I argue that embodied practices, such as performance, can be a way of remembering and accessing history. The second chapter delves into the body as a knowing agent. Here I use Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theory on embodied knowledge to support an understanding of the manner in which the body stores, acquires and retrieves knowledge. From this perspective I then offer a detailed analysis of Museum Motus Mori to gain insight in the strategies it utilizes to preserve the movement archive. Rather than a static repository, I argue that the body is a sentient archive in motion that generates and stores knowledge. Focussing on the physicality of the body and the archive, this thesis aims to retrieve and validate the knowledge that is stored within the body.