I am currently facilitating a reading group at Site Gallery around the notion of Affect.
News Animations/No Words for You, Springfield (Jeremiah Day with Simone Forti), 2008,
performance still, Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Reading Group @ Site (Thursday 8 March)
Mobilizing Everyday Life/Fragments and Refrains
This week, the focus of Site’s ‘Affect’ reading group moves from the realm of shimmers and intensities, to investigate how the ‘affective turn’ might help shape the politics of everyday life, an ethical mode of operating in relation to both past and present. Using the current exhibition by Jeremiah Day at Site as a point of departure, reading addresses both the constitutive role of the affective fragment or ‘refrain’ and the empathetic potential of affective memory. The readings are intended as triggers for discussion, and reading group participants are invited to introduce further examples of practice and theory relevant to each week’s area of concern.
Lone Bertelsen and Andrew Murphy, ‘An Ethics of Everyday Affinities and Powers: Félix Guattari on Affect and the Refrain’ in The Affect Theory Reader, (ed.) Melissa Greg and Gregory J. Seigworth, Duke University Press, pp.138 – 157.
Michael Hardt, Foreword: What are Affects Good for?, in The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social Turn (ed.) Patricia Ticineto Clough, (Duke University Press, 2007), pp.ix – xiii.
Félix Guattari, ‘On The Production of Subjectivity’, in Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, (Indiana University Press, 1995), pp.1 – 33.
Some brief notes on this week's session
For this session, the exhibition by Jeremiah Day at Site was introduced as a foil against which to consider some of our discussions around affect, specifically in relation to Guattari’s notion of the affective ‘refrain’. Less a form of ‘text’ that can be treated or read in the same way as other texts, the exhibition perhaps points to ways in which reading itself might be considered differently. The session began with the question of how these various readings around affect might be approached affectively? How can a theoretical text be encountered in the same way as one might an exhibition or performance or piece of music? What are the implications of encountering text affectively? We talked a little about the potency of a glimpse of an idea within the act of reading, of the affective potential of skimming, or exposing oneself to a text’s affect rather than its signification. What registers of meaning and of thinking are produced through different encounters; in the encounter between reading a theoretical text and a live encounter with a performance or an exhibition? Our emphasis for the reading group is on what the encounter opens up or out, rather than on what a text (or exhibition) means. Meaning is considered mobile and changing, always being modified and amended, never fixed. Ideas and reflections on the readings cumulate as a (not always legible or intelligible) palimpsest, rather than building towards comprehension or clarity.
Beginning with Michael Hardt’s question, ‘What are affects for?’ the session began with an expression of caution against the instrumentalization of the notion or concept of affect, a concern perhaps that the ‘affective turn’ could signal just another ‘turn’ within academia, its vocabulary adopted cynically as simply the ‘on-trend’ buzz-words within current cultural discourse. As a remedy perhaps, the reading of this session turned to the work of Felix Guattari (and his development of an ‘ethico-aesthetic paradigm’ and a ‘logic of affects’). “Guattari is opposed to more conservative attempts to mobilize affect, only in the service of its subsequent capture in a reductive and elitist logic of delimited sets. He opposes this with the idea of social practice or analyses with flexible and open-ended methodologies (meta-methodologies) that enable a ‘subjective pluralism’ engaging with the complexity of affective events. Furthermore, Guattari’s embracing of affect in social practice is ethical in that it evaluates practices of living … Guattari’s response is to take the everyday infinities and powers of affect very seriously; and to develop a creative responsibility for modes of living as they come into being”. Lone Bertelsen and Andrew Murphy, ‘An Ethics of Everyday Affinities and Powers: Félix Guattari on Affect and the Refrain’, p.141