Happy Friends met on January 12th in the evening in HomeShop to discuss Brian Holmes’ “The Affectivist Manifesto”. Despite the particular viewpoint with which he begins his manifesto (regarding the 20th century as a monolithic period obsessed with medium), it is rather ambiguous how the text merits the “manifesto” in its title. (…)
As much as any era has its particularities, Holmes draws attention to art’s relation to “a particular state of society.” Some in attendance, supported with their knowledge of Brian Holmes’ other pursuits, took this to mean the onslaught of neo-liberalization, especially the education reforms, and the difficulty of organizing in the present. This can also be perceived in the rest of the text, where a range of scales ranging from the neighborhood to the national to the global, are all simultaneously perceived as belonging to our experience of reality.
Perhaps, to pursue the need for a “call” in a manifesto, there could be one interpreted as the demand to explore the various scales Holmes describes, as well as to take an extra-disciplinary approach, as he emphasizes. At the end of the short text, Holmes also makes note of ‘affect’ as an untapped resource, privileging its potential to surprise us in whatever follows this next century. Such an implication seems to give everyone a starting point as near as whatever is familiar to them; we can begin with heart beats, and our daily interactions. With this note, as well as the title of the text—a compound of affect and activism—our discussion found its center point, although the term remained vague until the end.
Some wondered, with such a statement as that with which Holmes finishes his text (“From the lovers’ bed to the wild embrace of the crowd to the alien touch of networks, it may be that intimacy and its artistic expressions are what will astonish the twenty-first century.”), how could we pin hopes on something that slips so easily between scales? Affect, understood in terms of that which is able to affect (or “touch”), is admittedly already over-used in media, advertising, Hollywood and pornography; to be able to affect is a skill well-understood by the enemy.
Is it intentional to leave open the other meaning of affect, affectation, to leave accessible an element of dissemblance and trickery in its promise? What about affect understood as the embodiment of certain codes, to be read and embodied by a particular community? And what does it mean for this constellation of levels, when some of the most intense realms of affect are not in a state of presence, but of absence, such as online?
A manifesto that avoids rigid prescriptions, perhaps, and brings up plenty of questions, but we still wonder what it is that will touch us more than the spectacle itself, this next century.