Imagination of the body

Is it impossible to find political solutions by using the thinking and reasoning tools of conventional politics?

Albert Einstein is commonly attributed with the idea that problems cannot be solved by the level of awareness that created them but this is a widely held idea. For example writer Irit Rogoff says that we “need knowledge formations that can undo ground on which they stand” (Rogoff 2012).

In a similar vein, philosopher Raymond Geuss makes the case for political imagination beyond utopian ideals (Geuss 2010) from which I infer that there must (or at least could) be ways to imagine new political possibilities that are not necessarily fixed to a single future goal.

Finally, philosopher Alain Badiou suggests that the future philosophy depends on nonphysical domains – politics, science, art, love (Badiou 2012) and considered alongside the other quotes I conclude that we need to cultivate the non-philosophical in order to bring about new (political) philosophy. Most importantly I believe that these new knowledge systems need to be embodied because the body mediates all knowledge systems and importantly since the ‘translation’ is unpredictable it can introduce elements known, not with the conscious mind, but with the body.

Perhaps different ways of moving – for example dance, religious ritual or a creative shower action – can provide ways to imagine the body. They can offer new ways of physically being even before we can rationally conceptualise them.

Similarly, choreographic organisation of multiple people, can suggest, hint at or even create new ways of broader social or political organisation. For example I witnessed a structured improvisation in a church in West London in which the audience stood at the front of the church looking back at the dancers moving across, over and within the pews. Some members of the audience – friends from the improvisation scene later joined the dancing.

These two features – the orientation and the joining in – created a most radical experience of subverting the traditional positions and behaviour of spectators. Although I did not join in I read it as an unconscious physical metaphor that invited me to break these positions in other systems of order beyond the dance performance venue.

See also: Life practice


, A. 2012. Philosophy for Militants. London: Verso Books

Geuss, R. 2010. Politics and the Imagination. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Klien, M., Valk, S. and Gormly, J. 2008. Book of Recommendations: Choreography as an Aesthetics of Change. Daghdha Dance Company: Limerick.

Rogoff,, I. 2012. A Pantheon of Disenchantment . Paper presented at Weaving Politics, Stockholm 15 December 2012