An extended “restless” body was the center of perceptual and ontological importance for Merleau-Ponty — a source of insight into how persons navigate and understand the world. But he was sufficiently aware as well of the roles an extended body played in art. This paper considers two stages in Merleau-Ponty’s work, roughly corresponding to his early and late writings, where the boundary between body and world can be flexible and complex but where the body’s extension is artistically significant. After Fred Rush’s coinage of “prosthetic effect,” I utilize prosthesis metaphorically to illustrate the use of an extended body in the production and reception of art when the world demands an immediate response and the imposition of engagement and where the potential for aesthetic identification has greater explanatory power as a unit than as a body separate from that environment. The second use deals with Merleau-Ponty’s more difficult notions of flesh and chiasm to consider an intersecting world unfolding itself — reversing the direction of the usual dialogue between artist and a soliciting world, as Merleau-Ponty sees it. In the course of doing so, this essay includes a discussion of Paul Klee’s painting, The Ventriloquist in the Moors, Descartes on phantom limb pains and artistic identity. While technology has fostered digital devices, which appear as prostheses and form significant aspects of our culture, Merleau-Ponty had imagined our extended bodies in more ubiquitous and quotidian ways.
David Goldblatt, “The Extended Body and the Aesthetics of Merleau-Ponty.” Evental Aesthetics 5, no. 1 (2016): 25-46.