Tag Archive: affect

Shaviro responds

Steven Shaviro has posted his response to my and three other “curators’ notes” on his Post-Cinematic Affect.

The twists and turns of the discussions that have followed each of the daily commentaries have been fascinating. Somehow we’ve gone from a discussion of recent cinema to theorizing about affect and the limitations of recent affect theory (under the sign of Spinoza, Deleuze, and Silvan Tomkins), metabolism and panpsychism, magic (homeopathic and other kinds), fashion, “cinesensuality” and allure, Lady Gaga, YouTube and its “free labor,” and back again to capital and the possibilities for resistance, liberation, and alternative logics.

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Next week, the Media Commons project In Media Res will be hosting a theme week on Steven Shaviro’s Post-Cinematic Affect (which I wrote about here).

I’ll be guest curating the discussion on Wednesday, and Steven will be responding on Friday.

Here’s the full line up:

  • Monday August 29: Elena Del Rio (University of Alberta, Canada)
  • Tuesday August 30: Paul Bowman (Cardiff University, UK)
  • Wednesday August 31: Adrian Ivakhiv (University of Vermont, USA)
  • Thursday September 1: Patricia MacCormack (Anglia Ruskin University, UK)
  • Friday September 2: Steven Shaviro (Wayne State University, USA)

To participate you will need to take a moment to register here.

Moving Environments, Day 2

Here are my notes from Day 2 of the Moving Environments workshop in Munich. The same caveats apply as yesterday: they’re hastily typed up and reflect only my own interpretation of what transpired. If any of the participants would prefer not to have their ideas shared in this way, I will be happy to remove them upon request.


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Moving Environments, Day 1

What follows are notes from the first day of Moving Environments: Affect, Emotion, and Ecocinema.

These are, needless to say, my own hastily drawn up notes (and I’m still a little jet-lagged from my arrival yesterday). Forgive the point form and abbreviation inconsistencies. Any errors are my own; any wonderful ideas are other people’s, unless specifically attributed to “ai.” Other initials refer to other speakers/participants. My tiredness toward the end of the day shows…


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At Space and Politics, Gaston Gordillo continues his Spinozan-Deleuzian account of the “revolutionary resonance” of the tumult spreading across the Arab world.

“The longer a resonance lasts and the farther it expands the stronger it becomes. During most of human history, the maximum speed at which a revolutionary resonance traveled was the speed of the bodies carrying it within them. [...]

“In the Egyptian Revolution, the synergy between the velocities generated on these networks of instant communication and in the urban terrain was decisive in allowing the multitude outmaneuver state violence and state propaganda. The revolution was fought at different yet inseparable velocities: the speed of swarms of bodies clashing with the police on the streets and the much-faster speed of the affective resonances generated by those clashes and amplified over the internet and TV networks not controlled by the Egyptian state like Al Jazeera. Disembodied and projected instantly as images, sounds, and text onto countless computers and TV screens, these resonances became embodied again by affecting the millions of bodies watching, listening, and reading. Not all bodies were affected the same way. Yet millions resonated positively, and not just in Egypt.”

Read the entire article here.

psychogeographic landscape cinema


Andrew Ray over at Some Landscapes has been posting about experimental landscape films, including Chris Welsby‘s Wind Vane, Tree, and other “landscape-generated landscape films”; Sarah Turner’s Perestroika; the “Land Art for the landless” films/performances of Francis Alÿs; and others.

Catherine Grant writes about Turner’s hypnotic and haunting Perestroika at filmanalytical. “Films think,” Turner says, “they embody theory affectually” (in which she is echoing Film-Philosophy founding editor Daniel Frampton’s Filmosophy).

From Ray:

“the film’s ‘extreme psychogeography’ culminates in the narrator’s vision of Baikal, the deepest lake in the world ‘and the zero-point of Siberia’s status as a weathervane of global warning, landscape and mind’, as ‘a lake of fire awaiting the final sunset’.”

For Turner, as Sophie Mayer recounts, “the IPCC report before Copenhagen stated that the Amazon rainforest will burn when the temperature rises two degrees. ‘It’s a cultural real that is outside a Western imaginary because we don’t live in the extremes of climate change.’”

