How to understand the term of mind-body, and what it means on practice, explains the artist Moira Williams


Talk of Yulia Kostereva with Moira Williams

May 06, 2020
Kyiv, Ukraine – New York, USA

Moira Williams’ often co-creative practice weaves together performance, bio-art, food, sound, sculpture and walking as a lived experience, while simultaneously connecting and creating opportunities for artists through curatorial projects. moira’s work aims to follow the logic of our symbiotic being in the world we share with bacteria, wild yeast, soil, water, animals, plants and one another. Works are meant to be lived, added to, shifted and moved over time and space – and may flow through moments to years.

Moira has graduated from Stony Brook University (New York) with a MFA degree in Performance and Sculpture and received a Cultural Studies Certificate for Spatial Politics. She also has a BFA degree in Sculpture and Media from the School of Visual Arts (New York).

Moira prefers to be called a person with (dis)abilities or Eco-abilities.

What does mind-body mean?

Mind body can be defined as the body from the first person perspective. In other words, it is about the experience of the person who lives that body, how they experience themselves integrating sensations in relation to their environment, and how this process informs movement. Our mind and bodies are connected, we are not just one singular experience, emotion, history. We are all of these, we are multidimensional, we have all these live experiences that are shared and can be legacies. We are not just people of color, white, we are not just disabled, we are not just dreamers… These labels are all socially constructed to break down interconnectedness and our mind body experiences that holds incredible knowledge that goes beyond and embraces the everyday being in the world.

It is social and it isn’t linear. It doesn’t go from point A to B it can be a zigzag, it be circular  and move slowly or rapidly – history, politics and trauma affects our mind body -it is social in multiple ways.

I think that in Ukrainian or Russian languages we don’t have a term mind-body or its analogue. If you will translate it, it will be connections between body and mind.

That is exactly what it is, but people think connection between mind and body is like: o, my mind tells my body. My brain tells my body this smells good.

I am a disabled person but I don’t only experience oppressions constructed in society but also the built environment.  I do also experience freedoms that I have hacked or reconstructed as ways to counter social constructs and built oppressions. My mind body lived experiences are interconnected and become a flexible knowledge.  I’ve learned to be able to break certain oppressions or rework them for myself  for surviving and being in the world. Many disabled people do this. Different Knowledge  or lived experiences are able to be brought forward and can be shared with other people. It is knowledge that can be part of the collective community and cause further hacking of oppressive systems or the internet to transform our world.

Can people be grouped or divided according some typical behavior of mind-body?

People have been oppressed  throughout history due to their mind-body beliefs and practices. Especially people and cultures practicing non westernized farming, medicine, languages. Each has been oppressed because they may follow non-linear thinking, have oral histories, multiple gods or goddesses and of course look different from what the colonizer believes in as pleasing. Language and writing are powerful and are often intended to oppress embodied ways of thinking as well as many other ways of doing. Mind-body can be oral history and storytelling, so people have been prejudiced against, categorized and suppressed. Because it is not an idea or language or way of being that is capitalistic or neoliberal, so it doesn’t have this kind of value in western ideology. Mind-body beliefs have value in other cultures though disability culture for one. But also subcultures that I know of, in the US arts like performance people, people who dance, musicians. I really believe that one’s mind can not be separated from the body. One’s post trauma, post legacy, memories can not be separated from your body. All of that is in the body.

Now I think that it is quite challenging to talk about mind-body in the situation, when you can’t feel it physically, like online space. You can’t touch it, you can’t smell it…

But you do have an experience that this so obvious whole thing that going on right now we’ve been looked at and watching that’s all going online is definitely affecting mind-bodies. Maybe Mind-body is a part of call and response. My gesture is calling to you to respond in any way, you feel. Maybe it is a good practice for all of us just to see what response is. What is a response?

Being human no matter what kind of body one has, means there are always multiple things going on in the brain, mind  and body simultaneously, whether moving in the outside social world or one’s interior world lived experience or mind-body is happening. For example, I have a memory from being a kid that can just pop up because of the smell of dry wood in the summer. That’s part of my mind-body. That experience takes me backward even though I’m living now. So how do we question these ideas that our bodies are just one permanent one dimensional thing traveling from point A to B?  Or, that we live in a singular frame? How can we just be seen in the frame, like if we are doing things online that is just one thing in the frame on a screen, right?  How is it possible that we are contained like an inner object of our visible body only? How can we talk about people, history, memory just as one solid nonmoving thing?

We are not one dimension and we are not independent either no matter what anybody thinks. We are interdependent. The question is how we can disrobe it? How do we explore ideas or notions that our lived experience is just one thing?

Following the dominant or prevalent believes people divide the mind and body because their feeling is still erased and their consciousness is still erased too in a way, because they are just consuming. They have all these other feelings that are going on, but they want to look like other people they want to belong. A kind of erasing people’s feelings, it’s just feeling of anxiety wanting to be part of a group.

I’m hopeful that going back to mind-body brings us back to empathy, awareness, and the way to comprehend of how normative realities are formed. It is the way of finding of possible disruptions and cracks, the way of mutual aid way of retracing.