We too are stuff, but as humans, we are no longer held to be alpha matter. We are composite animal, vegetable, mineral, and all the grey areas in between. We breathe, eat, absorb and share microbial communities with our surroundings, constantly transforming, in a state of becoming self, and other. We are in a process of osmosis with the physical materials of our environment, which intra-act, dynamically changing our micro-structure. Consciousness is embodied in this mutable mass; we think and act using our whole selves, and our behavior is affected by these kin-relationships with non-human bodies. Mind and matter are more enmeshed than we realise.
Through mirror neurons we reflect other humans, which effects physiological changes in us. Do we mirror our surrounding materials in this way? Going further, the extended mind thesis emphasizes the active role of the environment, objects and others in driving cognitive processes. Our minds not only overspill our brains, but our skins. When we mimic, ingest or act upon a gut feeling, in those moments, where is the border of what we are?
This PhD project travels the boundaries of our bodies through what we ingest and reflect to ask, how much do we become like the materials we spend time with, and how do they become us? I want to relate the science of materials, the engineering of structure, temper and behaviour, to the physical effects of mental ideas and affects, on the matter of the body. Our feelings and behaviours around food and cooking reflect our relationship with other matter. By cooking and eating together in companionship, can we think through materials and tools, making embodied knowledge through the shared transformation of edible material, and develop a more fully fleshed-out material imagination, a growing sense of relationship leading to better treatment of the other entities we live with.
Alan Kaprow wrote: "We may see the overall meaning of art change profoundly – from being an end to being a means, from holding out a promise of perfection in some other realm to demonstrating a way of living meaningfully in this one."