Here’s a piece of it:

Excerpt from Perestroika (©2009 Sarah Turner) from Catherine Grant on Vimeo.

authoritarian body politics

(This post has been sitting in my Drafts folder for several days, but since it mentions The White Ribbon, which I just named 2009′s best film, I thought I might as well share it.)

I just got around to reading Timothy Snyder’s brilliantly lucid article Holocaust: The ignored reality, fittingly after recently seeing Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon. Snyder’s piece puts a fresh face on what we take for granted and don’t much think about anymore.

One of the things that struck me while reading it was the absolutely systematic nature of the Nazi death factory. Snyder’s analysis is like a historian flying over a war zone long after the battle, drawing connections that one couldn’t have possibly made from the ground. For those who were caught up in it, none or little of this may have been visible: glimpses of horror, and of humanity, are what make a war for those living it (which is why even the brightest individuals, like Martin Heidegger, can say they knew little of the things we know now). After the fact it’s less helpful to assign blame than it is to try to understand what happened and why it happened. Those causes have been much discussed and debated, and Haneke’s film, while not making an original argument, is probably as good a cinematic distillation of one of those arguments as any. Specifically, The White Ribbon is a kind of Freudo-Reicho-Foucauldian dissection of the repression that makes us enjoy the violence of authority and that nudges us toward the fascism in our hearts. (I say “us” and “our” because Haneke has said he doesn’t mean for the film to be just about turn-of-the-century Germany.)

The other things that struck me in Snyder’s article concern the territories, those soft pieces of dank earth, that were most bloodied by virtue of their being caught between the two great bone-crushing machines (the Red and the Brown): Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus. (I have some familiarity with those areas, in addition to ancestry, and understand the difficulty of exhuming their pasts and dealing with their ghosts.)

Despite the deadliness of the Nazi machine, both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union were systematic attempts to realize a certain political ecology, that is, to organize its production of material goods (food and fuel) from the ground up so as to feed and sustain a certain organization of social power and authority. Understanding the way such a social organism, such a body politic, comes to life remains one of the challenges of our time. That understanding requires taking into account not only social processes, but affective, somatic, and ecological processes and the ways these all interact. One might think of this as a kind of golem construction, the making of an artificial creature out of production practices (the ways the earth is turned into food and fuel), somatic and affective orientations, and social structures, all of them premised on certain delineations between an inside and an outside, an us and a them, a certain identification of the enemy, and certain local and global goals. As Snyder writes:

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I’m reading, and being very impressed by, John Protevi’s recent book Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic. The book brings together a lot of recent work on affect with the best of the cognitive sciences (embodied/embedded/distributive/enactive cognition), complexity and nonlinear dynamical systems theories, and a strong grounding in philosophy, from Aristotle to Kant to Deleuze and Guattari. Protevi’s main source of strength is Deleuzian theory, and here he draws very much on Manuel Delanda’s efforts to synthesize Deleuze with complexity theory (as did his very good co-authored book on Deleuze and Geophilosophy). But he also perceptively accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of these very differently rooted research/theoretical programs as he tries to build a synthesis out of them — one that would account for affect (and affective cognition) at multiple levels of the “body politic,” from the neurophysiological to the subjective/intersubjective and “up” to the civic, cultural, “populational” and societal. Chapter One is a gem of summative concision. I haven’t gotten yet to the case studies — Terry Schiavo, the Columbine high school massacre, and Hurricane Katrina — but having read his earlier writing on Katrina, I expect these will be good.

It’s the kind of book I would recommend for a reading group (graduate class or online cross-blog sort of thing). Others in that category might include Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (which I’ve so far only read bits and pieces of that have appeared elsewhere); John Mullarkey’s excellent, perhaps even field-defining Refractions of Reality: Philosophy and the Moving Image, which I recommend to anyone interested in film, the image, and philosophy; and Sean Esbjörn-Hargens’ and Michael E. Zimmerman’s Integral Ecology if only to see where they succeed and where they fail in synthesizing the various extant forms of ecophilosophy. I’ve yet to get to the latter book, and reviews I’ve seen have been mixed, which isn’t surprising given the authors’ almost devotional indebtedness to integral philosopher Ken Wilber (quite a shift from Zimmerman’s earlier Heideggerian/Continentalist work). But we need syntheses like it, so I expect the effort, even if flawed, to be valuable.

