In a recent presentation at the ‘Infrastructure Summit’ – a part of Bergen Assembly – the anthropologist and film-maker Elizabeth Povinelli was asked about spirituality – how did she think about spirituality in connection with her collaboration with a group of aborginee film-makers? She stated that she would rather use the term ‘aesthetic analysis’ instead of spirituality. Where ‘spirituality pointed towards something mystic and metaphysical the aesthetic analysis is grounded in physical experience – in sensing, in the senses. A analytical rationale based upon aesthetic experiences.
As an example she talked about how in aborginee culture ‘the dead lives on inside us’. What does this mean? From a western rationalist position this sounds quite ghostly and yes, spiritual. Mysterious. But inside the aborginal culture there is a quite rational and simple explanation: As the dead body is buried in the ground, it starts rotting, slowly dissolving giving nutrition to the earth. In this earth plants grow and from these plants food are produced. By eating this food we complete the cyclus. The dead body has given its energy back to the bodies of the living, and this is how the dead lives inside us.
By avoiding the mysterious spirituality and focussing on the rationale of the aesthetic, Povinelli provides us with a sensorial tool - the aesthetic analysis.