Drawn chorus : the creation of embodied drawing processes responsive to the detrimental impact of human-produced sound on humpback whales : an exegesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy, Fine Arts, College of Creative Arts – Toi Rauwharangi, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Drawn Chorus is an embodied speculation on how “sound” is experienced as pressure from a whale’s perspective. At the heart of this methodological drawing study is my investigation of an intuitive space between “perceiver and perceived”, in which I listen, imagine and speculate on a whale’s experience of human-generated sound as it interferes with the natural sound environment of oceanic space. Sound is essential to these marine mammals; it is a primary means of communication. Noise travels through the sea as pressure, and it travels further in the sea than in the air. Through the development of drawing research processes that tune into bodily, sensory and gestural responses to ocean acoustics, a visual language for the unseen sound forces experienced by whales has evolved. Relational encounters with science and nature played a role in this production of knowledge.
For this research, I have evolved a multifaceted visual language for pressure through attunement to: 1) NIWA scientists researching the impact of human-generated sound, 2) my own direct sensory experiences from swimming with whales in their wild habitat, and 3) my own speculative and imagined responses to environmental stresses. In my drawings I have intertwined the journey of a line with my own sensory and intellectual understandings of the complexities of pressure experienced by whales in compromised marine environments.
What knowledge does a methodological investigation amongst the “thick flesh” of the “world” between “the body sensed and the body sentient” (Merleau-Ponty 1968, 138) reveal? My embodied drawing methodology inhabits a critical space which contributes to aesthetic speculation on the whale’s experience of human-generated sound. For this thesis, Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1968) provides a useful conceptual and theoretical entry point to an embodied understanding of the space in-between the “seer and the seen”. This embodied research takes place in the perceptual space of the “chiasm”; Merleau-Ponty’s theories of “intertwining” are relevant here because they explore a crisscrossing or exchange between the sensing body and sensed thing. I have reimagined this intertwining within the chiasm as a drawing process.
Donna Haraway’s concept “making kin” is also crucial because it unfolds contemporary theory on entering the “troubled contact zone” or “troubled patterning” between human and non-human. This thesis also introduces the term “embodied pressure” to describe the key processual drawing investigation that evolved during this research. Through embodied understanding of environmental pressures this research explores the body as a site of cognition to address specific ecological concerns. Thus, locating this research in the field of contemporary ecological art practice.