SONYA G. PETERS – 21 grams of graphite

Hosted By 19 KAREN

March 24th - April 21st, 2012

Artist Statement

It was thought by the ancient Greek philosophers that breath and soul were one and the same. It was also believed that the spirit or soul of a person flew out of the body with the expiration of the last breath. Some indigenous cultures believe that this departure took the form of a bird.

Some years ago I came across a story that captured my imagination. A Doctor from Massachusetts, USA – Dr. Duncan MacDougall sought to prove that the human soul had mass and was therefore measureable. To prove his theory MacDougall conducted an experiment with six dying patients. Each patient would be placed on a specifically designed bed that was built on a finely balanced platform of beam scales – the patients were weighed before, during and immediately after the process of death.  MacDougall’s first test result recorded a loss of exactly three-fourths of an ounce or 21.3 grams – this became the famed “weight of the soul – 21 grams”. The result corroborated MacDougall’s theory that the weight lost upon expiration was due to the soul’s departure from the body. The results have never been reproduced and are considered to have very little scientific merit yet the idea that a doctor of scientific standing attempted to prove the existence of the soul remains intriguing. And it is this idea – the need to give form to what is considered intangible, immaterial is what I continue to explore through my arts practice. Where the interrelationship between vision and touch from an embodied perspective explores the intangible aspects of human experience and the friction between the illusion and the real.

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