Valery Lyman’s 16-minute film, One of These Mornings, captures the pain, the joy, the happiness, and the excitement embodied in the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.

Now, a year and a couple of months after that election, Ben Ehrenreich’s Slate piece on the dramatic failures (already!) of the international, but especially US, response to the Haiti earthquake disaster, Why Did We Focus on Securing Haiti Rather Than Helping Haitians?, forces us to confront the fact that changing the world is not brought about by an election. If Ehrenreich and others are right, it appears that through a combination of knee-jerk militarism, systemic racism, and the pursuit of economic interest even in the midst of tragedy, Haiti’s most needy have not been getting much of the relief that the global community has generously sent out through personal donations via social networking media alongside traditional aid channels. That’s a scandal in itself, and it calls for serious reflection on why so little has changed in this country.

The other big moment of contradiction this past week was the U.S. Supreme Court decision about corporate “personhood” and unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns — which is the biggest single setback to democracy this country has seen in a long time. But, there being a silver lining to every dark cloud, this may also be the moment for Obama to step in and take the reins of his multiple-majority power lock and do something with them. (Why is it when Bush had to work with a Democratic majority in Congress he still managed to do so much damage, and when Obama has clear majorities in both houses, his hands are tied? We know, of course, that it’s largely because of the beholdenness of all American politicians, wimpy “moderate” Democrats no less than others, to the special interests who fund them — which the Supreme Court decision has just made that much worse.)

The decision is an easy target for Obama, and at least some of the more moderate Republicans (such as McCain, who’s initiated campaign finance reform in the past) as well as Democrats would be hard-pressed to support the decision. As he prepares for his State of the Union address this Wednesday, any American who supports him should take some time in the next couple of days to send a message to the the White House and to, at the very least, sign the MoveOn.org petition against the Supreme Court decision. For this “progressive” president to act on his promises, he needs to feel the country behind him. One step can lead to another, generating momentum for at least some of the change he had promised; but that first step has to be taken.

Real change is not brought about by a single election, nor by the expression (audacious or otherwise) of hope. It’s brought about by the hard work of enacting that hope into practice. Once the conditions are set for a moment of good feeling like that embodied in Valery Lyman’s film, we need to ensure these remain not just moments but movements, the moments of jubilation being the froth spraying off the tops of the waves, whose repeated breaking on the shores of our consciousness changes that collective consciousness. Hope needs to be set into motion along multiple vectors — cultural and institutional — and at multiple scales. But it requires political leadership, and leadership, in a system of politics as financially corrupted as this one, only comes with repeated kicks from behind. Friendly, soft, but persistent kicks.

Thanks to Ron Burnett for sharing the Vimeo link. Of the bloggers I’ve read commenting on the Supreme Court decision, Sara Robinson’s at Campaign for America’s Future, Chris Vitale’s at Orbis Mediologicus, and Brendan Demelle’s at Ecological Buddhism provide inspiring and interesting perspectives. And see Rebecca Solnit’s piece on the disaster of media coverage of Haiti.

My article “From Frames to Resonance Machines: The Neuropolitics of Environmental Communication” is coming out in the next issue of Environmental Communication. Here’s the abstract:

George Lakoff’s work in cognitive linguistics has prompted a surge in social scientists’ interest in the cognitive and neuropsychological dimensions of political discourse. Bringing cognitive neuroscience into the study of social movements and of environmental communication, however, is not as straightforward as Lakoff’s followers suggest. Examining and comparing Lakoff’s “neuropolitics” with those of political theorist William E. Connolly, this article argues that Connolly’s writings on evangelical-capitalist and eco-egalitarian “resonance machines” provide a broader model for thinking about the relations between body, brain, and culture. Environmentalists, it concludes, should pluralize their “frames” and pay greater attention to the micropolitical and affective effects of their language and practices on the communities within which they act, communicate, and dwell.

And a couple of excerpts from the article:

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