Teun Vonk

The Physical Mind

Electronic Language International Festival

During a residency in Shanghai, Teun Vonk discovered that applying pressure to his stressed body eased his body and mind. In contrast to what one may expect, one does not register sensory input better in a heightened state of sensitivity, such as stress. As such states serve the evolutionary purpose to either fight or flight, they filter out any information that is irrelevant to preparing ourselves for either one of these responses. When experiencing such states, applying deep pressure to the body eases the body and allows the system that filters our perceptual stimuli to recuperate. This physical stimulation relieves the body from stress, after which it starts to perceive all information again.

“The Physical Mind” is Vonk’s attempt to let participants experience the relation between their physical and mental states by applying physical pressure to the body. The installation consists of two inflatable objects in-between which a participant lays down to subsequently get lifted up and be gently squeezed between the curves of the two objects. While the lifting creates an unstable feeling, this stressful sensation is soon thereafter contrasted with the secure feeling of being gently squeezed between two soft objects. Besides this experience for participants, the installation also evokes feelings of empathy amongst bystanders who witness participants undergo the experience.

This project is realized as part of the Summer Sessions network in a co-production of Chronus Art Center and V2_ Lab for the Unstable Media, with support of the Creative Industries Fund NL.

After a long time of researching the human body in his photography and film practice, Teun Vonk has chosen a radically different direction in his approach to this subject: instead of working primarily from behind a desk, he has made his own body and that of the viewer far more central.
Where before the mechanical installations served solely as means to instigate a physical interaction, the provocative constructions themselves are now at the center of the work. Vonk wants to draw attention to, instead of just documenting that behavior, to give visitors the chance to undergo the experience themselves. Those who expect a spectacle, however, will be disappointed. Vonk’s work is a subtle, focused reminder of what the body is and what it is capable of.