Bennett, J. (2005) Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma, and Contemporary Art, Stanford (CA): Stanford University Press pp. 35-41

Affect musings

Art that affects

Mirror touch

James Baldwin, Going to meet the man.

The then-creative director at Benetton, Oliviero Toscani, saw his role as creating campaigns out of “meaning and issues that advertisers don’t normally want to deal with.” Hand painted by Timbor Kalman

The then-creative director at Benetton, Oliviero Toscani, saw his role as creating campaigns out of “meaning and issues that advertisers don’t normally want to deal with.” Hand painted by Timbor Kalman

Can art trigger trauma?  Ernest van Alphen suggests there is no illusion that is one views a disturbing image, one is transported to the site of the trauma. Affect is not precoded by 'representation system/s that enables us to read and image and trauma and experience it as secondary trauma. There is a self-consciousness when an artist manufactures an 'illusion of inclusivity. The eye becomes mute witness where speech is limited.

In the famous Benetton campaigns in the 80s, a dying man is held by his family. When then-creative director at Benetton saw the image in LIFE, he said ‘That’s the picture’. [David] looks like Jesus Christ but he’s dying of AIDS. It’s like a painting,” Does advertising manufacture an 'illusion of inclusivity? While Benetton wanted to raise awareness of AIDS issue, activists called a boycott. Benetton argued it was not for profit, but they were trying to make people 'feel.' Does it as Bennett argues, does the image, 'yield its own enlightenment'? (p39) Acting on a 'state or experience of post-traumatic memory? (p40)

I've always seen religious paintings as graphic design of their day—a didactic means to educate and impart morality to masses. Do martyr paintings offer a type of short-hand or mnemonic to, as Bennett suggests,  'affect contagion?'  Like Deleuze's encountered sign? Affecting us on every level: psychologically, emotionally, sensorially? There has been a recent push by 'brands' to take stands. They are seen as brave in this tumultuous backdrop, some  brands are choosing to embrace the negative by takinG a stand and occasionally causing  a stir. The paradox is that they are going against a 'system' (neoliberalism) that they need in order to exist in the first place...

If as Deleuze asserts, philosophers think in concepts, artists in sensations, how do advertisers or designers think?

"How is seeing feeling achieved and how does this process yield information to the body" (p41)


I'm trying to get my head around these concepts....

Defining representational versus non-representational

"To know is to represent accurately what is outside the mind; so to understand the possibility and nature of knowledge is to understand the way in which the mind is able to construct such representations... Philosophy's central concern is to be a general theory of representation."  Rorty (1979)]

To Foucault representations are social facts. Linked to a wide range of social and political practices that make up the Western world.

"Representations are oriented towards a world that is already there, whereas non-representational theory is best described as ‘the geography of what happens.'"
A style of thinking which values practice, non-representational theory embraces uncertainty by affirming life’s ‘messiness.’ Attendance to the ‘onflow’ of everyday life... The way that life ‘takes place’ through movement, intensities, and encounters (Lorimer, 2005). Challenging us that there is more going on than we can even understand. It also suggests humans are part of a greater eco-system.

++Non-representational describes ‘practices, mundane everyday practices that shape the conduct of human beings towards others and themselves in particular sites’ . Rather than and obsession with representation and meaning, Thrift posits that non-representational theory is concerned with the performative ‘presentations’, ‘showings’ and ‘manifestations’ of everyday life (Thrift 1997 p142). A way of understanding our nonsensical worlds perhaps?

Non-representational theory is an ontology of sense and sense only comes about as a ‘bodily event’ (p147)

Leitmotif : a ‘succession of luminous or mundane instances’...All life is based on and in movement. The joy of living. "The world is emergent, and we (as human subjects) play but one small role in its actualisation." (p33)

Greater emphasis on subjectivation than subjectivity. We emerge in the world.

Habit‘… the root of action is to be conceived less in terms of willpower or cognitive deliberation and more via embodied and environmental affordances, dispositions and habits’ (Anderson and Harrison 2010 p7). "Where the force of habit anticipates spontaneity by preparing the body for action." 

Movement We are always in movement —continually brought into relation through processes of encounter.

Materiality is born from turbulence—a ‘continual process of gathering and distribution’, the capacity of things to act and be acted upon (p35), in other words, "materiality inspires."  

We do not quite know why we do cognition is secondary to life in movement. Neuroscience also recognises that it is the body that gives rise to feelings and emotions, outside of our consciousness. We need ono-cognitive experience to ground and give meaning.

The body of becoming. "Bodies are continually in the act of composing and being composed. Bodies do not remain static but are dynamic and responsive." (p37) Bodies are always in relation—embodiment. Somatic experiences are visceral—embodiment is relational.

Here's Elizabeth Grosz from Volatile Bodies, 1994 which reads a bit like a definition for NRT:
… subject and object can no longer be understood as discrete entities or binary
opposites. Things, material or psychical, can no longer be seen in terms of rigid
boundaries, clear demarcations; nor on an opposite track, can they be seen as
inherently united, singular or holistic. Subject and object are series of flows,
energies, movements, strata, segments, organs, intensities—fragments capable of
being linked together or severed in potentially infinite ways other than those
which congeal them into identities

Affect ‘felt knowledges’, or the possibility of thinking through emotion... NRT uses this definition of affect... "the capacity of bodies to affect and be affected by other bodies, be they human, non-human, animate or inanimate (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987).  Further, Affect is not a personal feeling or power but an effectuation of a capacity or force in and through a body as it is affected—as it acts (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). Affect cannot be controlled by the body.

