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Posts Tagged ‘sitting’

Sitting Up

August 23, 2016 | by

A brief history of chairs.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

Still from Lawrence of Arabia.

There is a pivotal early scene in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia in which T. E. Lawrence and his superior, Colonel Brighton, visit the desert encampment of Prince Faisal, a leader of the Arab Revolt. The royal tent is spartan yet luxurious, patterned woven cloths hang from the low ceiling, a large brass samovar gleams in the candlelight, the ground is covered with a rich carpet. There is no furniture; the men sit on the carpet. Brighton, in his tailored uniform, polished Sam Browne belt, and riding boots, looks distinctly ill at ease with his legs awkwardly stretched out in front of him. Lawrence, a lieutenant and less formally dressed, appears slightly more comfortable, with his legs folded to one side. The prince, attired in a dark robe and a white ghutrah, reclines on a pile of sheepskins, while his colleague Sherif Ali leans casually against a tent pole. The various postures cinematically underline a central point: the relaxed Bedouins are at home in this place—the desert—while the stiff English colonel is an interloper. Lawrence is somewhere in between.

The world is divided into people who sit on the floor and those who sit on chairs. In a classic study of human posture around the world, the anthropologist Gordon W. Hewes identified no fewer than a hundred common sitting positions. “At least a fourth of mankind habitually takes the load off its feet by crouching in a deep squat, both at rest and at work,” he observed. Deep squatting is favored by people in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America, but sitting cross-legged on the floor is almost as common. Many South Asians cook, dine, work, and relax in that position. Certain Native American tribes in the Southwest, as well as Melanesians, customarily sit on the floor with legs stretched straight out or crossed at the ankles. Sitting with the legs folded to one side—Lawrence’s position above—is described by Hewes as a predominantly female posture in many tribal societies. Read More »

Sit on It

April 2, 2014 | by

The art of sploshing. (Contains mildly NSFW photography.)

1 ©mHBurgess2014

© Martha Burgess

The Friday night before last, on an otherwise abandoned block in Gowanus, I spied a young man and woman; she was carefully carrying a plastic bag that contained a boxy package. “Are you here for the sploshing?” I asked. They were. I followed them to their destination—Trestle Gallery, a nonprofit art organization affiliated with Brooklyn Art Space, on the first floor of a building that once housed factories. Was it their first time sploshing? I wanted to know. It was. And me, would I be participating, too? No. I was only there to watch.

I’d learned of artist Martha Burgess’s “Cake Sit” a few months prior, over dinner at Omen, the serene, Zen-like Japanese restaurant on Thompson Street. The novelist Monique Truong, whose Book of Salt I often cite as one of the best examples of food writing, turned to me and asked, with wide-eyed excitement, “Have you heard of cake splooshing?!”

Although I spend an inordinate amount of time writing, thinking, and talking about cake, to say nothing of eating it, this splooshing, as Truong called it, was new to me. People, she explained, sit on cakes and get off on it. Read More »

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