Ancient Technology: The Role of the Body and Senses in Communicating Rapid Cultural Change

Claire van Rhyn

Claire van Rhyn research image

Game II: Being Relational Workshop, 2016. Image by Claire van Rhyn


My practice-led research looks at how we use our bodies and senses to transmit the culture that we are a part of. It is an investigation into how we experience and make sense of our culture, and in turn enact the culture. The term culture here is not intended to refer solely to national identity, or to art as cultural phenomenon, rather to an intangible choreographic process of experience and expression, simultaneously situated in individuals and groups. My research enquires into the capacities of groups of people to adapt their culture in situations of rapid change. It proposes that understanding the tacit aspects of cultural transmission is key to supporting cultural change. This cross-disciplinary project specifically looks at how these processes are enacted within learning communities, including case studies of compulsory school environments and other learning settings.


Through an experimental design approach to map and model the mechanics of cultural transmission, my research seeks to understand culture as a complex social technology, where the body acts as interface and recording device for culture. This proposition is explored through interactive probes in learning communities who are implementing radical changes in their culture of learning and teaching. Through combining choreographic exercises with digital and material elements, my practice prototypes media and systems that represent cultural transmission and the mechanics of change.