Sascia Pellegrini

Sense Amplification: A Phenomenology of Time


This research consists of first-hand experiments designed to call attention to, inspect, and elaborate on questions related to perception of the various species of time (mechanical, integral, physical, psychological, cyclical); space (as a field of human perception); and the human body (as a sensuous temporal object). Using my own body as a field of investigation, I designed four experiments to understand how the senses relate to time and its (peri) perception. Situated within the conceptual-performative framework of an extended intermedia composition, each of the four experiments focuses on one specific sensory experience (sight, hearing, touch, etc). Each also creates the conditions/situations in which sensory input can be enhanced and elongated in time.

This practice-based study began with William James’s notion of the specious present (the duration of time in which one’s conscious perceptions are considered to unfold in the present), Edmund Husserl’s distinction between the duration of perception and the perception of duration, and Husserl’s (and, later, Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s) theorisation of protention and retention. These lenses are used throughout the thesis to address the central question: how does amplifying, expanding, and intensifying sensory reception-response enable and/or alter states of consciousness with which the present is perceived?

Alongside the physical experiments, the work of filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Maya Deren; butō choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata; writers Jorge Luis Borges and Marcel Proust; and composer Alvin Lucier – widely considered as artistic expositions of human (temporal) perception – was used to scrutinise the human perception of time and changes that may be imposed on the subjective flow of consciousness. The experimental method was used to bypass the limits of language, traditionally employed to bring the processing of sense-phenomena into focus.

My temporal experiments in film, dance, literature, and music rely on the feedback of my own body to explore the perceptual field. I consider this method of ‘sense amplification’ to be the main contribution which I make to research into the phenomenology of temporality. Experience in the course of this research suggests this methodology could be applied to a broad range of sensory input, and that, while the scope of this inspection is limited by practical concerns, many further applications can be employed in future.

Diary of the Research

A Diary comprising more than one thousand entries has accompanied the doctoral research. The Diary consists of sketches, drawings, videos, images, sounds and a Book of Touch: these are to be considered further experimentations, offshoots, and ramification of the main body of the research. Below a few examples of the entries which have been posted daily on my personal webpage.