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Posts tagged ‘Brian MASSUMI’

Following our last meeting on grassroots activism in China, we find the term “activist” returning back to some concerns (the object or the relation?) related to the discussion of 2 meetings ago, on “speculative reason,” by way of a detour.* 

We will be reading from “Semblance and Event,” a recent book by Brian Massumi, philosopher and translator of “1000 Plateaux” by GIlles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We will take a look at the introductory text to the book.

Also addressed will be “千高原” (Chinese version of “1000 Plateaux,”) as the English text is a bit long for our Chinese-speaking Friends. The introduction was suggested as a good resource for our inevitable wanderings off the straight and narrow. 

The next meeting is planned for Sunday June 24th, 6pm at HomeShop.

If you are interested in receiving the text, please inquire.

*(The detour has to do with 开封 河南 Kaifeng, Henan, and a bilious conflict between OOO-ists [object-oriented ontology] and the POO-ists [process-oriented ontology]… will explain to those interested at the meeting.)

all photos by 曲一箴 Twist QU*

If we had not been able to come closer to an understanding of affect at the reading club meeting, it came to me again in a recent text by another Brian (“The half-life of disaster“), where somehow the descriptive traversing of scales felt familiar, and of course it can hit us with as much impact as watching a slow-motion montage of the year in review, or Olympic triumphs, or yes, the touching moments and heroes of disaster. We should be immune already perhaps, cynical viewers whose forms of belief have decayed parallel to these half-lives, and yet even at standstill, reduced to its barest linguistic denominators, it could still be possible to induce a notion of affective scales on a billboard covering an urban construction site: “Grandpa lazing in the sun. Boys dancing hip-hop. Businessman checking e-mail. Woman carrying shopping bag.” She was kind of pissed off about this, about all that it left out or pinned down too characteristically in succinct world view, but it seemed also something more than ‘trace’ in a collective reading on media. This is an affect of the kind that Michael mentions, “understood as the embodiment of certain codes, to be read and embodied by a particular community”. Such embodiment is a continuous training, like watching these disasters in constant cycle, like urbanity itself. We learn to traverse the levels, moving from horror and shock at grand scale to human warmth and its accompaniments in the everyday heroes and miniature miracles that soothe a constant, half-toned fear.

Taking distance can occur in both directions, towards macro-scale world views or into the safety of the small moments in a day to day. What Massumi claims as a ‘trace-form anticipation’ singularly and collectively describes this back and forth motion; it is a kind of subjective being-in-motion that typifies our here and now condition. To make a hero of our friend A W W abroad stresses the silence nearby, it casts scales of individual activism helplessly against nameless foreboding forces at the state realm, naïvely paralleled by his name being coded “Love the future”. Larger and stronger pursuits of activism in the last years (in education, in the art world, the Middle East, the mid-West…) echo, or are symptomatic of such “affective conversion circuits”, but there remains to be seen what “alter-” could possibly step out of it. Should affect move out of affect? What lies outside of scale itself? The movements seem to encompass everything already, like fantastic ideas kept to oneself, like capitalism’s neverending ever in sight, like half-lives in decay.

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* there was a thought at the beginning of writing this post that these photos bore some relation to the things i was going to say, but the distancing ended up there. there is a lot of ambivalent feeling in their transmission, but they speak of a relation…

If this question of what we do and who we are must persist, if i must excuse myself for being an artist or being a designer or explain where the (any) money is coming from, then let us turn it into a discussion and practice at once, in process. We have been looking at HomeShop, ourselves, the general context, what we are doing and what we would like to do. All of these questions are tainted by labels, the disjunctures of what we believe versus what/how things are, or how they should be presented, or perhaps if i were to tell you how i really feel you wouldn’t understand anyway, or, they are all my own failures in communication. Language is weak and inadequate.

That said, I begin this conversation with a series of descriptions, rather as a series of self-composed (from the archive of all influences, inspirations, histories and desires) groundings for what may come. HomeShop is our space, moreso a thinking-acting process, i would like to say juxtaposed upon a series of precipices that mark a critical moment of exchange, or, a spinning in the revolving door. It could be the point where one label takes over another, what was thought to be is art is not, how one understands community is mistaken. How one organises things, mentally or at the work table, becomes our most crucial, ahem, point of order, the pivot between now and tomorrow, relationality, design for life. Design is about organisation as it is about choice, and if we should coordinate things with forethought to the future, or with an idea of how we relate to our surroundings, then perhaps we could imagine design and aesthetics as a micropolitical climate by which a day-to-day ethics occur. We are designers and artists and theorists and politicians. Nothing absurd at all.

To get anywhere with the concept, you have to retain the manyness of its forms. It’s not something that can be reduced to one thing. Mainly because it’s not a thing. It’s an event, or a dimension of every event. What interests me in the concept is that if you approach it respecting its variety, you are presented with a field of questioning, a problematic field, where the customary divisions that questions about subjectivity, becoming, or the political are usually couched in do not apply.

– Brian Massumi, “Of Microperception and Micropolitics

We try to learn more about where rivers flow into lakes. Sustainability as a question of time, of slow persistence, of finding one’s own rhythms amidst enormous disparity, a Gini coefficient or a biological clock. How time relates to organisation is a kind of lifelong project, the 江湖 of HomeShop as a kind of “alternative practice”. There again, those attempts at description that feel sheepish, but let us say again that these things refer always back to the things we are doing everyday, making with hands, absorbing with eyes and ears and heart. Big brother and his wife got into a fight yesterday, and one cannot help but be coaxed out of house to try to try to nose in on the rising tension on our little street. It becomes a community affair, although Taotao’s dad says it’s “家务的事” (a household matter). Rivers flow into lakes. We try as we can to describe, as much as shape, the passing of time. This is the manyness of the event as we experience it or produce it, and such continual reciprocation is the very becoming of the project itself.