"Emotion, in contrast, is the intense capture and closure of affect whereas affect is always in excess of the moment of its capture and cannot be grasped alongside the perception of its capture." (Massumi, 2002). 

Non-representational geographers to draw distinctions between affect, feeling, and emotion. "Affect is expressed by bodies and is thereby fragmented into multiple registers of
experience. " Movements of affect are feelings. Feelings then are assessments of affect in a 'moment of experience as it moves through bodies.' 

"As McCormack (2008) explains: ‘[a]ffect is a kind of vague yet intense atmosphere; feeling is that atmosphere felt in a body; and emotion is that felt intensity articulated as an emotion’
(p1827). Affect is always in excess of bodies.

"Life is animated by the ordinary and made up of constant encounters between all kinds of different bodies (Stewart, 2007)."

"Space is full of creative potential. ... It is constituted out of materiality, objects and movements that displace human subjectivity. Space is always becoming. It begets itself." (p42) I love that. 

"Emotion is the lingering of affect." (Brennan)

The search for lost time is a search for truth. Truth is all that matters. Who is in search of truth and what does that mean? There is always the violence of a sign that forces us to look for the truth. It is a betrayed by involuntary signs.


"Performative, nonrepresentational, and affect-based research pauses on the frightening thought: nothing else ever."  Dewsbury

Performative approach relishes this failure, resolute experimentalism is the goal. It destabilises dogma and the ‘know-and-tell’ politics of much sociological methodology.

"...non-representational and performative critique in order to emphasize that performative research methodology more often than not works best as a singular disposition to disrupt research habits and pare things d)own to the immediate and the embodied."

Could this be is in essence is design thinking, breaking down the old methods of business. Fail fast is the mantra of the entrepreneurs, startups... The iterate, and then pivot if things aren't working are in essence what IDEO, Stanford and Lean processes all harp on about.  It is in essence what Dewsbury describes as, "ethos of disrupting by striving to think the unthought has to take place at every step of the research." (p.322)

Keep the research alive to change and chance.

Performative research thought through three key agendas – thinking, sensing, and presenting.

‘Knowledge is not science and cannot be separated from the various thresholds in which it is caught up, including even the experience of perception, the values of imagination, the prevailing ideas or commonly held beliefs. (Deleuze, 1988: 51)

"Do we ever refrain from interpreting, and if we do, do we do so without thereby refraining from intelligent activity altogether?" (p326)

Performative research takes the body seriously

Suzanne Langer

Suzanne Langer

Felt as thought

Music has a peculiar way of simulating and affecting expressions of vital activity.

“Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts… and the most sensual,” Susan Sontag wrote, and I love the idea of a philosophy of feeling. I've always felt a special resonance with music, I grew up with music in the house. My mother always had the radio on, something playing too loud. Sometimes opera, sometimes symphonies—Mahler, Debussy, Chopin and Mozart ruled. Tenors bellowed and strident brass invaded the walls, inescapable. It seeps into you, "a flux of experience in ‘its immediate effect on our sensibility’" or so says Langer. A live in and through abstractions. felt as thought

'...Arts speculate on... not the status of a truth or fact, but what it feels like to feel oneself affecting and being affected by and as an occasion of experience.'

"‘whatever is felt in any way, as sensory stimulus or inward tension, pain, emotion or intent’, is not separable from mentality, but in fact ‘is the mark of mentality’ (1967, p4)." 

"feeling marks a continuity between material powers and conceptual force."

"Music, like language, is an articulate form. Its parts not only fuse together to yield a greater entity, but in so doing they maintain some degree of separate existence, and the sensuous character of each element is affected by its function in the complex whole. This means that the greater entity we call a composition is not merely produced by mixture, like a new color made by mixing paints, but is articulated, i.e. its internal structure is given to our perception." Langer

Priest argues of "facile notions of ‘embodiment’—" it’s spurious to insist that some
music is more bodily and thereby more affectively sensitive than others by
virtue of the overt activities associated with its reception. ...all music entails some form of somatic comportment." He argues that dancing or toe tapping, doesn't more it more embodied, "it just makes that dimension of their experience manifest or actual."

Where the body is still or in moment—music presents a fabric of tensions. Musical abstraction is not merely a discursive construct, or a cognitive byproduct, but the experience of sound being felt as thought. Because for Langer..."thinking is is a phase in physiological processes that terminate not in overt behaviour but in the sheer expression of ideas." It concerns the virtual, or the imaginary experience of music.

"What is significant about music, says Langer, is its symbolism; the way its semblance of a lived or living time gives logical expression to forms of feeling.' (p51)

Feelings are emergent phenomenon—like the red in a metal bar in heating it. In other words, feelings are the appearance of vital activities in their occasion of being felt. How a feeling is felt depends on whether the "sensation ... arise from ‘a background of general body feeling and a texture of emotive tensions’"

"...the imagination is an expression of one’s affectivity.' Music is ‘revelatory...Langer notes that daydreaming – reverie – easily absorbs music into its remit."

Our bodies have much going on which go unfelt (digestion, blood moving in our veins). "Feelings are, in a sense, ‘inspired’ by the unfelt; they are given (in) a mood."


The infamous madelines

The infamous madelines

The joys of the mind. 

All uneasiness of the future and all doubt of the intellect—gone in a bite of a madeline.